Ways of Eating, by Kelly Randall
Please find below the updates on Kelly’ research into ways of eating.
The human diet was once determined by availability and accessibility, from what was grown locally and seasonally, in varying climates and communities. As the supply chains of the 21st century blur how our ingredients arrive on our plates, how can we collectively shift our ways of eating to minimise the impact on the planet?
Ways of Eating aims to collect and explore traditions and practices of eating, using them to rethink our urban approach to food with consideration to the climate crisis.
The first area of research centres around entomophagy; around 2 billion people worldwide regularly consume insects. With 1,900 edible species, high protein content, and sustainable farming, what can we learn from this practice? As current food production methods become exhausted, we need to expand our concept of ‘edible’ to offer food security for the future.
The past month of research has been centred around sourcing local food and consuming seasonally, two ways of eating that have the potential to fix our broken supply chains and offer food security for the future.
As discussed by @cookingsections and Maite Borjaban as part of @thewrldaround Earth Day talks, our seasons have blurred into one and we have become accustomed to the year-round availability of produce. UK supermarkets proudly stock out-of-season fruits and vegetables, further obscuring where our food comes from and how it ends up on our plates.
Ways of Eating has traced the origins of a selection of UK supermarket recipes: by recording and visualising each ingredient’s origin it is possible to reimagine a map that shows how far a meal has travelled. With further development, these maps can become an educational tool and even pressure supermarkets to provide clear, honest information.
Building a more sustainable food system goes beyond dietary choice, refrigeration is the invisible polluter of the production line.
The idea of cooling and preserving food dates back to the Ancient Roman and Chinese empires and gained normality in the 20th Century. Traditional spaces of refrigeration such as Yakhchāl or underground ice houses have been replaced by integrated domestic appliances. Refrigerators are symbols of perceived freshness, yet their ability to essentially stop time has blurred our cultural understanding of how food naturally behaves.
While commercial refrigeration does allow us to overcome seasonal and geographical limitations, our overeating world is demanding too much artificial cooling. Refrigeration consumes around 17% of global electricity and, even if sourced renewably, refrigerants are predicted to be responsible for half of global emissions by 2050. How can we provide cooling without warming our planet further?
Ways of Eating begins to highlight this vast global network and will be experimenting with traditional methods of preservation to reduce our reliance on refrigeration and reintroduce this knowledge into our food education.
The value of food is woven through a complex system of influences: agricultural, historical, political, emotional, nutritional and cultural factors all inform our perceptions of our edible choices. While having access to affordable, good quality food is a basic human right, it’s important to work towards expanding our field of value with the aim of making better informed choices with our money.
Ways of Eating has been exploring these factors in relation to our perceptions of food. A significant amount of food is wasted before it even reaches the supermarkets due to ‘cosmetic imperfections’. The rise of wonky veg boxes sold in supermarkets is a step in the right direction but ultimately this produce is still being marketed as flawed.
Tracing back the history of how we arrived at these perceptions is crucial to started a dialogue. Through education we can begin to shift our expectations and collectively work with the food system to reduce unnecessary waste. Who decided what a carrot or an aubergine should look like anyway?
On the journey to creating a culinary resource that centres around sustainable eating, my research has been considering how recipes and cookbooks are developed and what additional information is required to educate readers to make better choices where possible. Through the sea of sustainable recipe books on the market that encourage local sourcing, reduced food waste, and low-carbon ingredients, what can I add to the conversation?
I’d recommend watching Feast to Save the Planet on BBC Two, where dinner party guests are judged on the carbon footprint of their menu choices. While avoiding animal products and imported foods come as no surprise, the programme also highlights some ingredients and methods of transport that aren’t as harmful as you might initially think.