‘Zim Simmer, Who’s Got The Cheese For My Dinner!’

LinkAge had its first taste of Bristol’s hugely popular Food Connections Festival earlier this spring. In partnership with the YMCA Kitchen Café and Bristol’s Food Connections Festival, LinkAge helped produce an intergenerational cookery event to explore how intergenerational cooking and conversation can help both the young and the old to eat better and look after themselves and each other. The event was titled Cook ‘n’ Converse – Zim Simmer, Who’s Got The Cheese For My Dinner!’

Working with the YMCA to reach marginalised young people, this event brought people together to cook and discuss their experiences of and issues around food and cooking at home. Twelve older people and four younger people were split into five separate cooking stations, each manned by a well-known chef, where they cooked a dish that was part of a three course meal to be enjoyed by all. The chefs included the UK’s youngest Head Chef Luke Thomas, the Square Food Foundation’s Director & Chef and Food & Farming Awards Local Hero Barney Haughton, Head Chef at the YMCA kitchen Petunia Begnut and LinkAge Cooking Coordinator and teacher Jacques Hann. 

The chefs were each asked to teach the groups how to make elements of the dinner that would then be served for lunch – soup choices for the starter alongside a soda bread, vegetarian lasagne and salads for the main, and then cheese cake as the dessert.  There were also chutneys using fruit and veg that would otherwise be wasted put together for people to have on the side. All participants received a pack containing all the recipes from the day to try at home, as well as a copy of the Good Food Guide, a booklet produced by The Bristol Food Network which details food choices available in the city including how to volunteer, where to learn more about how to cook, garden or buy with your community, reducing weight, cookery classes, recipes, what to look out for when eating out, what’s in season now, 5 ways to shop smarter and plan your weekly shop and an allotment finder.  

Everyone got straight into the cooking – chopping vegetables even if they knew they didn’t like them, sharing stories and talking about previous cooking experiences.  As they worked together there were also discussions about food and drinks from other countries and they shared tips and ideas as well as memories of food.

There was some amusing as well as some inspirational quotes from participants. A younger person stated matter of factly:

‘[Cooking is] a basic necessity of life, you have to know how to cook.  And once you’ve done it, it tastes nice – end of. ‘

An older participant said:

‘Old people all sit at home alone – I’ve stopped doing that now – I would sit at home watching tv and now look where I am – out enjoying myself – meeting friends and cooking classes…’

Lunch followed after the cooking and there were conversational guests from local communities around Bristol who guided discussions on the tables around food and health. Guests included, Francine Russell (All about Food) – Food consultant currently working on a council project to support carers; Celia Phipps – Local Bedminster Councillor; George Herbert – local business man and baker (donated bread to share with the soup); Rebecca Mills – YMCA Kitchen Manager; and a journalist from Waitrose Magazine interviewing Barny Haughton. 

The food went down a treat and everyone was introduced to a conversational game devised by the organisers called ‘Spin the Reggae Reggae Sauce Bottle’ whereby groups span a bottle within a ring of kitchen utensils. Whatever utensils the bottle landed on related to a question that the group would then discuss such as ‘What do you think teenagers eat’ and ‘What will we be eating in 50 years time’. 

As the meal and discussion came to a close one of the participants said ‘I think we should do this again very soon – who can do this again.  It’s been a great pleasure – not just cooking together but also getting young people here.’ Bring on next year!

Photographs courtesy of Bristol Food Connections