Thursday, 28 July 2011

New metaphors for sustainability: the timeless meal

Carolyn Steel calls herself a 'food urbanist', and she brings a notion of the 'good life' to our series of New metaphors for sustainability

What is it we’re trying to sustain? For me, the meal is the emblematic, wonderful situation that sums up the whole point of sustainability.

I think in metaphor all the time and food has become this way of seeing the world not just in terms of 'how are we going to feed ourselves in future?' - this kind of doom and gloom thing - but also in terms of asking 'what kind of society is it that we are trying to create as well as sustain?'.

When you talk about food, there’s a tendency to talk about ‘how much grain can you produce on that much land with that much water’. That’s very important, but you have to relate every conversation you have about food with the kind of life that you are talking about. It’s about a vision of society, an idea of the good life.

The table is a place where you don't just share food, but you share ideas, you share love, you share conversation.

It’s a beautiful metaphor of the kinds of things that we’re trying to sustain. It’s society. It’s ‘good life’ in every possible sense - not just good in terms of wonderful food - but also good in terms of the ethics of what you eat. If I am hungry I have a practical problem. If you are hungry, I have an ethical problem.

This business of sitting around a table with other people, the decorum of the table, and the sharing food - it brings the social relevance of sustainability into the conversation.

A timeless meal, a meal that is enjoyed through time that has a past that we all intuitively understand, but a future as well, sums up for me the idea that food is life on earth.

Carolyn is included in our film.

Photo: Feast on the Bridge, 2009, curated by Clare Patey. Photo by Tim Mitchell.

No comments:

Post a Comment