When it comes to food, Barbara Sweeney believes we need to stop relying on “experts”. She is the founder of the Food & Words festival, a program of events built around reclaiming food experiences from an industry that has commodified them.
That’s not to say Food & Words won’t feature people who know their stuff. But their agenda will be passion and passing on skills, not profit and power. “We have to know how to cook. The more we hand over our power around food and cooking to multinationals making choices based on profit, the more alienated we are from our own health, wellbeing and happiness,” says Sweeney. “Because we’re not actually making choices.
“I don’t want to [learn from] somebody who thinks I have to cook like a restaurant chef.”
Food & Words will start on Friday night with the launch of The Field Guide to Australian Produce, by Ewan McEoin. The book points consumers to the best produce, practices and farmers. At this event you can also take part in Speed Meet A Farmer, a chat between you and the people who grow your food. NSW farmers listed in the book will provide the food for the night.
Saturday is lunch and 13 speakers, including writer, editor and critic Fiona Wright, whose book of essays, Small Acts of Disappearance, won the 2016 Kibble Award; Richard Cornish, author of My Year Without Meat; Laura Dalrymple of Feather & Bone; farmer and food activist Pennie Scott; Georgina Reid, editor of online magazine The Planthunter; and James Viles, chef at Biota, Bowral, and author of Biota: Grow, Gather, Cook.
“If you’re writing about the emotion of food you need all the skills a literary writer would use,” says Sweeney. “Food writing isn’t anything special or different. Good food writing is just good writing.”
The Food & Words Festival is happening in two parts. On Friday September 9 the festival will launch The Field Guide to Australian Produce from 6pm–9pm ($45). On Saturday September 10 the full Food & Words program ($250) will run from 10am–4pm. Both events will be held at The Mint, 10 Macquarie Street, Sydney. Tickets are available here.