Snowdan: Sarawak proud to host 4th Food & Society Conference

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Snowdan (fourth right) receiving a memento from Unesco Chair Co-Chair holder, Prof Datuk Dr Shamsul Amri Baharuddin of UKM. Also seen are Kuching South Mayor Dato Wee Hong Seng (third right), Unesco Conference Chairman Dr Eric Olmedo (second left) and other officials.

KUCHING (Nov 15): Food and culinary play a pertinent role in the lives of the Sarawakians, bringing people together in sharing traditions, stories and a sense of belonging, said Deputy Minister of Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Datuk Snowdan Lawan.

Speaking at the launching of the 4th Food & Society Conference at UCSI Hotel here today, Snowdan said Sarawak is privileged to have been chosen to host the conference this year.

The state’s rich history of indigenous food cultures, rich biodiversity, social inclusivity, and having been awarded the Unesco Creative City of Gastronomy status in 2021, he said, are the contributing factors to the venue selection.

“While embracing and celebrating the multi-ethnic culinary heritage, Sarawak not only enriches the gastronomic experience but also fosters social inclusivity, as well as cultural understanding and appreciation.

“Sarawak enriches the food tapestry of culinary diversity as we have 34 ethnic groups – offering a plethora of tastes and cooking techniques,” he said.

“In Sarawak, when we meet people, we would usually ask ‘Udah makai?’ ‘Sudah makan?’ ‘Mboh man?’ ‘Ciak pa boi?’ – translated as ‘Have you eaten?” said Snowdan, citing the social norms in the local community.

“It is a polite way to show we care. Any visitors to a longhouse will be served some food as this denotes respect and care for the guests,” he said to the conference delegations.

The conference is currently taking place in Kuching from Nov 15 to 18 and will feature 22 individual presentations, four workshops, one panel presentation, one roundtable discussion, and two culinary demonstrations.

Besides Malaysia, scholars from 14 other countries namely France, Italy, Spain, Senegal, Japan, United States of America, the United Kingdom, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, Peru and Brazil will be coming to Kuching to contribute to the conference.

The Food & Society Conference is founded by the Asia Pacific Food Studies Network, with its headquarters in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Selangor.

The biennial international conference which focuses on food studies has been held since 2017, and for this year’s conference in Sarawak, about 20 per cent of the academic presentations will be conducted by Sarawakian scholars.

Its previous conference was held in Paris, France in 2019, with the next conference to be tentatively held in Vietnam in 2025.