Cooking and Eating Together in London: Food Sharing Initiatives as Collective Spaces of Care and Encounter
(Trinity College Dublin)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores food sharing initiatives in London and their role in creating collective spaces of care and encounter. Cooking and eating together are examined as practices that become particularly poignant in promoting urban conviviality at times of austerity.
Paper long abstract:
Commensality, the act of eating together, is an important human ritual that benefits beyond the biological need for food and it is well established amongst food studies scholars. At the same time, novel forms of social eating are emerging in urban contexts. This paper draws on ethnographic fieldwork with three urban food sharing initiatives in London - a city which exhibits an active and dynamic urban food sharing ecosystem, to explore the experiences of commensality that are generated. Social isolation and loneliness emerge within this research as important drivers for participating in food sharing initiatives. It is argued that cooking and eating together are employed as strategies to create spaces of care and encounter, which are particularly characterised by a non-judgemental atmosphere. The paper concludes that these collective spaces and the affective qualities that they generate are particularly vital in urban contexts in times of austerity, as these initiatives have capacity to embrace social differences and to facilitate the circulation of ideas of care and solidarity. They also operate as a bridge connecting between people, communities, projects and services, providing the connective tissue in ways which are hard to measure and are rarely articulated.
Ethnographies of food inclusion and exclusion [Anthropology of Food Network]