Some synesthetes claim that they experience color as a taste, with different hues conjuring up a specific flavor. At Cloth and Community: An Edible Color Workshop, hosted at The Lemon Collective, participants got the chance to try chewing hues by dying a silk scarf with edible pigments, then enjoying a meal prepared with many of those same ingredients.
Bowls crowded the table with dying materials: turmeric, onion skins, sumac, chamomile, blackberries, and purple potatoes. Organizers Eliza Wapner and Rachel Robey served a chamomile tea called “Public Woman’s Relaxing Tea” to accompany squash and ricotta crostini sprinkled with turmeric as the first course.
Then they instructed the group to take their plain white silk scarves and wet them with rose water before sprinkling and grinding in the ingredients. For anyone whose mother ever told them not to play with their food, it was pure heaven. Once the scarves were satisfactorily stained, they were tightly rolled and carried off to be held over a steaming pot to set the dyes.
As the scarves were steeping, the rest of the meal was served. The main course was a sumac chickpea stew, topped with a dollop of yogurt and mint. And for dessert—a blackberry sorbet with a sablé cookie topped with wildflowers. By the time participants licked the last morsels from their bowls, the scarves were unveiled with resounding oohs and ahhs. In addition to their unique scarf, each participant took home a sachet of tea and a hand-stitched zine full of more recipes and instructions on using food as dyes.
Wapner and Robey have been friends since high school, but their interests recently merged. Wapner got hooked on natural dyes after taking an indigo class in college, and has gone on to create textile-based installations and found her own company, Lil Bits Cloth, which makes naturally dyed clothing. Wapner has hosted dying workshops in the past, and after seeing the experimentation that Robey was doing with her recipes, she suggested that they collaborate and sent along a list of digestible dyes for Robey to base a meal off of. Once the menu was decided, Wapner created several test scarves, which were repurposed as a tablecloth for the dinner event.
It’s a unique way of thinking about food and clothing, and that’s exactly the point. Wapner points out that the fashion industry is widely considered to be one of the most environmentally unfriendly industries, contributing to everything from greenhouse gas emissions to water pollution to negative impacts on agriculture.
“People eat to be sustainable and eat organic, but people don’t really think about clothes the same way,” Wapner explains. “I feel like there’s so much in clothes with our personalities and politics and things about ourselves.”
More of Wapner and Robey’s work can be spotted at the newest iteration of the Femme Fatale DC pop-up launching tonight, where Wapner will be selling hand dyed pillows. Robey’s cookies will be available in the cafe. The pair plan to host more collaborative workshops in the future, and will announce any projects on their social media accounts @raerobey and @lilbitscloth.