Sunday morning found me up and raring to go so I wandered down to breakfast and sorted out my usual yoghurt and figs and was joined by Caroline Conran. We had a discussion about the yoghurt and decided that although we both use Total at home it is nice to consume a million calories of fat when on holiday. Apparently she has some fig trees in her garden which actually fruit and she is going to try to preserve some this year, they never get wasted because she loves figs too.
The first bit in the lecture theatre was the award of the Raymond Blanc Scholarship. Paul Levy gave us all M Blanc's apologies for not being there himself, apparently he is filming a new series so that is something for us all to look forward to. The scholarship was awarded to a young female chef, but I am ashamed to admit that I did not catch her name.
The next bit was the award of the Cherwell Prize which is open to anyone under the age of 31 on the day the Symposium starts. This was awarded to a young man called Seth Rosenbaum - remember that name, I am sure we will hear more of him. He presented a paper linking MFK Fisher and WH Auden scholastically and I came home determined to pursue this. I need to get hold of a poem called "Thanksgiving for a Habitat" and do a bit of work on it.
The next bit was a paper entitled "From the Greek Symposium to the Roman Orgy" given by Oswyn Murray who is a very highly regarded academic and a Fellow at Balliol. It was an absolutely brilliant lecture with a slide show of various examples from history of how Symposia and Orgies were organised. One fairly important point that he made was that the wine was always watered, after fermentation it would be at about 17% ABV but would be watered down with twice as much water as wine. However, everyone would have three sessions of boozing and drink about two litres of the watered wine at each session meaning around six litres overall - still a lot of booze. I had not realised that there was so much homosexuality connected with food and drink. The biggest difference between the Greek and Roman is that the Greeks sat up and the Romans reclined - apart from that they appear to be pretty much on a par. When I signed up for the Oxford Symposium I was not aware that there might be an orgy - and if there was I was not invited.
We were then shown a film about Greek Clean Monday to prepare us for lunch. Apparently Clean Monday is the Monday before Shrove Tuesday (Fat Tuesday) and a meat free day. Greek families always eat outside at a picnic (I suspect the weather might be a little more conducive in Greece during February) and whole families get together to share their food. Shellfish and fish are permitted but the big concentration is on the vegetables and the women become rather competitive about their legume dishes. After the film there was a bit of discussion with Aglaia Kremezi who was responsible for the lunch.
There is a lady called Alicia Rios who is famous in Symposia history for doing performance art involving food every year, she is, how can I put it, what the Germans would call "originale" and I would call barking. It was her turn next and she appeared on the stage wearing a white suit and proceeded to give a performance called "Organoleptic Deconstruction in Three Movements" I am sure that my erudite readers know exactly what that means, I don't have a clue. The idea behind this was to experience food without actually eating or tasting any of it. The first movement consisted of a tray set with various food items, marshmallows, strawberries, jelly, cake and other sweet items. She proceeded to mix them all up with her hands, squidging and squashing everything together to enable us to witness what happens in the stomach. It looked a right old mess I can tell you. She then cleaned her hands and displayed on the screen an assortment of foods and drinks and at the same time played a recording of what the different foods and drinks sound like when being consumed. The sound of eating corn on the cob, an apple, asparagus and crisps were distinctive but the slurping of beer or the sipping of wine were a bit more difficult. The final item consisted of a massive (about the size of a single bed mattress) bag of crisps contained within a clear plastic covering on which she proceeded to roll around orgasmically. Most odd.
It was now time for coffee followed by another of the parallel sessions and I elected to go to the papers entitled "Celebrating the Jewish Way" and I think this was my favourite bit of the weekend. Mind you, when I think about it they were all my favourite bits - I just loved the whole shebang.
At this point I need a bit of a rest but will return.