I never did say anything at the Harmony conference about what Square Food Foundation does back in Bristol.
It would take more space to explain than I have here but I think at its heart is the notion that if good ingredients and good cooking are not a familiar friend to you – for whatever reasons and there are so many and they are so complex and not to be judged – then to discover them for the first time is to discover a part of yourself which has been there all the time. It’s a kind of awakening.
Of course learning to cook is also about healthy eating and life skills and maybe even a career in food, but finding a connection with yourself through food is more important. It is through this that you cannot help but learn to value the journey of an ingredient from soil to plate and to see yourself as part of it.
A community cookery school like Square Food Foundation, along with the farmers, growers, schools and other institutions who are also working with the principles and practice of good food, is the bottom up end of the transformation of food culture. And for me, the Harmony conference felt like a place where what we do at Square Food perfectly fitted with the wider vision of harmony in food and farming which inspired the conference itself.
And here’s a thing. Towards the end of the first ten years of my work in food education, in some despair about the intransigence of the world around me, the ignorance of policy makers in food standards, health and education, the dreary attachment of the ‘General Public’ to poor food, I adopted the slightly gloomy view of Joseph Conrad (I think?) who said somewhere that, “The only battle worth fighting for is a losing battle.”
That was twenty years ago. What has changed this disposition is as much as anything to do with a voice which then was not heard at all and had no place in the great debate about food. It didn’t even have words. But now it does. And this voice comes from the people SFF teaches – and who now teach us as much as we teach them about what works and what doesn’t work in practice. Together we are all learning. Baby steps. One class at a time.
And maybe in five years, cookery and the study of gastronomic sciences will be as much part of the school curriculum as maths and English. And in ten years, Knowle West, where Square Food Foundation is, will be growing enough vegetables for its own community. And in 20 years, the NHS will be less about dealing with the health consequences of 65 years of bad food habits and more about mending broken legs.
Sign up to our Newsletter
Stay up to date with the latest SFT views and news