Search for food: our first encounter with the neighborhood

Planning for Food

For our first overnight at the place of what would become the Hotel?Wilhelmsburg, we had self organised into functional groups which would each take care of different aspects necessary for an overnight hotel stay. Out of this, a food crew developed which took on planning and cooking dinner and breakfast for 25 people.

With a starting budget of 60 Euro, which we had been allotted from the common fund, we brain-stormed recipe ideas that would be vegan and gluten-free to accommodate the special food needs of all participants. We would buy all of our products in locally-owned supermarkets in the surrounding neighbourhood, to contribute to the local micro-economies. When organic and ethically fair traded brands came up, we agreed that this would also be a priority as long as our budget allowed.

We agreed on cooking a vegetable lentil curry with rice for dinner. Breakfast would then be composed of coffee and tea, fresh bread with jam and butter.

By collectively pooling our resources, we organised the most necessary cooking tools such as a pot, knives, ladels, and basic ingredients. When the cooking crew realised a stove was needed, we posed this need to the broader group, and someone was able to bring an electric stove.

Pooling resources from the group allowed us to assemble the tools, without having to buy new products. This form of organising into working groups would prevail throughout the entire course of the project. Decisions on specific tasks such as making dinner would be made within working groups but in regards to the broader community. When problems arose (such as needing a stove) solutions were found by asking the entire group.

Everyone in the food group was new to Wilhelmsburg. Therefore we did not know where to shop for grocery in the Reiherstiegviertel. With our grocery list in hand and two oversized backpacks, we let our search for food guide our way through the neighbourhood. We asked passersby on the street or in venues for directions to grocery stores. In this sense, we developed our first perception of the neighbourhood, guided by our search for food.

We would need water to wash dishes and bought vegetables. Directly across the street, there was a small neighbourhood bar called “Wilhelmsburger Corner “. A young African woman was standing behind the bar, while two men sat at the counter. We introduced ourselves, told her about the project and our task of sleeping outside for a night. We invited her to our evening and asked if we could use their bathroom to fill our buckets with water, something we would desperately need for our overnight stay. Then we asked her if she could tell us where we could go grocery shopping. “In this direction is Lidl, in this direction the Turkish stores and there Aldi.”

With empty backpacks and 60 euros in hand we made our way in the direction of “the Turkish stores “. After passing by kiosks, red brick houses with sporadic graffiti tags on the entryways we finally spotted the Turkish supermarket Atilim. We browsed the shelves for vegetables on sale and could become part of our vegetable curry dish. When the woman at the cash register commented on the quantities of food we were buying, we told her we were sleeping at the UdN. Upon hearing this, a man who turned out to be the owner of the shop said he had grapes, potatoes and some vegetables he would give us in addition to the shopping cart. He knew of the UdN and the projects which were going on and wanted to support us with his gift. After inviting him to our experiment, we thanked him and made our way back to the UdN to start cooking.

This first excursion of searching for food, while relying on the directions given to us by people we encountered, molded our first impression of the Reiherstieg neighbourhood. In the same manner, as the site group improvised with the materials found at the UdN to build the sleeping structures, the kitchen crew improvised the main course and dessert which could be produced with the gifted groceries.

By relying on local knowledge from neighbours we encountered, we were able to buy food for the first hotel dinner.

"... my children built tree-houses at the Neighborhood‘s University last summer. I have some left over fruits and vegetables you can have, and the shopping cart as well, don’t worry about bringing it back."