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Foraging for your dinner encouraged in community drive | UK News

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An east London soft drinks company – set up as part of a community art project – is “empowering” people to understand the effort that goes into picking, processing and producing drinks from scratch.

Company Drinks founder Kathrin Bohm says being less wasteful comes naturally if you understand the energy that goes into making something in the first place.

“We’ve become so used to buying a drink, to make your own drink is quite empowering and to understand the politics of drinks-making is really important.

Sean forages for flowers for stalks and leaves to create drinks from scratch
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Sean forages for flowers for stalks and leaves to create drinks from scratch

“Food is not just something you consume, you can use your own city to make food, there’s a lot of learning involved. By making drinks you learn what grows in your space, you meet other people. Food is a strong social glue.”

Major ecological changes and an abundance of processed goods is causing many people to pay greater attention to the provenance of our food.

Based in Barking and Dagenham, the drinks-maker runs foraging workshops to teach people how to take things like elderflower, dandelions and even Japanese knotweed, and turn them into cordials or fizzy drinks.

Through the project, Sean Tuck has become an expert at brewing up locally-sourced soft drinks using long-forgotten recipes.

Sean Tuck has become an expert at brewing-up locally-sourced soft drinks using long-forgotten recipes
Image:
Sean Tuck has become an expert at brewing-up locally-sourced soft drinks using long-forgotten recipes

“We get together as a community to go out into the local parks to collect and forage for flowers for stalks and leaves and we create drinks from that,” he said.

“We don’t want the knowledge to get lost, we want to share and grow that knowledge so everybody knows that something so simple that could be growing in their lawn can be used as a food or a drink.”

When it comes to understanding food production, the links between east London and the Kent countryside go way back.

Before machinery was introduced onto farms, from the 1850s through to the 1950s, successive generations of working class families would spend their summers hop-picking.

The community group also organises special day trips so that today’s families can get a taste of what it was like back then.

For 89-year-old Violet Charlton, the trips are a chance to share her stories.

Violet Charlton, 89, believes we can learn a lot from the approach to food before we had machinery
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Violet Charlton, 89, believes we can learn a lot from the approach to food before we had machinery

“I do remember those days really fondly because it gave me an occasion to meet all my family, my cousins, my aunts.

“I grew up in Wapping, which was dark, damp and dirty, and going into Kent… it was this fresh, beautiful smell. That’s what I remember more than anything.”

Violet believes people today could learn a lot from the approach to food back then.

“Then, you could pick raspberries, blackberries – all sorts of things locally that were grown. We used to do pea picking as well.

“Food buying and food producing was so different. We grew a lot more vegetables in our back gardens and it was much better than what you taste in the supermarkets today.”

Kathrin Bohm claims being less wasteful comes naturally if you understand the energy that goes into making something in the first place
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Experts are using long-forgotten recipes to brew locally sourced soft drinks

Our relationship to what we eat is central to a new exhibition at the V&A that’s examining what artists, scientists and food producers are doing to plan for a sustainable food future.

Curator Catherine Flood says the idea was to explore “how food connects us as a society – to culture, to our own bodies and ultimately, to the planet”.

“Because of major ecological challenges – fast changing societies – now’s a really key moment to be asking not just what we’re going to be eating tomorrow, but what kind of food future do we want.

“What does that look like? What could it taste like? It’s at the forefront of so many global challenges that we’re facing today.”

Company Drinks’ June Hopping Afternoon takes place on 15 June and FOOD: Bigger Than The Plate runs at the V&A until 20 October.

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