The spread was laid out in front of us. Soup, dips, sauces, salads, sweet treats and more, it was a feast for the eyes. Saddened that it was my last day but enthusiastic about the new recipes I’d come away with, I was amazed at how fast the day flew.
Today my fellow Food School students and I were to do most of the work in the kitchen. We were the assemblers, the choppers, and the servers, working with the A Fair Land team to get everything out on time. It sounds like a lot of hard work but really, thanks to a large amount of prep done the day before, it was more like a smooth transition.
I dreamt about courgettes last night. They were marching, yes, marching, through the gates of IMMA and plonking themselves down on the courtyard with their bellies to the sky. It was so bizarre that I actually managed to wake myself up.
Ready for another day at Food School, this morning I headed in with courgettes firmly ingrained on the brain.
What’s lovely, though, is that despite this new obsession with courgettes, I feel like I’m connecting more with the team every day.
Day two at A Fair Land began in earnest. The courtyard has yet to fully transform due to technicalities but it’s a definite work-in-progress.
But first, let me talk a bit about the project’s creators: Grizedale Arts.
Based on the historic site of Lawson Park farm in the Lake District in the UK, their site still runs as a productive farm house, with a multifaceted programme of events, projects, residencies and community activity taking place there.
With an aim to develop contemporary art in new directions (especially with an emphasis on food, value for art and resourcefulness), they are trying to work beyond the Romantic and Individualist frameworks that have dominated art history.
What I loved hearing about was how they really wanted to involve the local community in their projects, something that I find some artists do not do or simply don’t think about.
For Grizedale Arts, it’s about bringing projects to a wider audience, concentrating on the process itself rather than the finished product. This to me is a brilliant approach to contemporary art.
The arts organisation worked with three main groups to make A Fair Land happen. The first group is from the Creative Villages of Leytron in Switzerland, that worked on the straw bale Glut Garden. Second, was Coniston that worked on the house building and signage and finally, Sweetwater Foundation from Chicago, a project that is building a new system for a new way of living.
So what was going on today? Well, it was all about serving up and creating food. Kitted out in rather fetching aprons we put together nibbles for mobile vendors who would be selling delightful crackers with courgette pickle and carrot drip.
But why grow courgettes? Why choose them over other vegetables? As proven by their innovations for this particular project: they’re so versatile.
Three core questions lie at the heart of the project: is it useful? Is it desirable? Is it achievable? They also needed to show that this was a product that people could easily use with simple resources.
What Grizedale Arts needed was a food that would easily create a glut so that they had mountains to work with. The fact that they’re continuing to grow in bales of straw is further proof at how manageable they are to grow and maintain as a vegetable.
With all this in mind, I happily continued work as part of the A Fair Land Food School team, prepping dishes for the public who were coming in for lunch.
Lunch is a three-course affair on communal tables to spark conversation between diners. Food is served at 1pm and there are 20 minutes between courses so whether you’re finished or not, after 20 minutes the food is going to go!
Diners use the same bowl for each course, spoons are made of clay or you can use chopsticks if you’re feeling particularly adventurous.
Booked online, people arrive at IMMA, head to reception and get a cushion for their seat – this is the official ticket for the lunch and people without a cushion will be politely asked to leave or if they simply forgot to collect it, they may do so then.
Also in the courtyard where the meal’s taking place are the mobile vendors and craft makers that the public could partake in. It’s very much a DIY day out.
Brenda, Francesca and Niamh of the A Fair Land kitchen team brought us through the recipes during the day and were very patient with us.
Even though I wasn’t doing any major cooking and more prep, it still brought back my fond memories of Ballymaloe [link]. I have such a love for food and seeing the courgettes growing reminds me both of the three-month course and my home in Kerry with our very own fruit and veg in the garden.
Day three is tomorrow. Will I tire of courgettes? Who knows? But I know that they’re on the dinner table tonight!
For those interested in A Fair Land, you can find out more on the IMMA website here.
I was invited to be a guest at the Food School. This is a sponsored post.
From Friday 12th – Sun 28th August, the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) is hosting a very intriguing collaboration with Grizedale Arts, with courgettes as their star.
That’s right: courgettes.
Titled A Fair Land, the project looks at how humans’ inherent creativity can be used to develop a system for living, using the simplest of resources.
At a brief glance, the project has eight parts to it ranging from fitness and cooking demos to arts and crafts and a courgette-based lunch.
When I was first briefed about this project, I have to admit I was both amused and sceptical. I mean, how could a three-week courgette-fuelled art installation work? Well today, I found out!
As part of A Fair Land, IMMA is also running a Food School. Working with the main team, people will learn more about the project itself, how the courgettes are grown, harvested and cooked for the special lunch that’s available each day.
Suitable for people of all ages, it’s free to attend, however, you must be available for a full week of sessions (four days). Next week they’re aiming specifically at teens. I was lucky enough to be given a spot on this week’s course!
Working with a 1916 brief and with an aim to rework the residency program at IMMA, Grizedale Arts has come up with this fascinating concept that has vegetables at its core and heart.
No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you, those are in fact courgettes growing in the centre of IMMA’s courtyard! Using bales of straw, the courgettes were grown and then transplanted into the bales to continue growing. First, the bales need to be fermented, a process that takes 10 days.
The bales need to be small and then are enhanced with a nitrogen-rich fertiliser. The temperature rises to about 130 degrees Fahrenheit, creating steam and the bales continue to ferment. Perfect growing material!
Our coordinator for the day was Grizedale Art’s director, Adam Sutherland, who has worked with food since he was a young boy (he grew up on a farm, and was often assigned to the vegetable patch).
He showed us around and gave us a real feel for what A Fair Land was about. Ultimately, it really highlights how people have the ability to create from the most basic of amenities – even if you don’t think you have the skills for it.
Today was to be a pilot day for IMMA and all the staff. Due to a few setbacks, three of us on the Food School course were acting as very willing guinea pigs for the day. The project is open to the public tomorrow.
IMMA’s courtyard will be transformed into a Village where visitors will be able to partake in making everything from bowls to aprons but will also see the harvesting and cooking of crops.
After walking through each aspect of the project, we harvested courgette flowers and brought them back to the kitchen for the team to cook.
Laying out the table for a communal feast, the smells were just astounding. As willing tasters, we had a magnificent lunch, utilising the magic ingredient: courgettes!
On Sunday, the two other Food School ladies, Ann and Rachel, and I will be cooking the food for the public.
I’m exhilarated to start day two of the Food School, and so far I’m loving every single moment.
Tickets for the lunch at IMMA cost €10 for three courses and it’s a really great, communal experience. You can book tickets for the lunch here. This is a family-friendly project.