Turning an everyday meal into a ‘Feast for the Future’

It is easy to picture a ‘feast for the future’ as being a grand affair – but why not try and tweak the kind of meals we hold everyday so as to let some of the utopian light in? 

Using what was going to be the same old breakfast, lunch or dinner as a way of bringing a better future into momentary being – suddenly there alongside us, around the kitchen table, or campfire, or picnic blanket, or public square, or wherever.

At its most basic this might simply involve paying a little more attention to an apparently simple thing – how we eat and drink together – and thinking through how this can immediately be made ‘better’: more ethical, more sustainable. You might adopt a simple rule for the meal, turning it into a game that engages with these issues. For instance:

  • as many as ingredients as possible to be grown/produced within a 20 mile radius
  • no plastics involved in acquiring any of the components of the meal
  • everything to be sourced from local independents.

But even such apparently simple threads can quickly pay out into knottier extensions. Will this everyday-utopian meal also be more healthy? (and how?). Will it be more fun? (and how? and why!). 

And what is actually entailed by a meal is more ethical, more sustainable? For instance, what would relying only on locally produced ingredients do to coffee producers in Ethiopia or banana producers in the Caribbean? 

Exploring these questions should be part of the process, a pleasurable returning of attention to what we do each day almost without thinking about it – and while it might not ever see us arrive at a ‘right’ answer, the chances are that we’ll probably find ourselves a little further down the road towards one.

And then, why not pair this attention to what we might do now with some conversation that takes us off down wilder paths. So, what would an everyday meal look like in a utopian, ideal future? 

With all the questions that bring with it: who is at the table, where do you live, what do you do each day, why. Remembering as well that just in having that conversation, and being at a meal with friends (or strangers), you’re already showing how the idea that ‘There Is No Alternative’ is a lie: in that people exist and co-operate together all the time, right now, in ways that do not depend on, and are not interested in, the logic of the market, which is a parasite on our world but pretends to be its skeleton.

And then, how might you bring the energy gathered around your table into contact with the better futures you’ve just talked about?

Turning an everyday meal into a ‘Feast for the Future’ can be as simple as just deciding to do it, and then working it out on the fly, as you go, and seeing where you end up. 

But for those who are interested, over the next few months, we’re going to be gathering here a collection of short pieces from people with a wide variety of expertise, which might be of interest to anyone setting out to add a salting of utopia to their daily bread. 

The pieces won’t be anything as standard or straightforward as a set of recipes to be followed mechanically; but rather, a series of fresh ingredients to be stirred into the mix, as anyone wishes, and if they see fit. 

A meditation before the feast: Ruth Levitas

  • Grace as thanks; as an act of utopian imagining.
  • The feast as gift.
  • What will we eat in utopia?

Enough is as good as a feast: Kim Stanley Robinson

  • Potluck meals: social primates doing a social primate thing.
  • Food of the future: genetically modified, vat-grown meats?
  • To have just enough = a post-capitalist structure of feeling.

Politics at the Dinner Table: Garrett Broad

  • Table talk: between “Meat is murder!" & “We have canine teeth for a reason!”
  • Labor, farming, the environment; avoiding paralysis by critique.
  • Taste = not just biological, but the social construction of reality. 

Feasts for the Future (out of the Past): Jason R Kennedy

  • The archaeology of feasts: from communities to elites.
  • Beer for the helping neighbour or beer as a ration for the worker?
  • Resisting power by reclaiming control of what we eat, with who, and where.

Feasting is a Project: Tim Waterman

  • The feast as human association coupled with a utopian drive.
  • The campfire, the kitchen, the garden, the herd: good reasons for language.
  • Meals to be shaped like time and landscape: cultural evolution.

The Anarchist's Recipe for Ethical Living – Co-op Feasting: Iwona Janicka

  • Moving beyond critique (and a land of ready-meals).
  • Everyday utopian feasts: meals in an anarchist housing collective.
  • Not in an anarchist co-op? Two concrete ways to move forward.

A Gastrosophical Feast: Susan Parham

  • The city feast: public space over private power.
  • Fourier's gastrosophy: replacing bourgeois, market-led gastronomy.
  • Radishes, butter and salt to start, puffed macaroons and champagne to finish?

Meals Catastrophic and Utopian: Justine de Valicourt

  • Acting out dystopian vs. utopian meal scenarios.
  • The rise and fall of cooking, the root of our species evolution.
  • The shared transformation of nature with conscious attention: the utopian meal.

The French Banquet Campaign of 1847–1848: Pamela Pilbeam

  • A detailed historical example.
  • Discord, division, support, opposition, the weather, mass demonstration, bans.
  • Connecting the dots, or not: prolonged economic crisis, banquets and change.

A Return to Feasting as Peak Cultural Experience: Brian Hayden

  • A potentially exhilarating experience; with music, dance, costumes, ritual.
  • Access our origins: chewy fresh bread, unrefined wheat, real honey.
  • Three experiments to do at home, and the First Cardinal Rule of feasting.

What's for Dinner? And What Difference does it Make?: Michael Jackson

  • The dining table: leaving the beast behind.
  • What might utopian table manners look like?
  • Openness to other food cultures > openness to other cultures?

Sympotic Questions: Jason König

  • What can we take, for a utopian future, from the feasting of the ancient world?
  • Speculative conversation: to test out ideas freely and playfully.
  • Talking seriously and at length - and also with pleasure - about what we eat, where, how.

Enchanting Food Production: Agatha Herman

  • Reconnecting to what we are eating.
  • Rage against ragwort!
  • Imagining production, and doing it.