Eric Dursteler, professor of the BYU history department, will compile research that focuses on the relationship of food in the Mediterranean area thanks to three grants he received.
Dursteler feels it would be very interesting to research food in the Mediterranean because of his previous studies and work in the field. He teaches a class that explores different food topics in history. He believes that food is an essential part in our lives and it gives us an identity.
“Food has the intention of producing, defining and creating an identity for a community,” Dursteler said.
He wants his students to know that food is not just a resource to survive, but it is a “symbol of a culture”.
Dursteler’s goal with his research is to prove the role of food in history.
“I want to argue that there was a relationship in food throughout history,” Dursteler said. “For example, I want to show how Christian travelers from Europe perceived Muslim food, or how Ottoman travelers perceived Christian food.”
He thinks that people from the Mediterranean had a lot of similarities in terms of food.
“If you go to Turkey, you can order a Kaba, and if you go to Greece, you order the exact same thing, but it is called Gyro”, he says.
Dursteler also believes that food is not something that divides or sets people apart.
“I want to show that there was shared food practices, similar food among these people, and that food united them and brought them together”, he said.
He claims that food defines cultures and shows a great deal of religious rituals and practices. His research will also focus on how people used food as a symbolic language and a means to drop boundaries. As an example of this, Dursteler refers to the upbringing of coffee in the Mediterranean area.
“It started in the Ottoman Empire, and spread quickly to Venice and to the rest of Europe,” he said.
Since this is a topic that does not have much information, Dursteler hopes to contribute to the scholar community. His students will also benefit from it.
“This research will affect my ability to teach and my understanding of the topics I teach”, he said. ” My classes will definitely be improved by this research”.
To do this project, he will travel to libraries and institutions in the U.S. and the Mediterranean to investigate current bibliography. He expects to publish his book within three years, and to keep researching about this field of study.