We may call ourselves a global university, but the food featured around campus does not always reflect that. Steinhardt graduate student and Fulbright scholar Gloria Rodriguez brought the flavors of her native Spain to campus last week through a weeklong series of events entitled Eat Spain Up!.
Through food tastings, cooking classes and food and culture sessions, Rodriguez managed to bring the best of Spain to New York. Although the events focused on Spain’s unique gastronomy, Rodriguez believes that the true value of Spanish cuisine is not in its flavors.
“The best part of Spanish food is the culture behind it,” Rodriguez said. “It is a culture of making the best of what is available and eating slowly and with people. The actual cuisine has evolved over time, but the essence of it is creativity and social eating.”
Those themes were especially apparent in Wednesday night’s Madrid-themed Food and Culture Session. After a screening of a short film highlighting the unique variety of foods grown in Madrid, renowned chef Mario Sandoval was interviewed on stage.
Sandoval and his restaurant Coque have been at the forefront of the recent renaissance in gastronomy. In addition to reestablishing the relationship between science and modern cooking, Sandoval has aimed to make eating a more culture-oriented experience. At Coque, guests move from room to room as they enjoy various courses.
“For visitors to Spain, gastronomy comes first, and then they go to the museums,” Sandoval said at the event. “Madrid is one of the best gastronomic destinations in Europe and in the world.”
One of Rodriguez’s goals behind the project was to demonstrate how Spain’s unique food scene can be a powerful tool for advancing the country’s interests.
”I started the initiative three years ago, when I was getting my master’s in cultural management in Spain,” Rodriguez said. “I saw that Spain was having an amazing moment in gastronomy, but we weren’t using it to its full power. My idea was to use the moment we had to create a cultural project to use food as a means to promote better knowledge of our country. It impacted the restaurant business, but not our diplomacy.”
Beyond promoting her native country, Rodriguez hopes that attendees leave Eat Spain Up! with renewed cultural curiosity.
“We do not curate the content of this project so that what you get out of it is what we intend,” Rodriguez said. “That’s our philosophy, and I see it echoed in American universities. NYU makes a point not to have a curriculum so strict that everyone leaves thinking the same thing. That is the idea behind this project. We let many different people give information in many different formats so everyone leaves with their own idea of what Spain is.”
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Oct. 31 print edition. Email Taylor Nicole Rogers at [email protected]