WPU Stall Proposal

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Stall idea from Mike Knowlden

I have decided to adopt a different direction from my previous idea of a comparative exploration of supermarkets and markets. Instead I would like to address the notion of leftovers – that is, food waste – as a void from which both economic and non-economic value might be recovered.

An enormous amount of food is thrown away both in industrial/service contexts and in the home. This seems to be taken for granted, as if an acknowledgement of a wasted proportion was somehow built into the economic value of the food. This is perhaps literally the case in business concerns but in the home it seems more surprising. At the level of the individual consumer it is counterintuitive that one would buy a product only to jettison a significant portion of it shortly afterwards. This is of course frequently the case with a product’s packaging, but for this stall I would like to narrow my focus to consider specifically food waste, in part because it is waste from the product itself.

This work builds on the previous work of Beyond the Free Market. Here I am thinking specifically of the Free Market Kitchen and Beyond Jam, and on the subject of packaging also the Make-in which generated ‘Green Gifts’. These projects provided responses to the leftovers of the food trade (New Covent Garden Market), but in the context of the Market of Ideas I would like to propose an approach specifically to domestic leftovers – those of our ‘milling crowd’. In reducing the extent to which leftover material is abandoned value is returned to the investments one makes in a purchase. A concealed economy is perhaps then brought to light whereby general value is naturally increased, but fiscal value is also implicitly increased; the consumer is getting more for her money. (This might be considered a ‘green market’ after the ‘black market’…)

I propose to chart this value by generating recipes as tools to approach food waste. It is my current thinking that these recipes would be the main document of my stall and my means of returning content to the public domain. Initially these would be available online, but if the volume and quality is sufficient I would consider producing a physical version to be distributed freely.

In the context of the Market of Ideas, I would invite participants in my stall to discuss their habits of food consumption, and draw up recipes based on their personal requirements. This work would of course extend beyond the temporal confines of the market, but we would consider suggestions at the time and I would then use the discussion to inform finalised recipes. I would take participants’ details and contact them after the event with physical copy or a link to online resources based on their input. I hope this goes some way to incorporating participants as collaborators and balancing the relationship of ‘imparter’ of ideas and ‘recipient’: the richness of the content I generate is directly related to the people who come into contact with my stall. That said I do envisage beginning with a certain number of prepared recipes such as stocks, variants on bubble & squeak etc. I have considered preparing, for example, some stock to give away, but I’m not sure if this is appropriate as it is inconceivable that I could generate very much stock based on my leftovers alone!

I am also interested in recipes as tools that exist as significant documents of ideas without the need for their ingredients being immediately available. In this sense they have potential as sets of instructions, the realisation of which can be deferred so long as the information they contain remains communicable. I like this as a testament to the hopeful utility of our commitment in the market to dealing with ideas - whilst a set of ingredients has an obviously finite potential, its recipe has no such restriction, especially if freely available.

I am currently unsure who else I might want to involve in the running of the stall; I may be there with piles of cookbooks for inspiration, but I am considering asking a friend who is an experienced executive chef. In terms of the rest of the market, I would see this as tying in to the Permaculture stall if someone is working on one? I would welcome some type of collaboration, as I am of course considering a very small subset of what is considered ‘waste’.

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