At The Crossroads: a microclimate sensory banquet at The British Library

We sometimes like to venture out of the confines of our garden and to push ourselves to work with food to deliver unique dining experiences. 

We were approached earlier this year by arts organisation Invisible Dust to collaborate on a sensory banquet with artist Gayle Chong Kwan as part of Under Her Eye: women in the art and science of climate change, a 2 day summit at The British Library. The summit was packed with talks and panel discussions from leading figures in politics, science, activism and art including: organisations like Squirrel Nation, Julie’s Bicycle publisher’s Dark Mountain, green party co-leader Caroline Lucas, author Margaret Atwood, and previous executive secretary for UNFCCC, Christiana Figueres. Amongst the stellar cast queue The Skip Garden Kitchen and our very own inspiration, sustainable foodie and chef Sadhbh Moore.

Working closely with Gayle and her research into the library’s archives around the politics and history of food and trade, the brief was to put together a menu which told the stories ‘At the crossroads’ of King’s Cross. This banquet was to invite diners to consider their environment, connect with the history of the space, the history and evolving nature of our food, and to consider the implications of our food choices. As such the menu was fully vegetarian, with produce from our King’s Cross garden and beyond.

The evening started with an exploration of place with peas and potatoes placing the diner firmly in King’s Cross and The British Library concourse, once a hub for food coming into London by road and along the canal. Today some of our food travels halfway around the globe before reaching our plates and one of our aims was to show the breadth of produce available from the UK: ripe and juicy heirloom tomatoes from The Isle of White, quinoa grown in Norfolk fields, curds and cheeses from within the M25 and herbs and leaves from our King’s Cross garden. Drinks distilled in London by Seedlip and olive oil brought in from Portugal by Sail Cargo.

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Our main course celebrated the exchange of flavours and influences from other parts of the world with spiced beetroot and goat’s cheese tart, sesame infused Mauritian slaw and beautiful plump heirloom tomatoes dressed with chilli. This course was served out as a communal banquet with sharing plates. A nod to the elaborate medieval banquets where fancy foods from around the globe would be shared out along long tables laden with sweet and savoury goods.

Communal dining and sharing food and conversations is a practice we favour in our work at Global Generation. Many of our projects and events use food and the dining table as way to open up conversation, and bring people together from all walks of life to share ideas and stories. Sharing food is a big part of how we create an open space for dialogue and conversation; we are all natural food lovers, we love to see it grow, ripen and when the time is right pluck the goods, cook them up and serve them at communal lunches or to customers in our cafe. As such guests at the banquet were encouraged to sit with people they didn’t know, led through silly activities to enhance the senses and to break the ice, such as making sensory glasses, wearing blindfolds and planting up clay vessels with pea seeds.

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We ended the evening with a dessert at the crossroads of the seasons, seeing out the last of the rhubarb and welcoming in sweet summer fruits with strawberries and set cream. In order to get a taste of both diners needed to share! By this point the banqueting hall was full of chatter with new acquaintances feeling familiar enough to split a dessert before they wandered off together to a nearby performance called Human Sensor - a  large-scale digital and performance artwork exploring Londoners’ daily exposure to air pollution through a combination of cutting-edge wearable technology and dance.

Many thanks to Invisible Dust and Gayle for trusting us to pull together a menu and contribute to an incredibly inspiring 2 days of events and invite people to explore some of our practices and the questions we hold around sustainability, food waste and provenance, and experience a piece of The Skip Garden at one of the UK’s leading institutions. Here is what they had to say about us: “What a fantastic evening! It's been such a pleasure working with the Skip Garden… inspiring ethics, professionalism, organisation, outreach, creativity and of course absolutely delicious food”

Next month on the blog, the youth team will be sharing their experience of being involved with Under her Eye, working with local children and young people...