Bizcuits | A story on your dinner plate

Leanda Lee

Lily died in a 4WD accident earlier this year. Her coming of age 21st birthday would have fallen on Mother’s Day. Instead, the day marked the worst kind of grief for a mother.

Lily had had a dream; to raise pasture-fed hens on a bush block.  Within a matter of weeks after the accident, her mother had leased a property and was well on the way to free ranging 1,450 hens at a maximum of 100 birds per hectare.  “The girls will be able to enjoy a dust bath, flap their wings in flight, lay in the sun and scratch and forage for bugs and grubs to their hearts’ content.” And thus, Lil’s Yolky Dokey Eggs were sold onto the market “born out of the deep love that a mother has for her daughter”.

The story on the pink home-compostable egg-carton pulls at the heart strings, and asserts ethical production by expressing care of the land and the livestock.  A quality and nutritious product is assured, and customers can feel good about every part of the purchase decision: support for family values, support for the environment throughout production, and sustainability in waste management.

Story telling is an ancient art. Stories paint pictures, they teach, they share ideas and experiences and build relationships.  The best stories touch us deeply as they express values we associate with. We want to connect with these stories and make them part of our own stories.

Macau has many stories. Its heritage is not just in the buildings and artefacts but in stories told, untold and imagined.

Macau’s listing on UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network for its gastronomy begins with a story – the culturally diverse demographic story; the Portuguese-Chinese historical and geographic story; the tourism centred economic story; the ongoing human development story.

A central activity in Macau’s positioning as a Creative City of Gastronomy is the Macao Food Festival which starts today at the Sai Van Lake Square. It brings together, not just local people and visitors in a festive occasion of the tourism and cultural events in our yearly calendar, but also aims – according to UNESCO – to promote cooperation among the cities in the Creative Cities Network which have identified creativity as a factor in sustainable urban development. The objectives are to share experiences, knowledge and best practices, using the network as a laboratory of ideas and innovative experiences so that each participant city can build upon their niche area of excellence.

In UNESCO’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, four areas of sustainability have been identified: economic, social, cultural and environmental. Macau has been working towards diversifying economic activity through cultural programs for many years, and the bringing together of people and organisations in these festivals thus covers the first three areas of sustainable development. What does not seem to have been covered to any great extent in these gastronomic programs is the environmental area of sustainability. Of its 17 sustainable development goals, UNESCO points to four which specifically target environmental sustainability: 1) affordable and clean energy, 2) responsible consumption and production, 3) life below water and 4) life on land.

While we engage in our festivals and events, we can question the environmental costs of inputs and how and where they are produced – will you hear human stories about the source of the gastronomic delights? We can also stop to think about how food surplus, organic waste and packaging is minimised and managed – is there an easy-to-use recycling and waste separation system in place? Is rubbish being left for others to clear up or to leak out of the waste management system into our waterways?

There are many zero-waste and ethically run cultural events – marathons, farmers’ markets, music festivals – which we can learn from. In developing urban sustainability, which story will Macau and the Macao Food Festival be telling?

Categories Macau Opinion