On the night of August 13th, we at Foodseum brought together four famous Chicago food experts to answer a seemingly straightforward question: Can we re-set the family table? Working in partnership with the SoFAB Institute, we set up the Chicago Culinaria Query discussion in order to foster a discussion in the local food community about our past and future, both as individuals and as a city. Not only did the event succeed in that regard, but it also proved incredibly entertaining for all present!

Our panel was composed of four famous Chicagoans with years of experience in the food community. To discuss the issue, nationally renowned restaurateur Jimmy Bannos Sr. and famous food historian Bruce Kraig were joined by James Beard nominated writer Monica Eng, and respected Chicago food blogger Kit Graham. Each panelist’s unique background and experience in the food community allowed them to present a different perspective on the questions being posed by moderator and Foodseum founder Kyle Joseph.

One thing they all agreed on was that love of food begins at an early age. Every panelist was able to recall vivid memories of childhood meals, down to the smell and taste of the food they’d shared with their friends and family. Jimmy Bannos recalled that his own love of cooking had started at age nine, and went on to advise that the cooking with your children early on in their lives can spark a lifelong passion for food and family. Monica Eng added that giving a child specific responsibilities while preparing meals will teach them valuable skills and give them something to take pride in.

Throughout the evening the conversation touched on many other issues as well. Bruce Kraig discussed how economic divisions can play a huge role in whether or not a family eats healthy meals together as a family. “It comes down to money.” he stated while discussing the fact that many family’s eat at fast food restaurants simply because they can’t afford to grocery shop for each meal. In many situations, it’s cheaper to buy a quick hamburger and fries than it is to buy produce and spend the time preparing it. Kit Graham added that education also plays a large role in the problem: many people simply aren’t taught how to cook and prepare food nowadays, further raising the barrier to healthy family eating.

Towards the end, the audience chimed in with their own interesting questions, such as where the responsibility for healthy food ultimately belonged. Should restaurants be obliged to promote healthy eating or does it fall to the consumer to self police? “It’s everybody.” Jimmy answered, continuing on to explain how we have to try and shift both individually and as a culture towards smaller portions and higher quality ingredients. Monica Eng took the point further by explaining that while many people demonize food suppliers for emphasizing huge portions, it only happens because survey show that most customers care about quantity of food over everything else.

While the talk was incredibly informative, it’s clear that there’s still a lot of discussion to be had on these issues. Many of the questions raised don’t have clear answers and will continue to be debated for years to come. We at Foodseum are going to continue to host these panels and drive important conversation as we move forward, so stay tuned for more information about our upcoming events!

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