AMSTERDAM SYMPOSIUM: LA CULTURA DEL FRÍO
As Europe’s food congresses were relaunching in the post-Covid era, the Amsterdam team found an original format for its 2020 Symposium on the History of Food: the opening talk, hosting of panels, key-note and wrap speeches were recorded live at the gastronomic collection in the Amsterdam library while the Symposium papers were prerecorded in advance to guarantee equal opportunities to contributors from near and far. In response to the theme, Food and the Environment: the Dynamic Relationship Between Food Practices and Nature, papers covered a wide spread of topics, some focussed on long time periods: for example, the Mediterranean green revolution, as seen through archaeological evidence; a hypothesis proposing an African green revolution in the early modern period; a study of the 19th-century economic origins of Dutch “sustainable” fishing; and a contextualised assessment of the first Brazilian cookbook. My own paper offered a look at Spain’s little known cultura del frío between the 16th and 18th centuries, identifying its different elements: cultural debate, snow-harvesting practises, ice-well storage, devolved municipal snow governance, and the development of a wide range of medicinal and gastronomic refrescos. Behind all this, though rarely commented at the time, were the heavier snowfalls at lower altitudes of the Little Ice Age. Rediscovering this cultura del frío since the 1980s, in particular its snow-wells – pozos de nieve or pous de neu – archaeologists have noted changing perceptions of nature at a time of renewed climate change, and in the same way, rediscovering the refrescos of the past has revealed the potential for Spanish chefs’ contribution to food history (see, for example, Kiko Moya: Exploring a landscape across time). It was an honour to contribute to the conference and a privilege to listen to other symposiasts’ papers, many emerging from food history as it is developing in the Netherlands, for example, at the new university of Wageningen. Last but by no means least, the Symposium highlighted history’s importance in bringing informed perspectives to key contemporary issues, sometimes urgent, so supporting critical reassessment in the process of public policy making.