Panelists discuss food and culture

By Nicole Walby

Staff Writer

Panelists discussed connections between local food, foodways and fast food Wednesday in conjunction with the exhibit “The Local Cheeseburger” at Tiffin University’s Diane Kidd Art Gallery.

The event was hosted by the gallery and the discussion was moderated by professor Lee Fearnside, the artist behind the exhibition.

“The cheeseburger is more than a sandwich for many Americans,” Fearnside said. “The Local Cheeseburger, suggests a new way to enjoy this American sandwich.”

Panelists included David Hogan, history professor at Heidelberg University; Lucy Long, author of “Culinary Tourism” and “Regional American Food Cultures”; and Matt Bereza, assistant professor of psychology and counseling at TU.

“What these people have in common is their perspective on food is not just something you eat, but an identity,” Fearnside said.

Long holds a doctorate in folklore from the University of Pennsylvania.

“Folklore brings meaning connections between people,” Long said. “It is relevant to food in that how food becomes meaningful and how food takes on meaning for people. Food is connected to us through our pasts, places and people.”

Long presented a diagram called the Tree of Connections which examines how food connects people inwardly to their pasts and identities and outwardly to the larger world. Branches of the tree represented different aspects that food can affect such as economic, social, culture and health.

“As Americans, we have developed eating habits that are not as healthy but are considered more efficient; time is money,” Long said. “People do not have time to make food.”

Hogan discussed the historian perspective on the hamburger. He is the author of “Selling’em by the Sack: White Castle and the Creation of American Food,” in which Hogan traces the history of the hamburger’s rise as an American ethnic symbol.

“The hamburger has been considered the primary ethnic food of American culture,” Hogan said. “The hamburger has become popular through very conscious marketing efforts.”

The hamburger, Hogan said, was first stigmatized as an unhealthy food.

“Through the development of White Castle, the hamburger and cheeseburger has become a fixture in all our lives,” Hogan said. “Fast food today is beginning to slow down like with Chipotle.”

The final panelist, Bereza, spoke about his research on how food, psychology and the human experience intersect.

“With fast food today there is a push towards restoration with restorative food practices,” Bereza said.

“The Local Cheeseburger” exhibit is to run through April 19 at the Diane Kidd Gallery.

The gallery is open 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Thursday.