Food: Bigger than the Plate review

4 out of 5 stars
Food: Bigger than the Plate review
'honey & bunny' (Sonja Stummerer & Martin Hablesreiter) Daisuke Akita

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

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From the stylised pastel posters for the V&A’s latest show, you could be forgiven for thinking that the whole exhibition’s designed to be some selfie-obsessed millennial’s wet dream. A show built for Instagram. But then you see the first exhibit – a toilet – and you realise that this is serious business. It’s not just any old crapper, it’s a snazzy waterless loo where waste goes into biodegradable bags and is converted into energy.

That’s just the first of a mind-boggling collection of smart, creative, sustainable and surprising innovations that rethink all aspects of the food cycle. We start at the bottom, literally, with the invention of London’s sewers and a look at how waste products are repurposed: there are wine bottles from grape skins, pineapple leaf leather and ‘merdacotta’ cow poop clay. Many of the objects, such as the ceramics glazed in human urine and the veneer corn tiles, are so beautiful that they wouldn’t look out of place in the rest of the museum. The hanging punch bags filled with coffee from the V&A café growing edible oyster mushrooms (which will eventually turn up on the museum’s menu) are also super cool, although slightly less pretty.

The stuff on factory farming is a bit hard to stomach but there’s plenty of hopeful urban and social projects to balance it out, such as the pedal-powered Bicitractor for small-scale farms and the inspiring folk in Hong Kong growing avocados on their rooftops. Be sure to check out the ‘Fallen Fruit’ maps which show the locations of London fruit trees alongside specially-designed fruity wallpaper, inspired by the fact that the V&A is built on an old fruit tree nursery. Who knew.

Alongside examples of new ways people are approaching the food supply chain, you’ll find another great London project, Company Drinks, which make beverages from produce grown in Barking and Dagenham – and are giving out well-needed refreshing samples. Then, finally, the eating section (hooray) where some things are more palatable than others: there are cheeses grown from celeb’s bacteria (anyone for a slice of Heston Blumenthal’s pube cheddar?) and futuristic sausages. And yes, there’s something you can actually eat: a tiny handmade canapé based on your vision for the future of food. There’s much more food for thought than actual food in here: by the end, your stomach might be growling even if your brain is totally stuffed.


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