You might not mind drinking coffee from cups made from coffee grounds, but how happy would you be eating food from terracotta pots (Merdacotta) made from cow dung. Designers have also developed spectacle made from coffee grounds and bowls made from recycled toilet paper. These are just some of the ideas of different artists for reuse in a sustainable world – the Dutch Water Authorities process used toilet paper into clean pulp which Neinke Hoogvliet has turned into bowls, like we used to do in school with paper mache, Julian Lecher has created reusable coffee cups from coffee grounds and Luca Cipelletti and Gianantonio Locatelli have created a terracotta material from Tuscan clay mixed with cow dung, after first extracting energy, heat and fertiliser from the manure.
In the V&A’s fascinating exhibition ‘Food: Bigger than the Plate’, artists, designers chefs, producers and scientists show their ingenuity with ideas to make food production, cooking and composting more environmentally sustainable, with many ideas such as growing mushrooms on a bed created from the coffee grounds from the V&A’s restaurant, with the mushrooms then used in the restaurant – a perfect circle – and the idea of growing food in the many empty containers that are shipped back to their country of origin, to be harvested there and perhaps returned.
Some of the ideas are, of course not new. There were campaigns during the 2nd World War for people to grow food locally and the Government supported initiatives for the food industry to become more production, though today we are reacting against some of the results of mass food production, while David Burns and Austin Young’s Fruit Maps highlight the number of fruit trees that still exist in many parts of London, planted generations ago, and providing a resource to be used – I still have an apple tree in my garden which is older than my house and still provides the fruit for excellent apple pies!
To make the point about food production, artist Elaine Tin Nyo followed the life of a cuddly piglet from birth to its end when, sadly it filled 182 tins of pate, sausages and meat. What does this say about our attitude to animals? Local initiatives such as Company Drinks brings communities together to pick food and create their own drinks, keeping everything local, and there are others such as the Scottish malted bread Veda, which had fallen out of favour but is now being reactivated.
Here too are examples of the artistry of food, as chefs such as Ferran Adria experimented with new flavours and textures, and food designs by Fabrico Proprio in Portugal, while Karen Guthrie and Grizdale Arts created a ‘House of Ferment’ containing ingredients which used to be found in every kitchen in the days when people use made much of their own food and drink, while the Loci Food Lab invites visitors to create their own food and balance biodiversity, environment and economics.
By happy coincidence, not far away in Olympia this week is the Speciality & Fine Food Fair, a Trade Show for the Food Industry from across Europe and as far away as Mexico. with quite a focus on environmental and ethical sustainability, giving a synergy with the V&A’s exhibition. Hopefully some of the visitors to Olympia will also make it to ‘Food: Bigger than the Plate’