The Sustainable Food Story’s ‘Soup-er Seeded’ meal starts with a rainbow of carrot soups – orange, yellow and purple edging towards black. A scrawl of tahini garnishes each serving like an artist’s signature. When the bowls empty, they are replaced with plates of quiche scattered with sorrel. Rhubarb compote floating on clouds of sheep’s yoghurt and meringue rounds off the meal.
Abi Aspen and Sadhbh Moore are the scientist and chef team behind The Sustainable Food Story. Many of this meal’s ingredients were rescued from an uncertain fate. The vegetables were donated by London’s Borough Market. The bread was reclaimed from local bakeries.
This low-waste approach is a defining feature of their “roving ecological exploring supperclub”.
Inspiration – Keeping Things Local
Every iteration of every Sustainable Food Story supperclub is bespoke. Each meal is tailored to its location, the ingredients available there and the theme of the surrounding event. That means that the Soup-er Seeded meal, which took place at the Oxford Symposium of Food and Cookery in July, will never happen in quite the same way again.
“We don’t want to be set in one thing,” says Aspen, who worked in synthetic meat before co-founding the supperclub. “Roving gives us the freedom to do everything, to pop up everywhere.” She is also happy to avoid the daunting overhead costs associated with a bricks-and-mortar restaurant.
Aspen and Moore have so far held suppers centered around underused grains, autumnal botanicals and post-apocalyptic urban farming. Their first suppers took place at London’s Skip Garden & Kitchen (now closed), where Moore is a chef. They have since popped up everywhere from the British Library to Berlin.
Illuminating Conversations About Provenance
Wherever they happen to be, they aim to increase their guests’ awareness of the hidden links in our complicated food chain. They place a spotlight on their suppliers, often inviting them to speak between courses. “Ultimately, every other job in the world could cease to exist and we would still survive. But farming is the one job that is essential for all our lives,” says Moore.
Aspen and Moore see their suppers as educational events. Rather like lectures, that also include good food. “We like to get people interacting with food. Whether it’s foraging for herbs in the garden or milling their own grains,” says Aspen. “Once people get involved, they realise that growing, foraging and cooking are accessible to anyone.”
One of the best ways to interact with food is to grow your own, says Moore. She encourages home cooks to maintain kitchen gardens. Even if all they can manage is a windowsill herb garden. “Herby things such as chives, sorrel and thyme are a good place to start. Their bright flavours disguise their tolerance for dark spaces.”
Home cooks can take a note from The Sustainable Food Story’s sourcing methods to trim down their own grocery bills. For one of their rare non-vegetarian suppers, Aspen and Moore asked a charcutier which cut of meat was the hardest to sell. Ham hocks, he said — and so they bought piles of them for a pittance. Sticking to “secondary cuts” such as hocks is one of the easiest ways to eat meat sustainably.
Try asking your own butcher, baker or greengrocer about what sells slowest. At the very least, you may spark a conversation about what waste and consumption looks like in your area.
The Sustainable Food Story’s post their upcoming events on their website. Whether you live in King’s Cross or Kensington, Berlin or Bali, they’re likely to be roving near you soon.