The Andrew Raven Trust weekend in June 2014 tackled the multi-faceted and challenging topic of the impact of what we consume in Scotland. This involved a discussion on the culture of food, including the influence of restaurant culture and of multiculturalism, framed by a thought-provoking personal experience shared by Professor Chris Fynsk from Aberdeen University of his time with renowned Spanish Chef Ferran Adrià. This glimpse into haute cuisine provided weekend participants to ‘reflect on our own traditions’.
A key reflection was that community and food culture are intertwined. The example of the Huntly community creating their ‘signature meal’ described this interconnection, but also demonstrated the misnomer of putting ‘communities’ into boxes. In reality, geographical communities are composed of multi-cultural ‘communities within communities’, hence Huntly arrived at a whole menu rather than only one meal that encapsulates their food culture.
Food culture and growing food can be critical to developing community connections and so-called ‘bonding capital’. Author and expert allotmenteer Judy Wilkinson artfully detailed the importance of the allotment culture, and the influence of culture on the growing of food, including the heritage of gardening skills, production and cooking.
The weekend participants reflected on finding space in life for retaining these skills, and the ability to create time through activity: gardening, cooking, eating, exercising. A central aspect of food culture is recognised as the preparation of food, gathering and talking. Food is a ‘common ground’ and an excellent tool for bringing people together, achieving wider goals through that connection.
Fundamentally the weekend’s discussions, debates and reflections demonstrated that food can be the basis for social relationships – the key question for the future is how to secure its sustainability.