Have your map and eat it

A margarine path and a sugar-coated glance at the sky. We navigate space with a Victoria sponge recipe and discover more than we expected.

By: Nicola Robey,   3 minutes


Maps unfold and become angry paper clouds, compass points spin casting fingers towards an invisible path and signposts fork to unseen destinations.

Navigation, finding your way and mapping out space. The tools we use to plot our routes are a key part of how we imagine the world around us. But we all experience space differently. Each one of us brings our own experiences, our own motivations and our own physical selves to the journeys we make everyday.

Whilst one person might come back from the shop with a pint of milk and some loo roll, someone else might return after discovering a tessellation in a geometric drain, or a reignited memory from seeing a colour the same hue as the pyjamas they used to wear when they were ten. The way we move in space, the way we map it in our heads and the way our bodies and minds pass through it is all really quite subjective.

Take for example the Japanese postal worker. If you were to give him/her a map and send them on a round in London, the chances are that they’d be completely lost. Not simply because they might not understand the language or know the layout of the city, but because the Japanese read their spaces in completely different way.

Instead of using roads to navigate cities, the Japanese use the places in between; the houses and the city blocks, the parks and historical sights. For them, a road has little significance.

But it’s not just the spaces between roads, it’s also to do with the date they were built. Houses aren’t numbered just in terms of their physical location, they’re also numbered for how long they’ve been there. A brand new house might be numbered 215 and sit right next to one built centuries before, numbered one. (If you can’t visualise it, then take a peek at this enlightening and short TED video by Derek Sivers.)

After churning space over in my mind, I got thinking about the tools we use to make sense of the physical world around us. Whether it’s a compass, a familiarity or a purpose, we all journey with a different motivation guiding us.

So I decided to mix things up a little. What if I was to guide my journey and alter my spatial perception by using something completely unrelated, spending my Feed on an immersive walking tour with a difference?

So I gave it a go. With a Victoria Sponge recipe.

Having grown up in the town of St Ives, padding around its cobbled streets with sandy feet for the greater part of my childhood, I thought there would be little that I hadn’t noticed before. Luckily, I was wrong.

The recipe said it would take 10 minutes of prep, so I sat for this time and mulled loosely over where this recipe might take me.

Alternative walking tour

With four eggs as a starting point, I went on the look out for shapes. Sure enough, as little as 200 metres down the road I’d spotted about 40 different eggish appartions;  in windows, carved into doors, drawn on the road and sat in road signs. But finally I settled on a gate with four perfect circles, ideal.


Next it was on to sugar. I was tempted to wonder down to the sand for some granular inspiration, but instead, I went looking for the letters that make up the word; its ingredients if you like.

At first I searched in obvious places, in signs and shop fronts, but this almost seemed too easy. So I started to look in other places. They jumped out at me from door handles, the rafters of buildings and, with a bit of imagination and some strategic standing, they came from toying with perspective (which achieved some rather concerned looks from groups of foreign tourists).

Feed alternative walking tour

Playing with perspective, seeking an ‘R’

Next it was self-raising flour. I took the ingredient’s instruction to raise, and raised my gaze upwards. Walking the main street, with my eyes on the rooftops, I came across sights seldom seen; secret garden-topped terraces, tangled birds’ nests spilling over with musty grasses and rainbows of lichen eating their way over chipped roof tiles.

A whole new aspect I’d completely missed before.

Looking up for alternative walking

Margarine was a bit more of a challenge. And with an onslaught of drizzle, I decided to take this as my buttery inspiration. I took off my socks and shoes and stepped tentatively along the sleek shiny cobbles, letting the soft green moss brush at my toes for the 225 paces the recipe instructed. A surprisingly lovely slimy stimulation, that bought back memories of running barefoot through throngs of tourists as a child, with soles as tough as battleships.

With a sprinkle of imagination, a touch of initiative and a dash discovery,  I managed to find a different way of looking at the town I’d grown up in. I’d been led down private steps, trapped myself in boatyards, discovered a different side and peered unabashedly  into strangers’ homes. Wonderful. All with the help of a Victoria Sponge recipe.

The only way to celebrate this spatial revelation, was to celebrate with a slice myself.

Thanks Mary Berry.

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