Judges’ Report – 2010

The judges this year read and discussed 24 papers covering a very wide range of subjects. Many of them were very good, well researched and original. As there were to be no subsidiary prizes this year, the choice wasn’t easy, and the judges would like to award at least an honorary mention to the two strongest contenders besides this year’s winning entry. These were:

Ken Albala’s Cooking as Research Methodology, experiments in Renaissance cuisine which impressed the judges by its almost revolutionary approach, showing how important it is to combine academic and practical by actually cooking recipes from historical cookbooks and analysing the results carefully. This was very much in the spirit of Sophie Coe as well as the Symposium.

and

Heather Paxson’s Cheese Cultures: Transforming American Tastes and Traditions, a lucid and thorough analysis of the history and present of artisan cheese-making in the United States. Putting the current movement back into the frame of much older traditions it is iconoclastic and designed to set the cat among the cheese-eating pigeons.

This said, the judges award the Sophie Coe Prize 2010 to Zona Spray Starks for her outstanding essay on Drying and Fermenting in the Arctic: Dictating Women’s Roles in Alaska’s Inupiat Culture. Passionately and with great knowledge it documents and interprets behavioral patterns of a people we generally seem know too little about, especially when it comes to food. Spray Starks brings together scholarly and historical literature with personal observations and original material gathered through interviews. She manages to present the result of her research in a very natural, highly engaging and extremely readable way, making this a fascinating piece of excellent scholarship.