Seeds at the table 

Contributors: Ioana Lupașcu & Yacinth Pos

Seeds at the Table is a meandering conversation between artists Ioana Lupascu and Yacinth Pos, and seasonal workers at a place of arrival (the Netherlands) and a place of departure (Romania). The dialogue touches upon recipes from home, ways of cooking with weeds, cultural exchange, working conditions, and other personal stories. The project manifests itself in a dinner intervention, an audio-walk, and a publication that dives deeper into the process.

And a Dash of Dialogues

Dinner intervention guided by Yacinth Pos

What stories are in a handful of weeds?

Driven by a strong desire to create contacts with the many seasonal workers who travel to the Netherlands every year to help with the harvest, I registered with a temporary employment agency. I was employed in vast farmlands, where my job consisted of pulling weeds from between the roots. It fascinated me that the weeds that grow in the fields and around the farm were recognised by the workers, because they use them in their country. For example, a weed common in the Netherlands, sorrel, is a popular ingredient in Poland and is often used in soups. So, as a cook, I became interested in what seasonal workers prepare for dinner and whether they use plants or weeds.

The research unfolded in a series of field explorations where I studied local edible weeds on the farm and visited the residential facilities where the seasonal workers live. I used food as a conversation starter to exchange recipes and personal stories. These experiences formed the menu for the dinner organised at Zonnegoed, a vegan farm that I used as a base for my research in the Flevoland region. A communal table brought together staff, local seasonal workers, a translator and us, artists, as well as local weeds, flowers and crops, ingredients from the Polish shop on wheels and soft drinks from the supermarket. A spontaneous conversation arose about food, working hours, living conditions, foreign bureaucracy and being away from home. The evening ended with a group photo and piles of tupperware with leftover food for later.

Documentation of the research in the Netherlands and Romania was presented during the Seasonal Neighbours group exhibition in Z33. Next to a series of images was a bag containing almost a ton of soil, serving as an object of interaction with the earth, the top layers containing a mix of seeds of weeds, some already sprouting into shape. The visitor was invited to scoop a bit of soil and take it home with them. Also, a booklet was offered containing recipes with the weeds from the dinner intervention, and a QR code that linked to the audio walk.

You can also listen to the audio walk in Dutch here and in English here.

Many thanks to all the seasonal workers who opened up to me during my visits and joined us for dinner, to Joost van Strien and the staff from farm Zonnegoed for all the help and hospitality, translator Kasia Wlodarczyk who bridged the language gap and for her active participation; and of course to Ioana Lupascu for the exciting collaboration.

Made possible by a grant from the Creative Industries Fund NL.

Website updated in May 2024