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Last weekend I was incredibly moved to be in the presence of seeds descended from those which Vavilov and his colleagues saved under wartime duress (i.e. a Stalinist prison, and starvation).  These were exhibited as part of the Artes Mundi exhibition at National Museum Cardiff in which the Futurefarmers collective of artists installed visuals to their “Seed Journey” exploration of the history and future of seeds as part of our common heritage. Amy Franceschini explains some of the project in this video below:

A few days later I found myself working at an event where Anne Parry of Felin Galon Watermill was speaking on behalf of her visionary efforts to network farmers, millers, brewers and bakers around “Welsh Grain.” We talked a bit about the Cardiff exhibition, and she shared that some Welsh grown wheat had gone off on the sea-faring adventures of FutureFarmers.

So exciting! I went home and wrote to Anne, asking if she could write a paragraph for this blog, sharing the story.  And she responded:

“As part of their Seed Journey the Flatbread Society were meeting with Andy Forbes of the Brockwell Bake in London. The Welsh Grain Forum has been collaborating with Andy, who is wonderfully knowledgeable and committed, to reintroduce the wheat Hen Gymro back to Wales….so since The Seed Journey group were travelling to Cardiff it seemed appropriate that we celebrate this by them symbolically bringing us a sheaf of Hen Gymro from Andy when they came up to Cardiff. (Pics from the Brockwell Bake gallery here). About half a dozen WGF members were able to be there and it turned out to be a simple, inspiring and encouraging event where we received the wheat, gave them samples of Hen Gymro grown once more in Wales, and other Welsh grown heritage cereals, to take on their journey and then shared bread and cakes baked with our locally grown and milled flour. There’s something about the it by Artes Mundi here , and stuff on our Welsh Grain Workshop page and on Rupert Dunn’s Torth y Tir page.”

Really wanted to share this wonderful story which gives Hen Gymro an epic adventure, its itself part of the whole global Story of seeds, grain, people, history.


And now, a moment with Johnny Cash, and an affecting photomontage:

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Love this project, love the humour and creativity so many people are bringing to their activism and solidarity. And so important to help each other stay upbeat with a chuckle here, a naughty giggle there…

Emily Contois

Our current political moment has incited numerous protests and with them a new cohort of protest posters, including ones that engage food as resistance in ways literal and metaphorical, scathing and humorous. Megan Elias has begun a public history project to archive these political ephemera—Dishing it Out: Food-Themed Protest PostersMegan is a historian who writes about food in the US. Her new book, Food on the Page: Cookbooks and American Culture (Penn Press) will be out in June 2017. She was kind enough to answer a few questions about Dishing It Out:


Emily: What inspired you to start gathering these images of food-themed protest posters?

Megan: I noticed the shawarma poster at a protest that I went to in NYC and then a friend in Boston posted a picture of a sign about coffee. The connection jumped out at me because I’m always thinking about food’s roles outside the kitchen. I thought that…

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I’m completely committed to insisting that breastfeeding is a food issue, one of food politics and all the ways power comes into play, of food security, and of food sovereignty, in OUR right to decide how we eat and feed.  This poem is by Holly McNish is so strong and Mama-Tigerly righteous, I want to take part in it’s going ever more viral.

Also of interest:  Anthrolactology is a blog maintained by a Medical Anthropologist with a keen interest in breastfeeding issues for refugees.  Lots of links, resources and education on her site.

Has everyone read this fascinating New Yorker magazine long-read on breastfeeding and the micro-biome?

And in doing some searches for this post, I just found EMBA, the European Milk Bank Association, “where you will find information from many of the 200+ milk banks operating in more than 20 countries throughout Europe as well as news from milk banks and about the use of donor human milk around the world.” Viva sharing!


A few past KitchenCounterCulture posts:

A GIF that shows the male gaze…

Gorgeous Images of the Sanctity of Mary Feeding Jesus

Breastmilk Banking. My first baby benefitted greatly from another woman’s breastmilk while I was getting my flow going, so I’m all for this!

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When my friend Paige Brown, a Climate and Clean Energy Activist by day, fermenting enthusiast by night, was posting these pictures on Instagram,  I asked her could I post them on this blog. I love noticing the way sharing food helps form community, in this instance the community of inspiring activists fighting against Trump’s Muslim Ban at airports across the USA.  We are going to need a lot of this, to keep our bodies and spirits in good health, and it’s so fun to see what all this abundance looks like in the sterility of an airport.

Paige writes:

“The Resistance will be well fed! The calls went out for an emergency protest at San Francisco Airport on Sunday January 30, as 50 people were being detained there because of DT’s Muslim Ban. The call to protest included the request, “Bring provisions.” My friend and I grabbed granola bars and bananas and headed over.

The SFO protest was determined, lively, large, and diverse. It also had more food than I’ve ever seen at any protest. It was a beautiful abundance of fruit, carrots, cheese, snacks, and water. People took over kiosks, making them into protest refreshment stations.

Pizzas arrived just as the crowd was cheering the announcement that the last detainee had been released. It wasn’t about the pizza obviously, but it was about people vigorously and enthusiastically giving and sharing food. People really wanted to feed each other and take care of each other. Open doors, open arms, and sharing food with strangers as an antidote to closing doors and hearts.”

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Wanted to share this short film about young crofters in Scotland figuring out ways to gain access to land, to practice small scale agriculture and local food production.  Passionate, inspiring people.

When I started the project of this blog, I wanted to document what I was cooking and thinking, and often how the two related to each other.  I was turned off and depressed by “lifestyle” blogs and food-porn posturing. I wanted to create a wide exploration of what it could mean to politicise a meal, to historicise and contextualise it, showing its antecedents and effects

I’m not sure how far I’ve come or where I’m going, but the vision remains strong that food on its own is not inherently interesting a subject to me, pleasurable as it may be to eat something delicious or gaze at beautiful food styling wishing oneself into the scene.

The video below interests me. I happened upon it because Sean Hawkey is a friend and had pointed something else out on the site. Sean is a photographer and filmmaker, often working for Development groups. I love how in the case of “The Breakfast Recipe,” he’s put the actual breakfast in a chain of events and a particular social milieu.  It might feel feel easier to express this scenario in places where people grow their own food.  But it seems really compelling to imagine the full weight of these stories for those of us buying our food in a globalised world. There will be stories inside of stories, with infinite digressions.  All of which makes what we eat more compelling.

New Year’s Resolution to experience and express gratitude– I’m grateful to people who work really hard on the issues I deeply care about.  Miles King is one of them. Here’s what he says about Brexit opportunities.

a new nature blog

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I’m delighted to be able to tell you about this new report which is published today. It’s the first People Need Nature policy report – A Pebble in the Pond: Opportunities for farming, food and nature after Brexit. You can download it here.

Here’s the summary:

As England prepares to leave the EU we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to change the way we support England’s land managers.  This report shows how leaving the EU will enable us to channel money from the public purse to land managers in such a way that they can both produce food, help nature and provide all the other benefits society needs.

The last forty years of farm subsidies from Europe via the Common Agricultural Policy has contributed to a dramatic decline in nature on farmland – land that covers three quarters of England. The vote to leave the EU means we…

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I alway’s appreciate Elisabeth’s clear writing and logic. A good piece on what we might expect in the UK regarding the deregulations proponents of Brexit hope to bring to the UK.

Real Food Lover

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“Waiter, waiter, where is the genetically modified food on the menu?”

Do you know anyone clamouring to eat genetically modified (GM) food?

One of the many reasons I voted Remain in the 2016 referendum was because the European Union (EU) largely protects its citizens against this unproven technology.

EU – a buffer against GM

Look, I am not saying the European Union (EU) is perfect. It needs reform. Obvs. 

But, in some areas, it has acted on my behalf.

The EU has also largely prevented the commercial growing of GM crops, only giving permission for one GM crop to be grown. 

In addition, European consumers can make informed choices about whether or not to eat GM thanks to the EU insisting that GM ingredients are labelled (unlike in North America, where its citizens are now campaigning for GM labelling). 

(Sadly, the EU does not label…

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Something uplifting, amazing, inspiring to watch.

We need to keep informed about agriculture oriented towards energy production. In the case of maize in Britain, there’s also a terrible association with soil runoff during excessive rain events that contributes to flooding, as in this piece by George Monbiot with it’s quite shocking video component.  A responsible climate change policy would take into account both the importance of good land management (as nudged or not by subsidies) and actual carbon figures, which Miles King, in the post shared below, discusses so clearly.

a new nature blog

p1040939 Biogas Maize is now grown widely in the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty © Miles King

Maize grown specifically for Anaerobic Digesters to produce “biogas” is an increasingly common crop in England, especially in the South West. The area under Biogas Maize increased by 55% in 2016 compared to 2015, to 52000ha. The National Farmers Union set a target of 200,000ha of land under biogas Maize back in 2011, so they are 25% of the way to their target.

Maize is a very environmentally damaging crop, probably the most environmentally damaging crop grown in the UK. Why then is so much of it being grown? Because the Government pays not one, but two subsidies for it to be grown – the generous single payment (now over £200 per hectare annually) for anyone who owns farmland; and on top of this there are a range of payments including the Renewable…

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