Culinaria brings food studies to the table

Image of satay with sauce, cucumbers and onions

The study of food involves the study of so much else—everything from family and community to migration, colonialism and even the origins of modern capitalism itself.

Combine that global overview with UTSC’s location in one of the most diverse communities on earth—for both people and cuisines—and you have the rationale for the Culinaria Research Project. UTSC is taking a leading role internationally in advancing the relatively new field of food studies by teaming up with institutions and experts in four other diverse cities around the world— Delhi, New York, Sydney and Singapore. At the same time, faculty and students are working closely with people in the Scarborough community in tracing local foodways.

This includes oral histories and videos of chefs, restaurateurs and home cooks talking about their lives (including as guests in UTSC’s own kitchen), the mapping of Chinese restaurants in Agincourt malls based on an archive of 1980s photos, and digitization and analysis of a trove of 10,000 Chinese restaurant menus acquired from a U.S. collector. The project has also forged partnerships with Malvern Action for Neighbourhood Change and its urban farm project, as well as the East Scarborough Storefront. Internationally, UTSC is co-organizing a fall workshop at New York University, including a roundtable on street food with representatives from India and Singapore.

Culinaria’s academic heft includes faculty members from all three U of T campuses—there are more than 20 faculty members whose work intersects with the study of food—and UTSC is welcoming two leading food studies scholars to work at the campus.

As a hub for socially engaged, socially focused study of food, UTSC is the perfect home for Culinaria because of its connection to the surrounding community.