What’s Eating Our Reality is a show about food justice, food sustainability and the future of food created by Maya Chowdhry – an award-winning artist, transmedia writer and poet. To use a word ‘show’ in its conventional meaning somehow does not seem right to describe it as it did not feel like a show. There was not a clear distinction between the performer and the audience; the stage took the form of a dining table by which we sat, and the most important performers were the dishes served during the spectacle.
How are we going to grow fruit and vegetables in 2060? What if our favourite food became extinct during our lifetime? What can we do to prevent that from happening? These were just a few questions asked by Maya. The answers were provided by the Lancaster locals, from environment-friendly business owners to community farm members. Maya presented these answers in the form of filmed interviews, projected on our plates. The show participants could then have a short discussion about their ideas and reflections as audience engagement was a crucial part of the whole experience. In between talks and watching the interviews, the food was served. I must admit, it was probably the best food I have had since arriving in the UK in autumn of 2017. What is important to note, is that every single dish was vegan, and that’s high praise coming from someone who is not vegan! There was a story behind every meal. Maya, together with two young female chefs from Liverpool were explaining why they chose to include a particular type of food in their show. And so we had fungi (deemed ‘food of the future’), rosehip cordial (exemplifying the significance of foraging), chickpea panisse (a southern French dish) with a British twist. There was a chocolate and popcorn dessert where we had to imagine it was the last time we had a chance to eat chocolate), and organic apple jelly with seeds, because seeds were at the very centre of Maya’s food philosophy.
As much as I enjoyed the show, and I stand by caring about what we eat, being mindful while eating, etc., these were not novel ideas to me. Having been eating vegetables and fruit from my grandparents’ allotment garden (that were then made into jams by my mum), going mushroom hunting, eating seasonal fruit and veg, trying to minimise the food waste as there was a lot of work put in ‘the production’ of that food. So, throwing it away was simply heartbreaking, were to me the basic principles associated with eating. They should not be novel to anyone, and yet the simple fact of the existence of such a show as What’s Eating Our Reality proves me otherwise – people need directions on how what and when to eat.
I cannot say that I did not learn something new. I was truly inspired! What is depressing to me is the fact that Maya felt like we, as a society, reached a point of not knowing how to eat, not treating food with respect, so she decided to create the show. The show itself is not upsetting – quite the contrary – What’s Eating Our Reality gives hope. It is the reality in which it had to come into being that is dispiriting.