In the past the Sheffield Philosophy Department has held two departmental social events based on the philosophy of food; the borderline baked goods picnic, and the philosophically intriguing foods picnic. Both were well attended socials that encouraged department members to think about various philosophical issues in the philosophy of food. For instance, if bread has crusts and pitta has no crusts, is pitta bread bread? Or what makes a dish an instance of authentic national or regional cuisine; the recipe, the maker or neither?
We would now like to bring an event if this nature to the community in Sheffield as an Outreach event by putting on a community meal at a local community dining hall in Sheffield – Foodhall. The department has recently used this venue for a decolonisation workshop in order to make it accessible to people outside of academia. (https://www.ourfaveplaces.co.uk/where-to-go/foodhall/).
Food is an easy avenue to get non-philosophers to think about philosophy and community dining is an excellent avenue to encourage conversation.
The event will take the format of a dinner served at local Sheffield community dining hall, Foodhall. Foodhall runs weekly Wednesday night dinners cooked by various groups in Sheffield and all run around different themes. These are known as “Plates” and previous iterations have been put on by the Migration Matters Festival and Girl Gang Sheffield. The events are pay what you can although no one is turned away for lack of funds and they bring together groupings of people in Sheffield that would be unlikely to meet elsewhere. “Plates” normally attracts around 60 people and so it is an ideal venue for an outreach project with an audience that is already engaged.
The dinner will be cooked by a group of volunteers from the Sheffield philosophy department, led in the kitchen by Henry Roe who has put on a number of “Plates” events before. Each course will be created from a variety of food that can no longer be sold by supermarkets that is donated to Foodhall, and food that is bought specifically for the event. The menu will be curated to inspire philosophical conversation at the dining table; in what way is the mouth amused by an amuse bouche? Is a blended soup food or drink? Is it possible to serve a pineapple upside down cake upside down?
To accompany the dinner there will be prompt cards placed on the tables to spark conversation amongst diners and there will be accessible short talks delivered in between courses on the philosophy of food; what is the opposite of eating (is it drinking, throwing up or being eaten?), what is a sandwich?, why is a jaffa cake a cake and not a biscuit?. Nadia will also recruit some more volunteers from the department nearer the time in order to sit amongst diners and help to engage them in the themes of the night.
Nadia Mehdi, Department of Philosophy, University of Sheffield
Other student organisers
Alice Murphy, Leeds Celia Coll, York Henry Roe, Sheffield Kayleigh Doherty, Sheffield Victor Wolemonwu, Sheffield Will Morgan, Sheffield