TALKING FOOD HISTORY WITH KIKO MOYA & GLORIA RODRIGUEZ
Between 2020 and 2021 an invitation to give a talk for a Spanish foodie website grew into a different kind of much-needed opportunity: the creation of a cross-disciplinary conversation on food history. But finding time for everyone to meet in Madrid was not easy and it was summer before two-star Michelin chef Kiko Moya, who explores culinary microhistory at his family restaurant L’Escaleta, in inland Alicante, and Gloria Rodriguez, food studies researcher of New York University, Madrid, could coincide for us to sit and exchange ideas and views in an unrehearsed conversation on food history.
Both revealed the importance of broad and deep thinking in their work. For Kiko, the analysis is open-ended: simply, how can a restaurant best give clients insight into local food culture, and what part does history play in it? For Gloria, the key question was the choice of cultural circuits on which food history can most effectively and excitingly reach new audiences. For my own part, as a historian, the challenges go beyond identifying sources to the interpretative framework and the ways rigorous food history can be delivered to an inclusive audience.
As our conversation progressed each person also expressed certain feelings of urgency. Gloria emphasized the damaging effects of exporting isolated Spanish food clichés, from paella to deconstructed avant-garde tapas. Kiko was surprisingly skeptical regarding the future for the cuisine of the past: “We need to stop and ask ourselves where some Spanish gastronomy will soon fit within the repertoire.” From a historian’s point of view the urgency lies in nurturing rigorous food history as elsewhere, so it can survive alongside the diluted forms and distortions ever more often found in marketing, advertising, fiction and tourism. On YouTube you can see a condensed version of the complete 45-minute conversation, recorded in June 2021.
My thanks to both Kiko and Gloria for their generosity with their time and to Kiko, especially, for making the journey to Madrid.