There is something magical about planting a tiny seed in damp soil and then watching it grow. There is something magical about picking food you’ve grown yourself – a fresh green courgette, a cheery red tomato, a delicately curved bean. There is something magical about taking a pile of ingredients and bringing them together into a meal to share.
Throughout 2015 I have worked with local people in Breightmet, Bolton – with long-standing residents and newly arrived refugees – exploring their stories and responding to their interest in gardening and cooking, in sharing food and skills. Commissioned by social housing provider Bolton at Home, and arts organisation GUILD, I have linked up with existing work around food growing and cooking in the area, and initiated new activities, led by a group of refugee women, mainly from the Congo. Together we have cooked ugali and african-style fish and meat; indian curry and the lancashire dish tatya’ash. We have planted tomatoes and chillis, beans and broccoli; built raised beds in some of the women’s gardens, and planned growing projects for next season. We have explored Breightmet together; done our best to communicate without a common language; laughed; made friends.
Growing|Cooking|Sharing has developed out of these activities and conversations. It brings together stories, recipes and growing tips from Breightmet residents and Bolton at Home staff. Whilst it comes at the end of my work in Breightmet, it is intended as a beginning: offering the ingredients to collect and share new stories, recipes and growing tips. It has been a real privilege to get to know this bit of Bolton, with its hidden allotments and diverse inhabitants. There is knowledge and passion and potential here, and I hope that Growing|Cooking|Sharing will continue to bring people together to share knowledge, talk about food, and be inspired by each other.