December 19, 2012
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November 26, 2012
World food with wild food
Street Food is a series of recipes inspired by the wild plants that grow abundantly in London as well as by the people who live here, and the culinary traditions they have brought with them from all over the planet.
Street Food is wild food, found literally on the urban streets, although always collected in safe spaces – parks, commons, away from roads, away from dog walked areas, not on old industrial sites – and Street Food also refers to the urban culture of eating food on the go, on the streets, without cutlery, with your hands, surrounded by passersby, prepared by people from around the world who are cooking to make a living. Street Food fills you up and nourishes you on a busy day. The culture of Street Food contributes to the atmosphere, safety and conviviality of the urban centres. In this book, the vision of the urban includes the green spaces. We’ve moved from the tarmac streets into the parks and recreation grounds, into places where we can actually pick some wild food and cook it up, there and then, in the open air. With large groups of people we’ve experimented with each other’s cooking traditions and with the new-old ingredients of nettle, chickweed, plantain, dandelion, shepherd’s purse, thistle, elder, blackberry, dock, bittercress, rose petal, hawthorn, goosegrass, hogweed, fennel.
Street Food is a project developed by the organisation Invisible Food. For us, Invisible Food refers to everything that sustains us that isn’t ordinarily visible or easy to define. The ‘food’ has a literal and practical interpretation; the ‘food’ is the wild foods such as nettle, or elderflower that we can harvest and learn how to use. There is also a deeper, more soulful interpretation of Invisible ‘food’ as that which sustains us emotionally and spiritually, that which creates a strong community, friendship and support, a connection with the earth, and a commitment to social justice. The project of monthly gathering plants and preparing a feast has become an accessible ritual, enticing to all regardless of cultural and religious background.
Throughout the project we have cooked dumplings, stews, pickles, fermented vegetables, and breads, dishes which are common around the world, each with a slightly different seasoning and spice mix. Many dishes have been adapted and taken root in cultures far away from where they originated, as people have moved and been moved around the globe. We explore the Vietnamese Bánh Mì, which is a product of the French introducing bread and paté to Vietnam in the colonial period. There are also wild food versions of dishes which are a symbol of diversity themselves, for example the Venezuelan Christmas dish, Hallaca, is a coming together of European, Indigenous and African traditions. There are many ingredients in the recipes that follow that aren’t wild, they may need to be bought in a shop. There are many spices I’ve included that aren’t grown in this country. This isn’t a venture in trying to sustain only with wild food. The other ingredients are included, as while the main premise is how to cook wild plants in exciting ways, it’s also about how to prepare food that connects you, to a wise community of people with diverse backgrounds who happen to be living in the same place, at the same time, breathing with the same plants, sharing the same resources.
What we eat is one way to directly connect to the life forces of the planet. The more we engage with the processes of food harvesting and preparation, the more power we add to the energy we put into our mouths to nourish us. We can take in various ways from nature. We can collect seeds, leaves, berries. We can dig up roots. It can be helpful to adopt an intention for the wild food we gather. For example, “This is the seed (or leaf, flower, root) that I have gathered with my own hands, and with it I prepare a dish that connects me to the abundance that this earth provides me with so effortlessly, so I may live and thrive.” This intention is a very powerful thing as there is something in having an intention which acts as a safeguard against overtaking. While there are some glorious built-in safeguards in nature to ensure equal distribution, for example holly berries are toxic to humans but not to birds, we humans have to learn how take consciously, to take only what we need, to learn how much is enough, to leave what other creatures need more than us. This connection with knowing our true needs counters the tendency to being mechanical in our interactions with nature. And this is not just relevant at the harvesting stage. I try to look after seeds once I’ve collected them, to put them in a suitable bag in a suitable container, to shake them regularly, to check on them and look out for signs that they might need some other form of care. This intention that we nurture our actions with comes from the knowledge that once taking becomes mechanical, abuse and exploitation can easily occur, mining great big gash holes in the earth’s surface, cutting down the rainforest, cutting out our own lung.
There is a popular expression of large cities being inspiring places where people from many cultures live. London is a great example of this. Most Londoners enjoy being part of the diversity of this city, sometimes even those who have experienced racism along with it. What every Londoner will also experience in some form, are the shockwaves sent through society as a whole from the unseen dimensions of social systems that generate conflict, anger, bitterness, self-hate, destruction of the environment, physical abuse and violent communication. It seems a relevant issue to tackle for a project like Invisible Food – it’s the other side of that which feeds us – which we tackle by bringing people together and creating a space to experience feelings of belonging and connection that transcends nation, race and class. These feelings of belonging will build stronger community networks in London and other cities. I hope this book will be part of a process that strengthens and connects.
October 8, 2012
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September 27, 2012
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It’s been around 6-9 months since I first decided to run this event at this moment of Harvest time. 6-9 months of holding in my being, the possibility of working with S and R, my desire for connection around the cultures of South Asia, my desire for rooting this within the wild plants of South London. And I spent the 2 weeks prior to the event intensively planning and checking in with Ramya, our playworker, about how we would hold the space for children. I met N and her family at the Lambeth Country Show at the Incredible Edible stall and we discovered a shared interest and excitement around the Bangladeshi street food dish, Fuska. N knew how to do it. She was up for coming to the Street Food event and cooking it for us. We connected a couple of times during the week to check what she would need and to check the recipe that I would share with participants in the spirit of learning and dissemination, of making a dish ‘visible’, in the spirit of “Eat it and try to cook it at home. Feel inspired to do something different. Feel a shift in your habits. Eat something you don’t normally eat. Nourish your body in a different way. See how it makes you feel. Identify where the nourishing happens, is it the combination of flavours? Is it the smell? Is it the newness? Is it the surprise?”
Similarly, S and I connected in a slightly different way. We had a couple of talks on skype to check in, about our lives in general and specifically, around food. We set ourselves each 5 minutes to talk about South Asian food. I shared first my intention behind doing this workshop, which was to create an enjoyable space for connection across cultural barriers that sometimes we get stuck behind. My intention was for connection, for community, for inclusion where there is a history of exclusion, my intention was for contribution, for allowing a space for contribution. My intention was for fun.
We were inspired to cook biryani, with S leading on this. She’d never cooked it before. She’d seen her mother cook it as a child and shared with me how biryani is a dish fit for the queens and kings, it’s an honour to prepare and eat. It takes hours to prepare. We would do a one pot version, camping style, outdoors, in the park.
I felt inspired by the connection with S and N, the flow, the ease with which we were connecting and agreeing to create something together. With R, who’d agreed to come and cook pakora, it had been a similar experience. I felt very connected and humbled by the flow of these women agreeing to come along.
I spoke to S on Friday. We had an amazing connection. She wasn’t feeling very well and we spoke about not overriding the body’s needs. She was silent for a long while as she connected to her deepest needs. I witnessed her self-connection in silence. She said she really needed rest. She said she was worried about letting me down. She asked how this was for me. I said I was really happy that she was connected to her needs for rest. I said I was really inspired by the transparency of our conversation. I said I was sad we wouldn’t connect and do this project together. But most of all, I felt nourished by the strength of our connection, that we were processing this together. I felt included in her decision. I felt I was supporting her to connect to her needs. I felt supported in dealing with my sadness that she wouldn’t be participating in the event. I’m connecting to the power of this connection as I write and can feel it inside my body.
Then later on Friday, N got in touch. Her daughter was ill, she wouldn’t be able to come on Saturday. I felt a numbness of disappointment that I recognise as a recurring emotion in my life. I took a while to connect with myself around this feeling. It was only the following day, before I set about packing my things for the event, that I spoke to someone in my support network and I realised some things about this work and what I’m trying to do in Invisible Food. Somehow this shed light on the Street Food project and it may be that this is the missing ingredient as I go about structuring the book of monthly recipes.
This is what it is. I connected to a need for safety in this work connecting to people across cultures. I feel anxious about the precariousness of the connections I have with people from different cultures. I want to feel a greater sense of security and trust in my relationships with people with different cultural backgrounds. Community is so fragmented in London, people tend to connect and deeply connect with people from the same cultural and class background. Everytime I struggle to reach out to someone, to make a connection with a family at my son’s school who we want to play with for example, or on an Invisible Food activity, everytime I feel a fear, a pain that there are so many barriers between us, so much history of being separate, I have so much fear that we won’t connect, I’m afraid of hearing a no, it’s scary stepping out and saying I want to connect with you.
I’m connecting to a need to make this process more visible. To write about the struggle to create more community across cultural and class boundaries in London. I’m wondering how it will be to make visible all the work of connecting that I do, that is always invisible and there is sometimes nothing to show for it, as in the case of S and N not being able to come, there wasn’t the outcome of having their presence at the event.
On Saturday, at the event, as we began I talked about how S and N couldn’t be there as they were listening to their needs for rest and for the well being of family and I celebrated this self-connection, while also being sad that we couldn’t enjoy their presence. I guess this was one way of making visible this energy of reaching out and connecting that had been taking place over the previous two weeks and I guess that writing this now is another way. It’s a way of honouring in me, this desire for community, for inclusion, for connection, and to acknowledge that this work isn’t always visible and isn’t very often valued or celebrated.
I’m wondering where this lands in you, reading this now.
September 26, 2012
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In May and June, Invisible Food and AYANNA – the network for people involved in community and social change work hosted a series of workshops to nourish and inspire people involved in community work and social change. Workshops included
Wild herb meditations
Learn to identify wild herbs and flowers, spend some time in nature. No prior experience required,
just a willingness to spend some moments in silence as part of an otherwise social experience
Time to Get Messy Art Workshop
Paint. Big paper. Material. Glue. Time to create something beautiful together
Karibu song time
Songs of celebration, songs of struggle, songs of energy, songs of joy. No prior experience required.
Come and let your voice soar.
Street Food workshop
World food with Wild food. Foraging and feasting.
Film showing: Budrus (2009)
Follows a Palestinian leader who unites Fatah, Hamas and Israelis in an unarmed movement to
save his village from destruction.
We also recommend this:
A Song for our Time
Come together and co-create a song for our time that will strengthen and sustain you each time you sing it for years to come.
A one-day workshop co-led by Bridget Belgrave and Jane Wheeler
Saturday June 30, 10am-4.30pm, Golders Green, North London
This day is for everyone!
No previous writing or singing experience needed. Discover the experience of co-creating a song that encodes what matters to you in this magical, musical form that will live in your heart so you can share it you can affirm playfully deeply creatively passionately your heart and soul your dreams and hopes your struggles and suffering a b o u t the big issues of our time Bridget and Jane will facilitate you to connect deeply and co-create freely. You’ll be astonished by how easily the song emerges.
What will happen on the day?
We’ll bring attention to what is really important to you and to others in the group, in the collective field we share – the big issues of our time. We’ll connect with these issues, using NVC-based processes, and creative modalities. We’ll transition into song-writing and Jane will guide us through the co-creation of our song(s), with her tried and tested process for collaborative song-writing.
We’ll sing and record the song(s), before the end of the day, and transfer the recording as an mp3 file to you, for your continuing connection with the soulful song(s) we create.
Bridget Belgrave and Jane Wheeler bring together their passion for song, creativity, empathy, compassion, meditation, mindfulness, and the insights of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) to provide a context for people to find connection with their deepest values through engaging in ‘Living Song’.
Jane is a published song-writer and has huge experience in music education and directing youth choirs. She has a gift for midwife-ing the birth of people’s heart-songs, and a long term personal practice in non-judgmental living. Jane’s website: www.livingsong.co.uk
Contributions: Between £15 and £55 (or more if you wish!)
Ayanna is grassroots Ayanna is social change Ayanna is community Ayanna is eternally blossoming
September 26, 2012
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September 26, 2012
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Wild herb Pakora
1 cup gram (chick pea) flour 3 tablespoons rice flour (optional) 1 tablespoon of coarsely ground coriander powder (dhania) 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (jeera) 2 chopped green chilies 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves (hara dhania) 1 teaspoon salt adjust to taste 3/4 cup of water (Use water as needed) Burdock root, plantain leaves (finely chopped), nettle leaves Oil to fry
1. Mix all the dry ingredients together: gram, rice flour, coriander powder, and salt. Add the water slowly to make a smooth batter (batter should be consistency of pancake batter or dosa batter) 2. Next, add the wild herbs and roots, green chilies and coriander leaves. Mix well. 3. Heat the oil in a frying pan on medium high heat.(To check if the oil is ready, put one drop of batter in oil. The batter should come up but not change color right away). 4. Add a spoonful of the batter and vegetable mix to the oil. 5. Fry the pakoras in small batches. The pakoras will take about 4 to 5 minutes to cook. 6. Turn them occasionally. Fry the pakoras until both sides are golden-brown.
Chestnut and fig biryani – one pot version
2 cups basmati rice 3 tbsp oil (or 5 tbsp if you don’t have ghee) 2 tbsp ghee [clarified butter] 1 large red onion,sliced 2 tsp each garlic & ginger, finely chopped 3 finely chopped tomatoes Chopped fresh coriander, fried brown onions for garnish 2 bay leaves 2-3 fresh green chillies 3 cloves,3 green cardamom pods, 5 black peppercorns, crushed 1 stick cinnamon 1 tsp turmeric powder 1 tsp crushed coriander seeds 1/2 tsp garam masala 1 cup boiled and peeled chestnuts 1/2 cup hazelnuts 3 or 4 figs
1. Soak the rice for at least 15 mins before cooking. 2. Heat the oil for about 2 minutes.Add the ghee to the pan followed by onions. Fry onions until golden brown. 3. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for about 2 minutes. 4. Next tip in the chopped tomatoes, and all the spices. Cook for a few minutes. 6. Next, add the nuts and figs. 7. Add the rice and 1.5 cups of water for each cup of rice. 8. Add salt and cook for 10 minutes. 9. Serve with torn coriander and salad burnet leaves.