What memories does food stir up for you? Is it the aroma of caramelised onions and nutty spices? Sandwiches and chocolate rolls on a sunny picnic? Or perhaps sharing Sunday dinner or celebrating Iftar with your family?
These are just a few of the memories that visitors to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery have shared over the last few months in a series of writing activities and workshops, with Birmingham writer Mandy Ross.
Inspired by the stories of her family’s recipe books that Mandy lent for display in the Faith Gallery, we wanted to learn about the rich food traditions of Birmingham’s diverse multicultural and multi-faith communities.
The results, like our visitors, have come from around the world, with memories ranging from pounded yams from Nigeria to Vegemite in Australia. We’ve also captured memories from across the generations, with children sharing memories of feasts and food, including eating mangoes which their Nanny remembered growing up in Dominica; to recipes that reminded people of family homes and traditions in other countries; to memories of a 1950s Birmingham childhood, being encouraged to fill up with Yorkshire pudding so nobody ate too much of the expensive meat.
Our activities sparked memories of feasting and family, with our visitors telling us about cooking and eating together – one of our visitors cooked with her mother to celebrate her brother’s GCSE results, while another remembered “Christmas dinner was the first proper meal I cooked for my husband when he moved in. I had to phone my Mum for instructions on how to cook the cauliflower!”
Working together, our visitors helped create poetry, prose, and conversation with food stirring up Birmingham’s memories, to create the Recipe for a City Feast. Mandy is now choosing ingredients from the feast of stories to create a leaflet, which will be available in our Faith Gallery from early 2018.
You are welcome to join us for a celebration event on Saturday 10th February 2018 with the Spark Young Writers group to celebrate the leaflet’s launch and the end of our food and faith programme with a recipe swap, open mic and of course, food! Before the launch, you can also take part in a range of events as part of our Finding Faith programme, in partnership with the British Museum – take a look at the What’s On pages on the website or pick up a leaflet at the museum for more details.
Thank you to everyone who shared their stories and recipes. Food brings us all together - what does it mean to you?