by Joanne Gray, Learning Development Officer (Communities)

Over the last few months our Your Recipes, Your Heritage project has been in full swing and we’ve been out and about collecting peoples’ memories.

One of the project’s main aims is to engage with under-represented audiences, particularly socially isolated older people. To help achieve this we’ve worked in partnership with several local organisations.

An invaluable partner
One of our main project partners has been Elder Tree – a Plymouth-based befriending organisation that provides services to over 1,400 people across the city. Its work includes a wide range of activities, from weekly Tai Chi groups to one-to-one home visits.

Elder Tree’s support for this project has been invaluable, allowing us to attend a number of activity group sessions and use The Box’s handling objects and images to explore Plymouth’s food heritage. Its 140 volunteers have also helped to devise and design some new resources inspired by our collections which they can use during home visits.

Without doubt, the most popular assets for this audience have been our photographic collections. People love reminiscing over images of old Plymouth, sometimes even spotting themselves or a family member in a picture!

Fishy goings on
Our main topic this autumn has been seafood. Although recent research shows that the number of people who eat fish is in decline, Plymouth’s older generations ate it quite frequently. Living by the sea, particularly during the war years, provided a free source of sustenance for families who were struggling without enough food to eat.

“I used to go prawning, shrimping and winkle picking…and limpets. Very often we lived on that. I remember we used to catch crabs and crush them in the nets to use as bait.”
L. Tucker

“My mum used to make potted mackerel, baked in vinegar with bay leaves. I used to live near Mount Gould Park and she would send me out to get the bay leaves for the fish.”
J. Fay

A memorable visit
A few weeks ago we organised a special intergenerational event with a group from Elder Tree and children from Salisbury Road School. It took place at the National Marine Aquarium and included a tour, a look at some of our local species, a chance to handle some real fish with ‘Food is Fun’, a creative arts session and a slap up fish and chip lunch!

It was a brilliant day and both generations had much to share when it came to their favourite foods. Many of the children squirmed at the thought of offal dishes like tripe or chitterlings that were once popular and were surprised when they were told you ‘always ate what you were given and didn’t complain’!

We have another intergenerational event scheduled for January which will hopefully be just as memorable.

In the meantime, we’re developing resources and a recipe book and are still collecting memories. We love hearing your stories so please get in touch if you have something you’d like to share.