Nov 7, 2014

Mitchell Davis Tempts Us With His Food Tales

Mitchell Davis
I had the pleasure of attending a lecture presented by the Rochester Art and Lectures series with guest speaker, Mitchell Davis. Executive vice president of the James Bead Foundation and loaded with a PhD in restaurant reviews, Davis' resumé would make any foodie feel envious and underachieved including former executive editor for the glossy quarterly publication Art Culinaire, participant in the famous James Beard Foundation dinners, directing restaurant reviews for Mobil Travel Guide (now Forbes Travel Guide) and cookbook author. Now, Davis is concentrating his immense comprehension of food culture in America for the 2015 Expo Milano (Universal Exposition/World's Fair).

From the official site:

From May 1 to October 31, 2015, the United States of America will join in welcoming more than 20 million visitors to Expo Milano 2015. For the first time in the history of world’s fairs, the theme of Expo Milano is food: “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.” This theme will unite 140-plus countries into action around the challenges and opportunities facing our global food system and the sustainable development of our planet.

Expo Milano 2015 is the world’s largest stage to foster dialogue, aggregate ideas, and showcase innovations in food, sustainability, science, industry, economics, entrepreneurship and other elements at the core of American culture.

With food at the helm, it's an extraordinary undertaking considering how difficult it is to pinpoint one type of cuisine or technique that America is known for, especially in a progressive manner. It's no secret that most of the world typifies Americans and their eating habits by the Golden Arches that loom over our everyday lives. Davis even admits that Expo attendees would be disappointed if the expected Coca-Cola and Big Macs weren't in the lineup. 

But he has other plans in place to represent how far we've come and where we are going as a food culture. Sure there'll be a Thanksgiving meal every Thursday epitomizing the centuries-old tradition preserving turkey's place on the menu, as well as the newer tradition of Sunday brunch. However, it's the forward movement influenced by antecedent traditions of real food cooked at home with real ingredients grown by people – not factory-produced, processed, manufactured, unpronounceable additives – that I truly hope will be emphasized.

There is so much to be proud of as a nation when it comes to our food culture. We're more than fast-food drive-thrus and extra-large sodas. We're families of generations of farmers. We're curious young chefs eager to put something out never before tasted or seen. We're engineers searching for the best way to sustainably provide to every hungry mouth the most nutritious and delicious foods. We're trailblazers for educating the next generation that what we put in our bodies effects how our bodies react (i.e. excess sugar). We're sharers who want to pass around recipes and post photos of food through social media.

If there was one point that stuck with me from Davis' lecture it was this: food is the one thing that unites us globally; everyone has to eat.

A powerful thought that makes someone like me me feel a little less trite being a food writer and blogger, and something that I truly keep in mind whenever I critique what I'm eating. It's so much more than just a plate of food, or a trip to the grocery store, or a dinner made at home for your family. It's a way of life that touches upon so many aspects from health to pleasure to livelihood (for those who rely on the dining out clientele as a source of income).

Davis only spoke for an hour, taking us on a journey from his childhood as a young aspiring foodie, to his adolescence as a stage in Paris, to a key player on the world's stage transporting the States to Milan. How we will be seen from a culinary vantage point is his next journey and I for one could not be more excited by the direction that things are going.

For a sense of what America will bring to the 2015 Expo, take a look at the video below:

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