Relationship, Connection and Celebration

We didn’t write this ourselves, but here’s a glimpse of the amazing ideas of Naomi Hannam, who works at the Embercombe project, which helps connect people to the land and food we eat, amongst many other work. Foodcycle met Naomi at the Edinburgh Do festival, where she shared some thoughts on our connections with food before we cooked a feast for hundreds and shared some big ideas (blog piece coming up! – watch this space…)

At the festival, she put on a food mandala before we cooked supper, and has kindly shared some thoughts with us about food and how we connect with it. Thanks, Naomi! 


Relationship, Connection and Celebration

A blog shared with Foodcycle by Naomi Hannam, Embercombe.

Connecting with what we eat, the seasons and community feels like an essential part of how we fit into the bigger picture of the world. To celebrate food and growth in all stages, from seed to fruit, from grain to bread, helps to develop connection and understanding of our relationships with everything around us and the earth. Humanity is just a small part of something much bigger and when we can stop and remember that we are part of something and not it’s manager or manipulator a greater sense of relationship, care and connection can be formed.

There is such magic in following the journey of our food and acknowledging and celebrating its existence. To wassail the apple trees in January and wake them up for spring, to watch blossom form and bees fly, to see fruits develop, to harvest and scump, to make cider and store apples in straw in autumn is just one example. To follow such a cycle – even if not physically – connects us to our food. A rich process full of stories and connection so different from picking the ‘perfect’ apple out of a plastic tray in a super market. It is much harder to throw food away if you have developed a connection to it.

People for hundreds of generations have been connected to the land, to the seasons and to the food that they eat. It feels a relatively new post-industrialised reality that has severed the connection between resource and consumption. It is with this disconnect that I feel so many societal dysfunctions stem. The plastic packaging that envelops our food, our cities and our interactions is forming so many literal and metaphorical barriers with basic connection to land and community.

Tonnes of food get wasted each year; a third of vegetables grown in the UK do not reach
our plates because they don’t look right. It is so easy to dismiss that which you don’t have a
connection with. So much of these carefully grown crops from around the globe are packaged only to sit on supermarket shelves and find their way to landfill. Walk in to a supermarket – stocked, overflowing with bounty; I wonder with dread how much of this food ends up in the bin, just to maintain this seeming abundance.

It is from these thoughts that the Wild Waste Mandala was dreamed for the Edinburgh Do.
We wanted to draw people’s attention to the theme of food waste from a place of beauty and creativity. I wondered how creativity could spark conversation and action in the opposite way that fear based information can stifle it. The Mandala, a celebration and acknowledgement of waste food, was created out of morsels salvaged from bins and skips, out of date treats given by local shop keepers; food that would otherwise have been forgotten. An astounding array of vegetables and processed food became the pallet for our creation. Circles of leaks, oranges, squash and many other delights radiated out from a centre of sugar coated popcorn and sliced white bread. Participants drew elaborate patterns with burst bags of custard powder. Conversation and thought flowed about the stories of the food and how we had found it. Candles were lit, beauty admired, songs were sung and thanks given for what was going to become a delicious feast.

That evening sitting with over 150 people eating the feast that Foodcycle Bristol cooked up from the mandala I reflected on the importance of honouring and celebrating food before it becomes waste. I thought about the importance of working from a place of creativity and connection and felt how deeply important it is to bring something of the sacred into the mundane; to acknowledge things which so often get rushed and forgotten; to always take time to acknowledge what’s on my plate and nourishing my body.

Naomi Hannam


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