CULTURES OF DELICIOUSNESS: Flavors and Traditions in Motion, from the Mediterranean and Middle East to South Asia
Great discoveries often take place through great journeys; great ideas often result from great unions and collisions. That is perhaps particularly true when it comes to food, to culinary traditions that have survived millennia while both absorbing and being transformed by new concepts, flavors, and techniques coming their way. Insatiable human exploration—including, yes, often violent conquest—has yielded ingredients and dishes that continue to captivate our physiological and metaphorical appetites, whether through the couscous of Sicily or the popularity of Goan restaurants in Lisbon.
Ingredients ignore the geopolitical borders only recently imposed on them, signaling that ultimately, more elements unite people than divide them. Climate and geography interplay with human intervention to determine what belongs to a country’s culinary canon. Grilled octopus is as much at home on plates in Slovenia and Spain as on those of Greece or Italy. The fragrances of orange blossoms, rosewater, or sumac reminds equally of Israel, Turkey, Morocco, or Iran.
Chefs today cook and create amidst these histories, these landscapes that speak of thousands of years of evolution, these cultures constantly redefined by the people who join them. They look at the Roman Antiquity, Arabic Middle Ages, Ottoman Empire and the ancient kingdoms of India and think:What gems can I find there for my menus in 2020 and beyond?
From the communal bread ovens of Sardinia and tandoor ovens of South Asia to the wine cellars of Greece and Italy and the amphora-aged wines of Georgia, and from the sweet and savory spices piled high in the markets of Turkey, Iran, and Kerala to the olive kitchen that connects Andalusia, Tunisia, Puglia, and Crete—the unifying factor of this 21st edition of Worlds of Flavor is the celebration of deliciousness in some of the world’s oldest cultures.
The 21st Worlds of Flavor conference was held on November 6-8, 2019 at the CIA’s new Copia campus in Napa, California. We went back hundreds of years to think about the future, on the hunt for flavor inspiration on the Iberian Peninsula, along the north and south rims of the Mediterranean Sea, into the Levant and the whole of the Middle East, and finally ended our adventure on the Indian subcontinent, looking at what unites the gastronomic evolution of these longstanding cultures and what continues to power them, individually and together, today.