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Monday, March 4, 2013

Domestic Dwelling Design and Food Sovereignty

Our first guest speaker at last week's Living Better meet-up was Wendy Fountain.
Wendy is currently completing a Phd with the University of Tasmania and undertaking a study of the design of dwellings and gardens and the relationship to food systems and practices. Coincidently our group touched on this very subject in January when we discussed the inadequate design of kitchens for food preserving purposes. Wend's study aims to identify designs that better support local food practices and compliment growing, producing, preserving and storing of food with an eye to the future and the implications of increasing urban population density.

More and more people are embracing food sovereignty and this includes those living in apartments and flats. They have unique challenges again because of the paucity of space. ( Have you read about Izaac's garden in the series "Gardening In Small Spaces")

What I would like you to do if you have a moment is think about the way your house and garden is designed.   How your garden is placed, is it easily accessible to from the kitchen. Do you have unique systems in place for compost, watering and animal husbandry. 
What about the kitchen and the utensils you use. Have you noticed your equipment is different from your friends kitchens. I'll be you could even find a different definition of the role your kitchen plays.

Some would define their kitchen as a meal preparation area where as others would define it as a food resource centre or a small food processing plant! What is your favourite piece of equipment? What is your vital tool? How do you store those "tools of trade" let alone store all that food? There is a whole process at play from growing the food and sourcing food in season locally, then preserving and storing that food and even the management of the resulting waste.
Thinking of all of that....
now see it in relationship to how your house and garden is designed.
Interesting huh?

I would like to relate to you one interesting story that came from our discussion.
One of our group had moved to an old house and wondered why the kitchen was placed at the back of the house and lamented that it was dark and segregated so they decided to open plan and incorporate it with the lounge dining, open it up and cheer it up. The renovation was very successful and provided them with just what they wanted, a bright warm sunlit area that brought everyone into the one space.
It wasn't until they had lived with this new layout for a season or two that they realised the original kitchen design was actually cleverly suited to cool food storage and preserving. The new layout has meant that they have had to apply lots of extra insulation to pantry and walls and they are also investigating some passive air flow methods to vent hot air from the cupboards.

And so it is that we realise many modern homes and renovated homes have swapped functionality for fashion. They have become great spaces for "entertaining" in a society that is eating out and "doing coffee" at an ever increasing rate. They are suitable for meal assemblage but not so much for food preservation. I suspect I am not alone trying to store umpteen large boilers and funnels of various sizes, never mind the bottles and jars. Heck, my stove struggles to accommodate the Fowlers pot on the hot plate!

Wendy has sparked quite a bit of food for thought on the home front. Her goal is to also take these ideas to the wider community too with small local groups. Her research will also encompass the sharing within the community of resources and ideas and knowledge. It embraces the make do and adapt and re-purpose methods. 
A great topic and full of ideas. Thanks to Wendy for coming along and "sowing some seeds"
So has it got you thinking? What are your thoughts?

Definition of Food Sovereignty
Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts the aspirations and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations. It defends the interests and inclusion of the next generation.
From here 


  1. It's quite interesting how house design has, yet hasn't evolved. I recently went to a talk where housing design was compared to car design and cars have evolved dramatically yet houses really haven't, except to accommodate said cars. Internally, bedrooms are smaller, houses are larger, kitchens are beautiful yet, as you say, not practical for food preservation, ease of access to gardens is sometimes compromised too. Like laundries without direct access to the clothesline are designed for using clothes dryers. Not at all practical in my opinion. My kitchen is quite small with little bench space but I have a glut of pantry storage (3 huge pantries) and I wish I had more. :) It's how we designed it although with the pantries facing north the coolness factor was not considered. Lesson learned and thanks for sharing. :)

  2. Tanya, I see you included my 'foolish' renovation story. I can't believe that as a seasoned cook that I didn't even think about the aspect of my pantry. Our grandmothers clearly thought more about house design than we give them credit for. My old, cold and dark kitchen also featured a flap in the outside wall that let down so that at night/in winter cold air flowed straight into the meat safe which was built in to the other side of the wall. Such a great plan for kitchens without refrigeration.

    What I am wanting is a 'jam closet'. You read about them in old novels, naughty children are always raiding the jam closet. Imagine a whole cupboard to fill up with a year's supply of jam. How satisfying as the housewife to open it up and see your summer's work all lined up there..

  3. Hummm you have me thinking! We are getting our kitchen done as the previous owner put little thought into his renovation and that is exactly why we are doing what we are doing! Yup the pantry - large will be in a cool spot. How ever you have given me more thoughts to share with Michael.

    All your photos made my eyes bulge in excitement! The old fowlers you had - I had one before children and one day when doing apricots water started to leak from the bottom and then suddenly whoosh! SIgh I was actually really sad about letting her go - unlike many friends who could not understand why I bottled and why I was reluctant to replace her... Poor Michael he did not know who he married! Then I had three years of terribly bottling. most bottled items failed. I got rid of the lot and freeze. Still miss it though and with the new kitchen recon I will be reigniting that... CWA shop will be missing me popping in weekly for jams etc!


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