Humans need to eat in order to survive, but the way in which we consume our food ranges from need-driven ingestion to consumption as an experience. And while these two extremes do occur, our actual eating patterns rarely pit one against the other: It is the balance between these two factors that shapes the way we relate to food and each other. How micro-cultures like neighborhoods consume food impacts not only local individuals but also the area as a whole. If, for example, consumption patterns are largely driven by necessity and then there is a sudden influx of experience-oriented food, this will invariably affect the community.
The Taco Truck asks: How does food influence a neighborhood?
Food and, of course, a tasty hot beverage has always provided a strong motive for people to get together – or it has accompanied such gatherings. Doesn’t a well-worn dictum state that the world’s greatest decisions are taken at the dining table? These days, many of us also like to say that we are what we eat and try to live by this notion.
For at least three centuries or so, neighborhood bakeries or cafés, i. e. destinations for breakfast and a snack break, have provided local residents with a communitarian space to exercise their right to free expression and critical thinking unfettered by legal restrictions or political interference. Like thermometers taking the temperature of historical conjunctures, they are spaces where the juxtaposition of private, cultural, social, political, economic, and labor-related tensions are articulated; they are places where public opinion is designed and reveals its constant flow and change.
Homebaked started out as 2Up2Down, an arts project by Dutch artist Jeanne van Heeswijk on commission for the 2010 Liverpool Biennial. Today, as a community land trust set up to counter the demolition of houses in the Anfield area of Liverpool under the city’s Housing Market Renewal Scheme, any decision made by local residents in collaboration with the Liverpool Biennial can no longer be compromised by external parties.
This brief explanation of Homebaked’s origins and current formal structure not only hints at the project’s influence within its own neighborhood, but also underscores the level of commitment local residents, who engage in the project’s continuous challenges, are willing to give. Here, bread and cakes become the connection for the equation’s various vectors; above all else, it is bread and cakes that draw people in and encourage their engagement.
According to history, many revolutions and major achievements of the western working classes originated in cafés. And while Anfield dwellers might not be preparing for revolution at Homebaked – eating scones and drinking tea with a view of boarded up houses – this neighborhood bakery might be another symptomatic manifestation of an ongoing mental revolution, one connected to people’s reactions to individualism, mass production, and mass consumption. Homebaked’s inherent nature as an arts project also influences the project’s activities because art obviates obedience and paradigmatic power structures, thus also causing ruptures in language.
In our current day and age, neighbors no longer get together to discuss life’s main concerns and supermarket aisles are no viable alternative for serious discussions. Time has become an important factor – and interferes with the way food used to draw people together.
By treating local residents like responsible participants, not just consumers, Homebaked aims to improve neighborhood engagement, kindle awareness for local and global socio-political issues, and empower the community to actively and creatively tackle the questions that affect the quality of life in modern-day urban situations. At the same time, it also touches on civic education, the control of production and profits, job creation for local residents, and reinvesting incomes in the local neighborhood. Modifying the ‘hardware’ of a local economy by focusing on the age-old question of who owns the means of production and who benefits from the earnings can be truly revolutionary.
Food, and especially bread, remains an excellent symbol for sharing. And fostering authenticity and food quality can certainly serve as a metaphor for a positive global outcome. Because, after all, are we or are we not what we eat?