The Bridgestone Electric Picnic forums were fun, lively, amusing and, most importantly, they showed a curious disconnect between how food appears in the media in which many of the participants work, and how food gets discussed when these people sit down together.
To put it simply: food in the media is regarded as entertainment: “colour” journalism, as it is called. But when food writers and teachers sit down together, what emerges is: politics. All of the discussions were politically charged, no matter whether the participants were primarily teachers – Darina Allen, Rory O'Connell – journalists – Ross Golden-Bannon; Aoife Carrigy – or teachers, chefs and writers – Paul Flynn; Clodagh McKenna.
The political content was explicit in every forum, with Clodagh and Rory, for instance, framing the simple but powerful idea of a “right to good food”, whilst everyone else agreed that there is no distance between thinking and writing about agriculture and food, yet their separation in the media is a major problem, creating the problem that separates quality on the farm from quality on the plate.
The other consistent theme as people talked was the necessity for families to have their own food policies, starting when people shop for what they are going to put on the table for dinner. If we had a kitchen cabinet composed of our participants – Clodagh; Darina; Paul; Rory; Aoife; Ross – then decisions would be swift and effective, running from agricultural practice, to legislation to control the retail market, to policies to control the adulteration of food. The idea of a “right to good food” is one that we expect to hear a great deal more of over the coming years, and many thanks to our forum participants for their impassioned contributions to Electric Picnic 2010.