Come y Habla: A sensorial experience in Ecuador and Spain

Building a bridge between producers and consumers is the goal of the research project “Deliberative Diets”, which is developing scenarios for a sustainable food system based on the examples of Ecuadorian cocoa and Spanish olive oil. To maximize the chances for success, visions for the future are cooperatively created with different stakeholders in Ecuador, Spain, and Switzerland. Within the project, our PhD student Léa Lamotte has been exploring different perspectives on our relationship with food together with university and undergraduate students. It’s a creative, participatory way of knowledge building that generates refreshing and inspiring insights.

Léa Lamotte

How can we transform food systems to make them more sustainable? That is the core question of the “Deliberative Diets” project in which I’m doing my PhD. This led me to the underlying question: Before transforming our practices, don’t we need to rethink how and where we obtain ingredients, prepare a meal, and eat it? And mustn’t we consider how “more-than-rational” dimensions – such as emotions, space(s), and time(s) – shape our food practices? These questions arise from the grounding of my research in the “more-than-human” feminist, decolonial approaches to geography, together with transformative pedagogies.

Creation of an altar with the students from the bilingual intercultural educational unit Jatari Unancha in the agroecological Urkuwayku farm near Quito, Ecuador, November 2023. Photo: Léa Lamotte

For example, you might buy a particular strawberry jam – one with little pieces of strawberry and a mild flavour – for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you don’t buy it because of its nutritional qualities or its price. Maybe you buy it because strawberry jam reminds you of your grandmother, who made it as her signature jam. Or maybe because as a child you ate crispy toast as a snack, and it was always delicious to put a few spoonfuls of strawberry jam on it.

Similarly, if you never ever eat broccoli – even though you know it’s healthy – it might be because the texture disgusts you; or because its strong smell lingers in your house; or simply because you have trouble digesting it.

From the scent of orange blossom in Seville to the high volcanoes in Quito

To test how sensorial (e.g. emotions or physical sensations), spatial (e.g. body or territory), and temporal dimensions (e.g. memories or visions of the future) shape how we feed ourselves, I have been conducting research on the topic in Seville, in the south of Spain, and Quito, the capital of Ecuador.

My research began in Seville, where, with the support of the local association El Enjambre Sin Reina, I worked between March and June 2023 with fifteen volunteer students aged 22 to 47 at the Pablo de Olavide University. Afterwards, I continued my research in Quito. Thanks to the support of members of the SUSTENTO project at Ecuador’s FLACSO University, we had the chance to work together with 15 students, aged 17 to 42, at the intercultural bilingual education centre Jatari Unancha, between October and November 2023.

student community on the day of the fanzine presentation
Participants from the Universidad Pablo de Olavide student community on the day of the fanzine presentation in the urban garden "El Huerto del Rey Moro" in Seville, Spain, June 2023. Photo: Léa Lamotte

How can we begin to think in other ways about our food?

In both places, I wanted to explore with the students how our food is made of meanings, materialities, and knowledges that are constantly evolving. How they are woven with our familial, friendly, and romantic relationships; how the act of putting food into our bodies connects us to our territories. I wanted to stimulate students’ critical perspectives on how, together, we can begin to implement other ways of thinking about our food – for example, by thinking about it as something that connects us to the rain, sun, and wind or lack thereof; to the work of farmers in the fields; to our physical and emotional health; to caring and sharing.

Collage by Christian Jaramillo Pithalua from Cali, Colombia, realized in Seville, Spain, March 2023. It represents an arepa, a traditonal Colombian food made of corn.
Collage by Christian Jaramillo Pithalua from Cali, Colombia, realized in Seville, Spain, March 2023. It represents an arepa, a traditonal Colombian food made of corn.
Traditional plant press from Ecuador
Traditional plant press from Ecuador, made by Daniel Durán Herrera, in one of the workshops carried out in collaboration with the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Quito, Ecuador, November 2023.

Talking about food is intimate. Through words, it leads us to enter the space of kitchens; to describe hands that clean, chop, and season; to share the pleasure of eating a chocolate dessert; or maybe to reveal the pain of eating disorders. In the project, we worked on this intimacy in a communal and creative way in order to express and illustrate our eating practices. We held participatory workshops with the students, in which we experimented with creative methods such as collage, collective drawing, mapping, and traditional plant presses.

The workshops were deliberately conducted in settings outside the university and school. We inhabited different spaces. In Seville, for example, we went to El Pumajero, a self-managed house offering social activities, as well as to El Rey Moro, an urban garden. In Quito, we were hosted by the Museum of Contemporary Art and by the Indemini-Baez chocolate factory, among others. Together with my colleagues and the participants, we tried to co-create practices that expand interpretations of home and community.

Detail of a page from the fanzine "Come y Habla 2 - Edition Ecuador", created with the support of Monica P. Cevallos and Daniel D. Herrera from "Primate Production", Quito, Ecuador, November 2023.

Creative artwork on everyday food practices

Our participatory workshops resulted in creative, collaborative works of art that communicate everyday food practices – emerging from inspiring spaces. They are the visual results of diverse participants’ efforts, energies, enthusiasm (or doubts), and ideas.

From the beginning of my doctorate, I felt the desire to give something back to the research participants and my colleagues; something that would enable us to remember these moments together and the knowledges we have shared; something we can be proud of – beyond academic articles, book chapters, and oral presentations.

This desire gave birth to the fanzines Come y Habla, volumes one and two, Spanish and Ecuadorian editions.

Two fanzines embedded in different territories and realities

But what is a fanzine? Not a newspaper, booklet, or magazine – fanzines are small independent “books”. They are creative objects that do not seek to be commercialized or to generate profits. They are published and distributed in small print runs by their authors. They embrace free "do-it-yourself" aesthetics, generally with cuttings and (re)arrangement of recycled materials such as texts and images from used magazines. The fanzine format struck me as a very relevant way of showcasing the artwork and creations of participating students who narrated their ways of getting food, cooking, and eating.

There is virtually no visual homogeneity between the Spanish and Ecuadorian editions of the fanzine Come y Habla, despite the fact that the same methods were used in both cases. They reflect two different processes of creation, since the workshops were carried out in different territories encompassing distinct socioeconomic realities. In Spain, the fanzine was very homemade – from selecting and enlarging the graphic elements to drawing the cover and printing it. In Quito, by contrast, we collaborated with the designers Mona and Dani, who helped us valorise the visual material that emerged from the participatory workshops.

Finally, I can’t write about these fanzines without thanking all the people who were and are part of this pathway that we are creating as we go along. I believe it inspires us to continue inventing new ways of bringing the academy to life as well as new ways of learning, sharing, debating – and being happy.


Come y Habla Edition Spain, realized in collaboration with the local association El Enjambre Sin Reina and the students from the University Pablo de Olavide, Seville, Spain, June 2023. 

Come y Habla 2 Edition Ecuador, realized in collaboration with the project SUSTENTO at the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO) Ecuador and the students from the bilingual intercultural educational unit Jatari Unancha, Quito, November 2023.

The author

Léa Lamotte is a PhD student at CDE, working in the project "Deliberative diets - scenarios for a sustainable food system". Her research takes her to Ecuador and Spain, where she investigates how co-creating knowledges about chocolate and olive oil with the consumers can modify their purchasing and eating behaviors, even in their kitchens. In her Blog posts, which she dedicates to the persons she writes about, she brings us along on the journey and reflects on the realities she meets.