The most thought-provoking exhibition of 2019 may well be the V&A's FOOD: Bigger than the Plate. This examines the future of what we eat - and our planet - with a witty and sometimes provocative look at design, production and alternative sustenance. There's no preaching, just lots of ideas, and visitors can see several exhibits actually growing in the gallery space.
What can you do with used coffee grounds, other than throw them away? Well, GroCycle has created an Urban Mushroom Farm using coffee waste from the museum's Benugo cafe and turned them into compost in which edible Oyster mushrooms can grow (above). When these are harvested, they'll be returned to the cafe for use in selected dishes.
There are also some chilled display cabinets with cheeses created from microbes
harvested from the bodies of celebrities. There was no mention of these going back to the cafe – and
quite honestly, I wouldn’t rush to try a Comté cheese created with the help of samples from
Heston Blumenthal’s nostrils and pubic hair – but maybe in the future, we’ll
be grateful for such delicacies.
Local produce and initiatives that reconnect consumers and producers are hot topics at the moment. An east London community enterprise, Company Drinks, draws on the area's tradition of going hop picking to bring people from Barking and Dagenham together to pick and process ingredients for drinks. It was founded by Kathrin Bohm of Myvillages in 2014 and since then, more than 36,000 people have got involved. Some of their produce is available to sample. The cordial I tried was a refreshing
kale, rosemary, lavender, lemon balm, sugar and water, served in a paper
The exhibtion has four sections: Compost, Farming, Trading and Eating. The final one looks at the role of the
table, the challenges we face in feeding the world, and scientific
projects, ingredients and recipes that push the boundaries of ingenuity in
cooking. A pop-up food bar provided by
the Centre for Genomic Gastronomy's LOCI Food Lab (above) makes tiny canapés to order once visitors
choose three of their food priorities from a 15-strong list. My choice of a “delicious,
affordable and protein-rich” canapé contained Essex chia seeds, British yellow
peas and quinoa, mould microprotein and dried and powdered anchovy. The end result, below, certainly tickled the tastebuds.
The show’s co-curators, Catherine Flood and May Rosenthal Sloan, point out that
food is one of the most powerful tools through which we shape the world we live
in. They say that now is a crucial moment to ask not just what will we be
eating tomorrow, but what kind of food future do we want? This exhibition is bursting with intriguing ideas and suggestions. FOOD:
Bigger than the Plate is at the V&A Museum in South Kensington until
October 20, 2019. Tickets £17, concessions available. https://www.vam.ac.uk/exhibitions/food-bigger-than-the-plate
Who would have guessed
a bundle of twisted twigs could turn so quickly into a living sculpture? I received
the bare bundle back at the end of February, popped it in a pot, and gave it
plenty of water. Within days, green shoots appeared which have now developed
into a topiary crown. The next step is to prune it into a ball, and it
will be ready to take its place as a delightful garden feature. As per the
instructions, I’ve kept the tie around the stems, but over the years, these
should graft together to become one single willow trunk, while retaining the
beautiful twisted decorative effect of the stem. Definitely some magic at work
Today is Garden Day, launched to encourage gardeners to down tools and spend some quality time enjoying the results of all their hard work. So go out there, relax, and salute the start of the growing season. I am! https://www.gardenday.co.uk/