Why it Matters: the joy of the whole table

We recently featured a story about the great work against food waste that Brixton People’s Kitchen get up to, and …

brixton peoples kitchenWe recently featured a story about the great work against food waste that Brixton People’s Kitchen get up to, and their event in Myatt’s Field Park. Here BK volunteer, Phillip Bowen, explains why the organisation exists

Having volunteered for only a couple of months, I have realised that at the Brixton People’s Kitchen we don’t do desks, we don’t do bean bags in “ideas pods”, we do tables. Small kitchen tables with a handful of volunteers planning out the next series of events. Heavy, long tables at which volunteers and guests squish, serving each other food, chatting to whoever is closest. Just as it is the focal point of room in south London homes, at the centre of the People’s Kitchen stands the stout, wooden dinning table, groaning with dishes made from scratch, from vegetables that would otherwise have been chucked out by the trade.

Before the Olympics the Mayor, he of the shaggy blond locks, said that, “Other nations looked at a dining table and saw an opportunity to have dinner; we looked at it and saw an opportunity to play Wiff-waff.” Whether or not Boris’s claims are true or not, the People’s Kitchen is a small attempt to ensure that the south London dining table is not just for Boris’ ping pong, or the enjoyable but nonetheless private dinner party – but also open to all comers. And give them food. Food that has been sourced from businesses who are happy to give us a crate of artichokes that they can’t shift. Or bags of cabbages and leeks that people turn their noses up at in the shop. Whatever there is, we take it and turn it into a three-course, feast for the guests who can cram themselves round the table.

brixton peoples kitchen 2A friend of mine, a food enthusiast, asked why we do it, asked what the People’s Kitchen was for. I thought about it and came up with a number of answers. Firstly, it’s about using food that would otherwise go to waste, in part to make a point about the political economy around the food industry. Secondly, it’s about offering a cheap nutritious food to anyone who wants to turn up. And it’s also about meeting new friends, making random connections. And, yes, it is about people with a passion for looking at knobbly produce and wondering what we can make out of it. But stronger than any of that, a fragment of a quote from Shakespeare elbowed its way forward: “the general joy of the whole table”.

If you want to share in our little corner of joy, come along, sit at the table, eat… and grow.

Phillip Bowen is a volunteer for the Brixton People’s Kitchen. Find out more about their work here

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