Food: Bigger than the Plate

Inspire

18 June 2019

"Food is one of the most powerful tools through which we shape the world we live in, from how we create society, culture and pleasure to how we determine our relationship with the natural world," said co-curators Catherine Flood and May Rosenthal Sloan.

What does the future of food look like? 

FOOD: Bigger than the Plate - a new exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London explores how individuals, communities and organisations are re-inventing how we grow, distribute and experience food. Featuring over 70 contemporary projects, FOOD: Bigger than the Plate takes us on a sensory journey through the food cycle - split into four sections: Composting, Farming, Trading and Eating

Composting

The projects featured in this section offer ways to restore the food cycle and repurpose waste products - from wine bottles made of grape skins, pineapple leaf leather and ‘merdacotta’ cow manure clay. 

GroCycle's Urban Mushroom Farm simply illustrates the idea of a circular economy - used coffee grounds from the V&A’s café are reused as nutritious soil beds to grow mushrooms used in café meals.

Farming

On to Farming, and Our Daily Bread, a 13-minute film by Geyrhalter and Widerhofer, looks at industrial food production and high-tech farming. To the rhythm of conveyor belts and immense machines, the film provides a window into the slick production processes - highlighting how detached and clinical food production has become. Scenes of bull breeding and exhausted workers are difficult to digest but provoke us to question values and make us reconsider. 

Although, it's not all bad - hopeful urban and social projects balance it out. The Fallen Fruit maps stood out to us as a positive urban harvesting project, illustrating the locations of London fruit trees and the types of fruit you will find. 

And we didn't go away empty handed, enjoying a well needed refreshment provided by Company Drinks, who arrange community hop-picking trips and produce beverages from produce grown in Barking and Dagenham.


Trading

The effects of global food economies are further explored in Trading, through packaging and advertising.

Banana Story by Johanna Seelemann highlights the extensive international travel hidden in 'made in' labels. Her Banana Passport tracks a single banana’s 14-day journey from a tree in Ecuador to a supermarket in Iceland, covering 8,800km and passing through 33 pairs of hands. Forcing us to ask big questions about a small, everyday item.

Eating

The final section, Eating, illustrates the role of the table, bringing together scientific experiments, ingredients and recipes. The examples displayed push the boundaries of cooking to show how rituals of making and eating can connect us culturally, socially and politically.

The Future Sausage by Carolien Niebling sparks discussion around the overconsumption of meat and the strain that it puts on the planet's resources. From a fruit sausage comprising figs, prunes and nits to a more traditional salami laced with maggots.

Some projects are more palatable than others...anyone for Mozzarella made from the microbes of Professor Green's armpit?

The exhibit provokes viewers to critically question our existing food system but we left with a sense of optimism and a desire to be conscious and present in the decisions we are making around food every day.