Food and conversation

I got involved in an interesting conversation on Twitter today with Claire Jones, Mike Chitty, Tom Phillips, Jon Beech and others, which started on the subject of health-promoting assets in communities, and then ranged onto social hubs, via the large-scale pub closures which have happened over the past few years, which I wrote about some 5 years ago, here.

One of the topics which emerged in the conversation was how quite a few redundant pubs have been turned into curry houses. I raised the idea that food was historically a focus for conversation and sociability. It’s unlikely that many of these curry houses fulfill the same role as a social hub as did the pub they’ve replaced, and that is a pity. Food should be an excuse for conversation, but there are few eating places in the UK that serve this function. There are a few that do, obviously, and, if you know of one, maybe you could nominate it in the comments below.

I’ve been most taken with Tessy Britton‘s work on Social Spaces, in which she has been creating and re-creating different kinds of spaces in which people can interact with each other. I think this work is very relevant to this conversation. Our twitter chat then touched on Food Banks, which have been becoming every more prominent in these times of austerity. I wondered if the food bank could be remodelled away from its current stigmatised form into a subsidised community restaurant that encourages conversation over food and might also teach people how to cook. I realise that this model might bear some resemblances to to the kinds of things that someone like Jamie Oliver has done in the past, but this idea is different in that it might create something that could be embedded in communities and might help those who most need access to food as well as the skills to prepare it.

I’d be very grateful for thoughts on these ideas.

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UPDATE

Here’s another idea which might supplement the facility I am proposing above.

Give the cafe a twitter hashtag which encourages people to propose conversation topics and seek out others to have the conversations with. Then give each table in the cafe its own unique hashtag so people can follow and join in the conversations physically, and online. This could be supplemented with twitterfalls on screens on the wall.