'To See the Different World'

In each interview, we had a strong impression of the students’ sense of the city and its surroundings, through their favourite shops, cafes and restaurants: from the rural baker who makes an enviable steak pie, to Crust, the pizza restaurant on Bold Street.

The interviews highlighted the breadth and diversity of food cultures in major cities. Our interviewee from Shanghai, for example, told us about the huge popularity of Italian restaurants in Shanghai, many of which are run by Italians living in the city. But he was more sceptical about some of their offerings – strawberry spaghetti, for instance, which, while creative, to him just tastes strange.

It is habitual to categorise food in national terms – though a country as vast as China, with its richly varied regional cuisine, reveals the limits of this approach. The food that tends to be described as traditionally British kept coming up in our interviews: despite their acknowledgement of its debatable reputation in world gastronomy, and despite a strong reservation among one of our interviewees and her friends from China about the overly sweet, sweet food in Britain, fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, steak pie, and those beans and mash were all favourites of theirs since moving to Liverpool.

But the Shanghai strawberry spaghetti stuck with us, and our conversations also threw up some other images which we wanted to make sure the film brought to life in all their wonder and surprise. For example, our character Richard talks not just about fusion food in Shanghai, but also about a British dish he’d heard of and couldn’t quite believe: the famous Cornish stargazy pie, a fish pie, said to have been created in tribute to a brave sixteenth-century fisherman from the village of Mousehole, in which the heads of pilchards are left sticking out of the pastry in a manner arguably rather less romantic than the name of the dish suggests.

To bring these visually vivid words to the screen, then, we decided that a mixed media approach could achieve things which film alone might not be able to convey. We were delighted to welcome the brilliant animator Sam Butterworth to the team: her beautiful, evocative visualisation of the words of our interviewees takes us on an imaginative journey in which we also see live action of key places in Liverpool, including our creative starting point, eJoy Asian Foods. The British food which is mentioned appears in all its colours and textures in Eric Lybeck's still and moving images. And mobile phone footage of family meals takes us back to the heart of our conversations, and the shared and intimate domestic experience of food prepared and enjoyed together.

The character we have called Sherry speaks at the beginning of the film about the experience of travel and living away from her home in China. “It’s the opportunity,” she says, “for me to . . . to see the different world.” Our conversations with our interviewees opened doors to many different worlds. In the film, we seek, through varied media, to step through them.

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