Posted on Saturday, October 1st, 2016

The Spier Secret Festival focus in 2015 was once again on sustainability and ethical practices in preparing, supplying and presenting food but this year pushed things a step further, bringing a crack team of innovators together to discuss not only how to put these principles into practice but to use the decisions we make as consumers of food as political acts.

We documented the speaker topics in a series of blog posts.

Jackson Boxer

Boxer’s talk dealt chiefly with the potency of food to have an ethical and even political component. He posed the question: What political work is food doing? His flagship restaurant Brunswick House – which started as a 10-seat espresso bar five years ago to become a fully-fledged, award-heavy 70-seat dining room – is a shining case in point in how sourcing local ingredients and presenting them in an unfussy yet exciting way can lead to long lasting success and weigh in on the fight for more responsible eating. Boxer is now presiding over the development of an organic farm in West Sussex to supply his kitchen.

Boxer quoted Alice Waters, who he described as “the fairy godmother of the farm to table movement” and who said: “Eating is a political act, but in the way the ancient Greeks used to term political. Not just to mean having to do with voting in an election but to mean of or pertaining to all our interactions with other people. From the family, to the school, to the neighbourhood and the nation and the world, every single choice we make about food matters. On every level, the right choice saves the world.”

Jackson Boxer and conference goers

He went on to point out that food is increasingly our main cultural reference point and our main opportunity to exercise a consumerism whereby the decision to buy local and sustainable are major contributions to a sustainable economy. But Boxer went a step further; querying whether this is alone is enough. Citing a conversation he recently had with a novelist and regular at Brunswick House, Boxer admitted that if he was asked to define his life and contribution and all he could come up with was “I shopped seasonally and locally”, that would fall risibly short.

Instead, he said, of looking at food to be the ethical expression of our selves we should see it as just one element of it. And above all, we should be loath to forget forget food’s most important role – bringing us together. Food allows us to share in our common humanity and sustain the belief that there is something about the way in which we interact as people that is worth preserving.