Feast & Fast

(music) Fasting and feasting is universal. You know, talk to an anthropologist or an archeologists, it’s universal. Food is matter, food is material, food is memory, food is emotion. Everyone has a relationship with food both positive and negative. People will often have memories of their childhood that are related to food. There’s a lot of anxiety around food as well, particularly as people grow up. We’re
anxious about the food that we waste, we’re anxious about our bodies. We want to take me people on a journey from the present back through these objects and actually
make people – I think challenge people – quite a lot about: what is my
relationship to food? Why do I eat what I eat? Why do I eat when I do? With whom? At certain times of the year? And actually make people maybe through the exhibition re-evaluate
food and really have a transformative journey. One of the kind of problems of the
Fitzwilliam’s collection and museum collections more generally in Britain is
that they do reflect a particular kind of collecting taste and particular kind
of culture which privileges the Western which privileges the Christian. Well we’re very very keen to involve different voices. Why do you like this so much? Because it’s like from the olden days. There’s a what looks remarkably like some kind of bovine creature on it so I’m guessing it’s a milk jug. But honestly when you told me this was you know nearly 300 years old I just couldn’t believe it. This is to do with loss of food memory because the food that she is preparing we don’t eat
anymore so we haven’t got a clue what she’s doing and what she has just
finished doing is she’s showing really proudly: it’s a hare that has been skinned and has been larded. But one thing I do remember and I feel it so lovely I used to go and see the chickens and I called them different names sort of thing and I lift her up and said, “Come of Clara” I’m gonna have to take it and she looked up at me like urk urk (laughter). We used to go to the farmer and get permission to glean his fields and we used to glean and bring the wheat back, always in these lovely sacks and put them in the back bedroom. I used to feed the chickens and we had eggs all the time. Yeah it was quite easy really for my family. We grew up in a
small agricultural area so everybody shared food. We all had allotments, if anyone had surpluses it was shared. If you didn’t have meat it didn’t matter
because something else will be used. This is a completely correct way of
showing a trussed bird in the late eighteenth century. I think I would use this, when I make my chicken soup in my up-to-date soup maker when I sort
of served it up people would think that I’ve actually made it (laughter). Most of the time I eat everything that’s on my plate because that’s how I was brought up that I had to because if I didn’t get anymore, you didn’t get anymore. You talked about your grandma didn’t you? We used to like go to her house and she always used to make this soup and then she used
to put it in the pot and it just reminded me of that and like when I was
little, hanging out with my little cousins, it was like really nice. Fast and Pray So it’s got the word pray so obviously it’s definitely a religious thing and
it’s invoking somebody to pray to God and have the strength to carry on the
fast. Fasting is used in quite a lot of religions and in certain events like Eid, and my family it’s
quite religious – part of it’s Catholic part of it is Christian. It was kept as a
sacred object it had this kind of holiness about it that you couldn’t
didn’t quite dare chuck it in the bin in case something terrible happened to you because of that. There is an idea that when objects come to museums they’re taken out of their social network, so out of their,
you know, networks of love, emotion, so an object that might have had a special
place in someone’s sitting room or in a kitchen high up and that people knew
that had been a grandmother’s or mother’s and then they end up in these
collections, they end up in those glass cases and those stories are gone. So it says I have profiteroles or cheesecake with your lunch, I eat them
quickly because they taste nice. Which one will Chris go for, which one is the real one, which ones the fake one? (laughter) But actually one of the things I think that
we can do as curators is not so much necessarily revive that story but to
understand why people collected something like that, so like bring back
some of the emotional resonance around it. We’re hoping that although these
objects are absolutely embedded in Christian traditions and Western
European traditions they will have a resonance for those people who are
outside so people don’t feel excluded. I think I like this one most because I really like fruits. Because the pineapples are from a country like Jamaica, you see them up on the trees. But these again, these were made in England about 1760. This was a great elaborate ritual
and tea was expensive and you took time over it and you had nothing but the best
sort of tea-ware When I was little you could only get pineapples in a tin I thought that’s how they grew in the tins, yeah cause that’s how you got them, I’d never seen a real one. I would like my one of my nan’s like 20 million teapots to be put in the
exhibition. She loves teapots because even though
they’re just tea-pots it still means a lot to my nan. So one of the things that’s interesting about what ends up in a museum is we’ve got
an object here it’s not so clear from the iconography, from what’s around it,
what is inside of it. So one of the jobs that we have to do is as historians
try to reconstruct how this was used. They look like animals. So they are three hunting hounds chasing a hare, it’s nothing to do with
dogs and it’s nothing to do with hares. Has anyone seen Winnie the Pooh? Honey! It’s a honey pot. And if you think about Winnie the Pooh and you think about those illustrations actually the honey pot is pretty big. So this is the honey for the year and it
had a lid on the top to keep out the bugs, keep out the dust. When do you cook and why do you cook? This is my version of a stir-fry, And there’s some kind of meals my mum
used to make which were quite similar to meals I had in Madeira and they just
kind of remind me a lot of the place and something that kind of comes to mind most is the muscles, that was something that we’d always have. On Christmas Eve we
like to have a big seafood feast, to have all eighteen of us around the table. We might have mussels, prawns, maybe the odd crab or lobster. We have a section in the show about medicine and food as medicine and certain types of food were thought to be medicinal, have
properties that if you ground them up or you put them into lotions and potions they would help restore the bodies. Yes it’s a feeding cup. I mean it’s a good idea really. I had a really bad accident when I was eight. They used to have those little things in the hospital, because I couldn’t eat. Also once when I was ill my mum phoned up the doctor and the doctor said put him to bed and feed him watermelon so the whole day
I just ate watermelon and ice-cream, it was great. Museums are not necessarily
places where people feel comfortable but actually getting them to touch an object,
just getting them in the museum and I actually touching an object which they
understand is to be a precious object but it’s an object that’s as much theirs
as the museum’s. My family come from an island called Madeira and I remember seeing my
grandma making a kind of like biscuit cake that was dipped in milk and she
like layer it up you know it’s really good I remember trying it and loving it
so much. She made it a really pretty and decorative and added kind of lace to the plate she had on it. That’s what I want to do, to put my work in the museum so everyone can just look at my work. We look after each other here so we feel as though we are family, so eating together is quite nice. I like to sit with my family just
eat with them because I want to eat with my family and to chat with them and talk with
them. And the food is from Poland, My mum is Polish we have it every day
it’s tastier than English food and there’s lots of choice. Out of all of
these things on the plate what is your very very favourite Polish food? Everything? Everything! (laughter) These objects are in the Fitzwilliam Museum but they’re there for the public benefit, the
public enjoyment, they’re no more mine than anybody else’s and we hope that
in a way the exhibition it will really make people feel connected with these
objects, make them challenge, make them think again about why is the
object in the museum? Why is it being selected for the show, what does it mean
to me? And perhaps they will make people think of similar objects when they
go back to the museum or any other collection or gallery in the future. The quality, the originality, the
visual power of these things, when you then pick them up when you actually have
food and you’ve got the multi-sensory relationship it actually makes these objects really really powerful. And what I hope very
much is that when people look at the recreations, they look at the context,
they look at the labels and they think about their own relationship with food
that actually this becomes deeply meaningful and they will go away
transformed by challenging thoughts about food presentation, production.

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