Packaging up care: sending care from my kitchen
I put out an open call and invited people to sign up to receive a parcel containing a set of ingredients and a note to make a meal that I care about.
Recipients were asked to respond by returning a letter. Those are documented here.
Sending the parcels included four main steps.
Choosing the meals
I selected the meals based on three criteria:
The meals were something I had made, preferably with some regularity, and enjoyed and felt like I had a connection to
The ingredients were shelf-stable-ish so they would be able to survive a journey in the post in accordance with Royal Mail's guidance for perishable items.
The ingredients must fit the dietary requirements that participants had listed upon signing up - people must not receive ingredients that they were allergic to or intolerant of or avoid for any reason.
Selecting the meals was neither a quick nor easy process. Particularly, I was not fully prepared when a participant had an allergy to both onions and garlic as those feature frequently within my repetoire of meals.
I made sure that I cooked each meal for myself (again) before sending them out, checking they were of a good standard.
Writing the notes and recipes
This was another lengthy process. I do not typically follow recipes or write my own down. Before I make a new meal I read three or four different recipes and then make it up as I go along in the kitchen.
However, it was important to pinpoint how I make these meals in a way that was clear for participants to follow. Additionally, I wrote a description of how that meal was consumed within my household.
You can read a selection some of the notes and recipes I sent out by clicking on the links below. These will open pdf documents.
Preparing the packages
Each parcel was carefully prepared, with the boxes made up and taped together, my return address stuck to the side, a note about taking care when opening packets and recycling attached, a stamped envelope placed in the bottom, sturdy ingredients such as tins and onions placed in the box, loose ingredients such as rice, spices and couscous measured out and placed in paper bags that were taped and labelled, my note with the recipe placed on top, the whole box sealed with some more packaging tape and the participants address attached to the top.
This video documents one of the boxes being put together.
Going to the Post Office
The final step in the process, going to the Post Office, required coordination between myself and my partner who was kind enough to drive me there. Typically, this meant going on his lunch break from work as most Post Offices in this area close at 6pm.
We would go to two different Post Offices, depending on mood. One was in a quiet newsagents on a quiet road, where the parcels were processed by a very quiet clerk. The other was at the back of a busy Co-Op that I would almost certainly need to queue outside.
In either case, I would go to the counter and have my parcels sent first-class, handing them over to the clerk. Then they were off, out of my hands and unseen until they would arrive at the house of the recipient.
I could be sure the packages arrived once I received a response from the recipient.