In urban areas, the world looks different now. Contactless living is everywhere - especially in the way we eat, apparent in the blossoming of meal delivery scooters and bikes. For some this is a cause for fear, perhaps related to other changes in society due to technology and migration. For others this presents opportunity and convenience.
The sustainability of this phenomenon is ambiguous. On one hand it relies on green transport such as bicycles, e-scooters, and Amazon's electric van fleet. On the other hand it oils the gears of consumption and consumerism, evidence of a precarious system that is propped up on the shoulders of gig economy workers on zero-hour contracts. The disconnection and anonymity involved in meal delivery reflects the disconnection between the modern food system and the land around us.
When I moved to Cambridge in lockdowned 2020, these meal deliverers were often the only protagonists of the otherwise deserted street scenes I observed and sketched. Gradually, I looked for places where meaningful relationships formed in the community, relationships that contrast with the anonymized meta-interactions between nomadic meal delivery workers and insulated consumers. I found this in Carlos’s BBQ on Mill Road, where I sketched extensively, collecting source material for larger paintings, and chatted with the other regulars (two of whom are pictured here). This was a place where someone knows your name and your regular order (halloumi wrap in my case), a place to be still, a place to step inside and climb out of the tumultuous flow of bikes and scooters.