Set the table!

Story Intangible Digital
Organization name
MeWe Theater Company

From July to December 2022, a group of theater and cinema professionals and a nutritionist from MeWe Theater Company ran the intergenerational action “Set the table!” in the village of Tragana, in Fthiotida, Greece. Our action focused on the production and consumption of daily food, based on local products. It also comprised a series of digital recordings of oral testimonies and an educational program for the children of the local primary school. 

For MeWe, “Set the table!” was the first successful attempt to explore the potential of a bridge between the elderly and young children and filled everybody with joy and hope. 

The results of the action were excellent in terms of the valuable information retrieved regarding the intangible cultural heritage of the Mediterranean diet, moreover the implementation of an educational model based on art and the European values of sustainability and inclusion. The model required the participation of the two generations for the necessary transmission of knowledge and ideals to happen but also for their communication and engagement toward the exchange of mindsets and the necessary tenderness.

The action was funded in 2022 by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports in the context of a call for programs and actions related to the preservation and promotion of elements of intangible cultural heritage.

Tragana is our lifelong vacation spot. Or better, Tragana is the seaside village in Fthiotida, where our parents come from and where we spent all our summers as kids. With grandparents and old-fashioned traditional food, based on local products, now called the “Mediterranean Diet”...

Still enjoying the same carefree summertime with my teenage son in Tragana, one day I realized some essential things were rather missing from the lives of his peers. Meaningful contact with the elder and some really good food. And this is, more or less, how the action “Set the table!” was designed for my village, and not only! 

Fortunately, the action was funded by the Ministry of Culture and Sports in the context of a call for programs and actions related to the preservation and promotion of elements of intangible cultural heritage therefore, it was possible to take place from July to December 2022. 

The idea around “Set the table!” was to document via digital recordings the oral testimonies of our senior residents and to implement an educational program for the children of the local primary school. We organized the action into two parts.

During the first part, research for stories and digital documentation of oral testimonies took place. Residents of Tragana, born before 1950 were invited to describe their personal contribution to the raw materials production, in the field, the mountains, or the sea as well as their processing and preparation to end up on the table. We emphasized olive oil, bread and cheese which are made of local materials and are basic elements of the Mediterranean Diet. Also, the process of their preparation involved a lot of stages and the input of many people. This offered multiple descriptive narratives, rich in memories and interaction and social, historical and ethnographic data. 

Men and women described the three types of food and their standing in the social life of Tragana. For example, marital bread was different from day-to-day bread. It was made by the women of the family during a celebration for the new couple. The marital bread was a plea for fruitfulness referring to ancient ceremonies in honor of Demeter, the ancient goddess of agriculture and fertility, maternity and marriage.

The aim of the second part of the action was to bring the children of the primary school close to theatrical art in order to “narrate” their own ways to look for raw materials and produce food today. In the beginning, we tried to enhance their expressive means, team spirit and research skills. During the meetings, the pupils attended the recorded testimonies of the seniors and described their contemporary ways to set the table to eat via improv games, theater play and role-playing games. 

Besides, the group collected information regarding the production of raw materials in our village today. They answered a series of questions about food, connection and relationships and set some new ones. 

In 2022, what are the raw materials and where does the family get them from? 

How do we produce our food? 

Which of our grandparents’ ways and habits are good to keep for the benefit of our health and bonds with our friends and family? 

In an attempt to build a bridge between the young children and the older residents of the village and restore the continuity between the generations of the 1940s and 2020s, we organized a big “Dinner table”. The school pupils cooked the most demanding and challenging recipes according to the elders’ recipes and directions in a traditional oven of Tragana. While the latter unfolded their full potential to pass on their experience in a truly genuine and tender way. Altogether, they “set the table” to eat and celebrate the action. 

Throughout the realization of “Set the table!”, we realized the joy and curiosity of all participants from the first moment. Children and seniors expressed their interest to get informed about the aim and the content of the action and engaged themselves throughout the whole process. They all understood the need to record the knowledge and experience of the past generations and pass it on experientially to the younger ones and were particularly excited and aware of the need to share their knowledge and experience with us and the school children. They became our equal project partners and our unstoppable interaction offered solutions for a better food chain (and a better film, as you will see below).

The young participants' understanding of the context of the action was assessed via questionnaires and playful exercises. While the contribution of art to the benefit of their personalities and self-confidence through their encouragement to express their thoughts and develop their speech is indisputable. 

Finally, we all witnessed the power of oral history and the impact of our grandparents’ narratives to bridge the generation gap using the vehicle of the Mediterranean Diet. 

An extra outcome of the action was a very “tasty” short documentary film that was produced out of all the digital recordings of the oral testimonies. MeWe professionals recorded and edited the moments "captured" by the camera during this wonderful encounter aiming to produce a movie with highly artistic aesthetics for the children to recognize the result due to their own participation and contribution. The recorded material is subtitled in English and French so that it can be used as an educational tool or as a cultural product for the promotion of the Mediterranean Diet to tourists visiting Greece or for pupils abroad. 

Watch our film and set your table here: (Password:  tragana2022)

MeWe and “Set the table!” owe special thanks to:

  • Ms. Katerina Apozidi, Ms. Asimina Apostolou, Ms. Maro Hatzisavva, Mr. Takis Papadimitriou and Ms. Pagona Haralambous who shared their 60-year-old food stories,
  • All the lovely children of the  Elementary School of Tragana and
  • Their enthused teachers Ms. Triada Hatzisavva, Mr. Dimitris Danelis, Ms. Irini Koukosia, Ms. Giota Kontou and Ms. Sandra Papadimitriou and last but not least
  • Their inspired Director Ms. Maria Pia who shared our vision and made it happen.

European Dimension

We strive to culture our food in the fields, we process it in different ways, traditional and laboratory, we sell it, we choose it, we buy it and we cook it with our best intentions for our beloved. We exchange recipes. We set the table and we introduce our babies to new tastes. We celebrate and we eat until we burst. We choose to eat local. Or we follow food trends. We eat healthy. Above all, we eat to remain alive and we eat together. In other words, food is about everything. It is about life and promotes our health. It connects us with other people and strengthens our bonds.

“Set the table!” is an action designed and developed around local food production, process and consumption as well as intergenerational relationships. But local food and eating together also comprise old recipes, traditional crafts and customs, division of labor, manual work, cultural exchange and collaboration and all the cultural components of the local intangible heritage we all value and want to pass on to the next generations.

Apart from that, several local food customs and habits comply with many European aims and values such as the promotion of physical and mental well-being, the protection of cultural and linguistic diversity and the quality of the environment, the empowerment of mutual respect among people and the elimination of their social exclusion upon age or other parameters.