Over six exhilarating months, the turnstyles at Montreal’s Expo 67 clicked fifty million times to admit both a national and international audience to Canada’s largest centenary celebration. For many, stepping onto the site must have been like entering another world entirely, like Dorothy experiencing Oz: how fitting that a “passport” constituted the entry document for those who committed to multiple visits!
And just as the pavilions reflected exuberant, if bizarre, architectural experimentation—the geodesic dome of the US Pavilion; the folded-paper architecture of the Cuba Pavilion; the tent-like German Pavilion – the foods on offer comprised a staggering variety of edibles for the uninitiated. Many of the national pavilions had restaurants in which one could sample the fare designated as authentic to that particular country (and many did). As one press release noted enthusiastically, it was possible to eat one’s “breakfast in Tokyo, lunch in India, tea in Ceylon, an aperitif in Trinidad, and dinner in France, or in Mexico, in the Netherlands, in Switzerland, in Czechoslovakia, in the Soviet Union, in Scandinavia, in one or another of the provinces of Canada, etc., etc.”
This presentation considered the significance of such seemingly exotic meals on the cumulative experience of Expo 67, by considering it as a utopic place that privileged modernism in a number of ways. It also explored the concept of a “national cuisine,” and considered the significance of such an appellation, both in the context of the Expo 67 site, and also with regard to eating and other cultural practices of that particular time and place.
Rhona Richman Kenneally:
Richman Kenneally’s academic profile builds on her interdisciplinary engagement with design and the built environment, both as a practitioner and a critic. She holds a B.A. in English literature, an M.A. in Canadian social history, and both a professional degree and Ph.D. in architecture (McGill University). Her primary expertise addresses the fields of design, architecture, and material culture, and she has addressed such themes as constructions of national identity, modernism and the culture of the everyday, and cultural sustainability. She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Design and Computation Arts, Concordia University.
Richman Kenneally’s research projects have been variously funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Fonds de recherche sur la société et la culture (Quebec) and the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences. She has studied the culture of food in Canada during the mid-twentieth century – and is currently writing a monograph on the subject – through such diverse sources as cookbooks, magazines, and the restaurants of the national pavilions of Montreal’s Expo 67. She has also begun a project on the food culture of Ireland during the same timeframe, the goal being to investigate the interstices between food and home as a means of understanding women’s agency in Irish society at that time. Another food-related project interrogates the domestic foodscape (the spaces, in the home, in which activities associated with cooking and eating take place) to help identify and promote food strategies that are beneficial ecologically, and also contribute positively to the health and stability of the household. In addition to her writings, Richman Kenneally has co-organized conferences on design as cultural activity, constructions of identity in Ireland and Quebec, Montreal in the 1960s, and domestic foodscapes. Her food-related publications have appeared or will appear in Food, Culture and Society; The Daily Meal through History, ed. Nathalie Cooke; and in a collection she has co-edited with Johanne Sloan, entitled Expo 67: Not Just a Souvenir (University of Toronto Press), which followed an exhibition with the same name at the Canadian Centre for Architecture.