It was all aboard the Grain train for The Sustainable Food Story's inaugural immersive dining experience. On this summer's eve we went 10,000 years back to the fertile crescent and the origins of our agricultural system. The focus of the night was heritage grains, diversity and deliciousness, and telling the story of how these aspects contribute to a more Sustainable Food system.
Our team spanned far and wide. Having embarked on a PhD in cellular agriculture, specifically growing meat in the lab, Abi Aspen Glencross left the laboratory and became a storyteller and farmer, narrating alternatives to our current predominantly industrial farming system. She has been a grainiac for a number of years. And Giorgia Lauri comes from a famous land of gastronomy, Italy. Her work as a chef at The Skip Garden Kitchen and at 26 Grains for the past couple of years has immersed her into the world of food and grains. As a chef myself, I have always loved mixing things up and trying new grains and flours being bored with the plain flavours of white bread, pasta, and rice. I also consistently question the health aspects and environmental sustainability of our staples which repeat themselves in so many of our meals. We were a seemingly motley crew that soon became kindred spirits.
Our inspiration came from not only the desire to share the story of the history, but also the environmental and nutritional benefits of older varieties of grains. This was coupled with the curiosity to try new flavour and texture profiles and the double dividend of proving that grains do not need to be fed to animals. A staggering 50% of grains grown in the U.K. are currently used for animal feed when in fact we can simply skip the middle-man (or middle mammal) and directly eat the grains.
On the night of the event, our guests were treated with boozy surprise welcome drinks: Toast Ales and surplus grain based cocktails with Greensand Ridge. Toast Ale is a charity funding beer made with surplus bread (50% of bread in the U.K. is also wasted!) and our cocktail was a mixture of Greensand Ridge gin and some homemade elderflower cordial made with U.K. sugar beet and a homegrown chard stalk stirrer (no plastic here!)
Then it was time the guests to follow the trail of breadcrumbs to their seats. First stop was rye dipped radishes, then levain (sourdough starter) crackers with a homegrown mint and salvaged pea dip. The salvaged peas were grown as nitrogen fixers in a grain field, so they were saved from going into dog food.
The evening was one of fun and exciting chats which linked us from 10,000 years ago back to the current day. Einkorn breads were broken, timilla perlata and heritage tomato salads were shared, and surplus einkorn, heritage carrot, and Cornish Gouda croquettes with crispy garden sage were crunched. The evening then culminated with a sharing board of lemon verbena ricotta cream and toasted grainola made using saved apricot kernels and toasted spelt and rye.
The talks continued into the night when the shadows had grown long and as the dishes were cleared and our guests wandered out into the flickering candlelight, we really hoped knowledge had been shared. This was truly a magical evening.
The Sustainable Food Story's next event is on Sunday 1st October, and tickets are still available.
For all information on future supper clubs follow us on Grub Club or join our mailing list.