Garnishing a cake
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Food - often - is an unperceived element when someone broadly speaks about culture, despite being a tangible cultural element. Somehow, the word “culture” may be easily connected to “high and inaccessible culture”.
Food strongly defines us to our core. Literally and not only nutrition-wise. It’s dependent on our local resources and heritage, our rituals, familiar and community traditions, experiences, our memories, feelings, ... Food is entrenched in our identity as individuals, family and community members, as well as citizens.
Food’s flavours and scents have the power to take us to moments that were lost in our memory, may that be common places, special gatherings, celebrations, faith-based festivities, journeys, holidays, moments of tenderness and love, conversations and so forth.
The same typical dish or local staple in one region or community is tied to a wide range of memories and feelings, personal significances and recipe’s variations.
Are you ready to discover your local heritage?
Food ingredients and food utensils
Photo by Jess Loiterton via Pexels
Memorabilia are items, objects that are kept or collected, which are tied to special memories. By default, they bring us back to a special time or place. If we stop for a minute to think about the meaning of food, we may reach the conclusion that food revolves around the moments we treasure the most or sweet memories that are long gone.
In this quest, you will create community memorabilia about warm food memories. You’ll collect food memory stories and respective items attached to those memories and stories from the members of your community.
Those memory stories may be grounded in local festivities and celebrations and collective entertainment moments or may be either linked to private settings, such as personal and family memories.
Personal and private memory stories, all together, build up the collective dimension of a particular dish or staple entrenched in community. Through this approach, you’ll open up an emotional window with a wide spectrum attached to a traditional dish or food staple.
1. What are the typical dishes from your region or city (sweet and savory)? If you feel that your community doesn't have habits of consumption around those typical dishes or that your community is culturally diverse, you can use some staple food items.
2. Make an inventory and make a short list with them (up to 5). The inventory can be supported by simple polls done in social media to community members, watch the video "How to create a poll on Instagram" that you can find in our "resources" to get further information.
3. Set a goal for this initiative. For instance, search out intangible heritage around “pizza”, understand the emotional meaning to your community about the most typical dishes.
4. Explain the goal, steps and expected timeline of this activity to your community members. Either get their informed consent about the data to be disclosed to the public (name, photos, objects) or don’t disclose any personal information that may identify the person(s).
5. Invite your community members to share their memories connected to these dishes, by describing one memory and attaching one item to the description (e.g., a photo from a relative, an apron, a ticket, a napkin, an ornament, a gift, an object. Whatever reminds them about moments gravitating around the dish).
6. Provide them with some guidelines and template to help them to tell or write down their story (memory). To start with you can provide them with these prompts to guide them:
- Picture a warm memory around xxxx and describe it.
- What do you remember about it?
- When did you use to eat or prepare that dish? Any special occasion?
- Whom did you use to be while preparing or eating that dish? For what purpose?
- How was the ambience? Do you recall any particular dialogue, scent or flavour?
- Is there any background, tradition or history behind that memory?
- What were you feeling by that time?
7. If you are aiming to collect family-focused recipes, you can provide them with this guideline and checklist Example of a template for a family focused recipe that you can find in the resources or you could use this template.
8. Some examples about food story memories can be found in our resource Examples of family recipe stories, at the bottom of the page displayed in squares. Keep in mind that the original goal is to tell memory stories about a particular food or dish. Community members may complement their original stories with a family story about the recipe.
9. Agree on a place or address for individuals to hand you out the memorabilia and memories.
10. Get some volunteers to help you with the exhibition preparation.
11. Put together the pop-up exhibition in a local place and showcase the memorabilia. For suggestions on how to setup a pop-up event, read the article How to set up a pop-up art gallery in 7 steps. For suggestions on how to display the memorabilia, search for ideas on Pinterest.
12. Get the word out! Let the inhabitants know about the event.
13. You may put an exhibition notebook at the event. Thus, you can get feedback from the visitors, about this special exhibition.
By completing this quest, on the one hand, you are setting the stage for your community members to acknowledge and convey their personal and familial history. On the other hand, you’re making sense of the food’s immaterial heritage tied to emotional story memories belonging to your community.
You’ll understand the power and significance of tapping into the unexplored world of memories and showcasing them, by creating memorabilia. Through this activity, you will preserve collective memories and maybe pass them to younger generations. Community members will start to change their perspective about it, and recognising it as an accessible cultural asset. Maybe they will feel compelled to value those moments more and create new private and collective rituals and traditions.
- Understand food as a cultural element part of individual’s and community’s identity;
- Explore individual memory stories attached to typical dishes or staples, as part of the personal history and tradition, to understand the traditions of my community.
- Uncover the emotional meaning to my community of distinctive dishes or staples;
- Ensure a meaningful present and future linked to food, by exploring foods’ memory stories and respective memorabilia.
- Food as an element which shapes the cultural identity of a community;
- Food as a connection component to an individual’s family, community, region or country;
- Emotional ties and meanings of food;
- Capacity building on memories’ storytelling;
- Put together a food community memorabilia;
- Organise a pop-up exhibition;
- Develop emotional awareness and intelligence around culture;
- Be the spark that ignites urban revitalization through artistic and cultural actions in my region;
- Promote culture being the initiator of cultural activities that benefits the community;