“Foodways” is an ongoing series of performances that explore how people do food. The collaborative team of Spatula&Barcode (Laurie Beth Clark and Michael Peterson) work with local partners to create projects that explore the literal and metaphoric mobilities of food products and food culture. In 2016, iterations of “Foodways” were located in Melbourne, Australia (six events) and Madison, WI (three projects). All parts of the series engage broad communities in creating performances of sociality (where there is always something to eat).
The series includes events that look like (and sometimes are) parades, tours, night markets, picnics, dinners, lectures, panel discussions, play sessions, compost excavations, data surveys, or cooking lessons—all designed to bring divergent constituencies into dialogue with one another and to move those conversations into unexpected venues. “Foodways” events have been located in theaters, museums, private homes, university classrooms, public libraries, farms, parks, gardens, city streets, town squares, malls, buses, restaurants, and sidewalks.
“Foodways Melbourne” emphasized language and narrative, and our research component there focused on how we talk about food. Some quotations from participants were shared on Twitter (#FoodwaysMelbourne) and later paraded through the streets. The ongoing “Foodways Madison” is focused on “systems” and understanding our foodways as embedded in personal, local, and global systems. We are partnered with experts in the community and the university, with libraries and museums, and with farmers and markets.
In the picture, you see an event from “Foodways Madison” where we (Clark and Peterson) are having brunch in a museum with two farmers—Kay Jensen and Paul Ehrhardt of JenEhr Family Farm in Sun Prairie, WI—and farmers’ market manager Sarah Elliot. It’s part of “Feeding Farmers”—one of the three Madison projects. In “Feeding Farmers,” we pair artists with farmers and the artists cook meals for the farmers. Think of it as a “table to farm” project, a reversal of the way that food usually flows. To date, 25 meals have been eaten by roughly 100 people, primarily shared between artists and farmers at the farms, in the artists’ homes, or in the museum, with some meals delivered in picnic baskets for the farmers to consume as their busy schedules allow.