The Canadian Food History Symposium, a catered affair (generously sponsored by the Provost and Vice President Academic & the Dean of Arts), brought together guests and students to hear five student presentations from Dr. Janis Thiessen’s Canadian Food History class, a 3rd year History class offered by the Department of History at the University of Winnipeg. The five presentations, all exploring unique facets of food and culture, each aimed to situate their individual areas of interest within a broader social and historical context by using oral history as a research method. As Dr. Thiessen explained in introducing the presenters, each of the five projects is the result of substantial research efforts by the students. Each student conducted at least one oral history interview in their research, an endeavor that includes writing research proposals for ethics review, completing the Tri-Council Policy Statement Core Ethics Training, preparing research questions, consent forms, and conducting background research before the interviews, conducting the interviews, transcribing the interviews, and then doing the work of interpreting and integrating the interviews into their research.
Each student presented a multifaceted view of their chosen topic during their presentation. But, as each had been sufficiently compacted to fit the time constraints of a morning-long symposium, the extent of the research each student did for their project was more evident in the question period that came afterward. Those in attendance asked questions and offered insights that both furthered and challenged the socially-, politically-, and culturally-rooted arguments posed by each of the presenters. The question period allowed students the opportunity to fill in any gaps, and also encouraged dialogue about policies and practices that impact access to food, and its production.
The morning was, all things considered, a great space for thinking about Canadian Food History and about the usefulness of oral history research in connecting individual experiences to broader social movements and trends. The excellent work of Dr. Thiessen’s Food History class is currently in the process of being transferred to the Oral History Centre archive, and you can listen to an audio recording of each of the presentations by clicking on the "Story" tabs above.