The Food Museum is touring its Food Stories exhibition to communities across East Anglia and bringing back memories for many. Rachel Banham reports.

It is a celebration of East Anglian recipes, cooking, farming techniques and dialect words that have been passed down through generations.
The centrepiece of the Food Stories exhibition, organised by The Food Museum in Stowmarket, is a farm kitchen table featuring local recipes, photos, sound recordings and objects from its collection.
It is currently visiting venues right across the region.
Kate Knowlden, Food Museum curator, says: “We have started our tour across villages in Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex and the response has been brilliant.

“From the initial four villages of Grimston, Garboldisham, Hemingstone and Great Chesterford, and the launch at the Food Museum we have had 240 visitors.”

With its partners, the University of Leeds, the museum is also sharing historic sound recordings from the region of people talking about their food and farming memories.
Visitors can take part in the University of Leeds' Dialect and Heritage Project by contributing their own dialect words and filling in dialect surveys.
Kate says: “We’ve been able to meet descendants of some of the local people who feature in the 1950s/1960s' oral history recordings on display.

“We have had lots of wonderful conversations with people about dialect words they still use or have inherited and about recipes that are important to them or had been passed down through their families.”

Laura Kloss, Dialect and Heritage Project engagement officer, says: “A number of the villages on our tour were originally involved in dialect research carried out by the University of Leeds in the 1950s and 1960s.
“We are excited to bring the sound recordings back to the communities where they were originally collected, and learn more about local stories, memories and current dialect."Great British Life: A party of farmworkers having Beevers (lunch) at Culpho Hall, Suffolk, around 1908. Copyright: The Food Museum.A party of farmworkers having Beevers (lunch) at Culpho Hall, Suffolk, around 1908. Copyright: The Food Museum. (Image: The Food Museum)
The Food Museum, formerly The Museum of East Anglian Life, developed on farmland that used to be part of the Abbot’s Hall estate, which was left in trust by sisters, Vera and Ena Longe.
The museum has a recipe for Shetland pasties in its collection, which was found in the main house on the site, Abbot’s Hall. It is believed that it was handwritten by one of the Longe sisters and Kate is hoping visitors may be able to tell her more about it.
Visitors are also encouraged to share their favourite or family recipes by bringing along a copy with them.
Kate says: “The whole thing with the exhibition is how words and how recipes and the way people do things has been passed down through generations. So I’m hoping that people will bring recipes with them, we can peg them up on our recipe wall and then it will grow as we visit all of the different venues.”
The exhibition is interactive and visitors can sit down at each of the settings around the kitchen table centrepiece. Settings include cheese making, dairy, baking bread in unusual ways and smoking a pig up a chimney.
Museum exhibits, including a recipe for jugged hare (hare stew), photos and objects such as a harvest basket, which would have been brought to workers on the fields for their lunch or elevenses, can also be viewed by visitors.
Kate says: “It’s given us a really great opportunity to share lots of things in our collection that we haven’t been able to do yet.
“This is a very local exhibition. We are very much still focussed on our local heritage, but hopefully we will be able to be drawing from people a little bit further afield as well, to learn a bit more about East Anglia.”
She adds: “We want to have people all together in the space and hopefully lots of interesting conversations. Lots of people will be able to share memories with each other. It’s very people-focussed.”
The Food Stories exhibition is supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund, the Headley Trust and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
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Tour dates and locations
The exhibition was launched at The Food Museum in April and there are still opportunities to visit it as it travels across the region:
May 31 and June 1 – The Suffolk Show, Trinity Park, Ipswich, Suffolk.
June 8 – The Hold, Ipswich, Suffolk.
June 11 – Mersea Island Museum, West Mersea, Essex.
June 12 – Tillingham Village Hall, Tillingham, Essex.
June 16 – Canewdon Village Hall, Canewdon, Essex.
June 18 – Doddinghurst Village Hall, Doddinghurst, Essex.
June 19 – Orpen Memorial Hall, West Bergholt, Essex.
June 25 – Rickinghall Village Hall, Rickinghall, Suffolk.
June 27 and 28 – Christopher Jones’ House, Harwich Festival, Harwich, Essex.

Great British Life: The Food Museum's Food Stories exhibition features in the June 2022 issue of Let's Talk magazine.The Food Museum's Food Stories exhibition features in the June 2022 issue of Let's Talk magazine. (Image: Archant)