Over four weeks, the Outreach Education Officer Nicola Bird (who works over all the Oxford University Museums and Collections) has taken the Botanic Garden out to Abingdon Mind where a group of 12 people discovered food through a multisensory experience: its history, its classifications, its medicinal and cultural uses, and its journeys around the world.
The four weeks were split into sessions: Food as Medicine, Feeding the World, The 5 Senses and Spices. The group explored herbs and spices using their sense of smell and then guessed what our Victorian ancestors would have used them for (usually a purging of some sorts!). We also tasted foods which aren’t so common in the UK with people taking lots home to try, following the excellent recommendations on cooking methods from members of the group.
We explored how the world uses food items in other ways - drinking gourds, musical instruments, materials – helping us look at the originality and resourcefulness of people around the world. Finally, accompanied by the calmness of fresh mint tea, we discovered the world of spices: their aromas when ground and the intensity of colouration and taste and freshness when added to different dishes from around the world.
The group was set up in partnership by the outreach team and Shirley Heckles, Wellbeing officer at Abingdon Mind. Abingdon Mind is an Oxfordshire mental health charity which promotes good mental health and campaigns for positive change. Oxford University Outreach team consists of Susan Griffiths and Nicola Bird who represent the Botanic Garden, Arboretum, Ashmolean, Pitt Rivers Natural History Museum and the Museum of the History of Science. The team aims to break down real or perceived barriers to visiting Oxford University museums and collections. They take the museums and collections out to groups all over Oxfordshire. To find out more, visit the outreach website http://www.museums.ox.ac.uk/drupal7/community-outreach.