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LOCI Food Lab Research: Urban Foraging

September 23, 2014

The Center went on an urban foraging tour with Becky Lerner last week. In just a few blocks around Alberta Street in Northeast Portland, we tasted over a dozen edible plants growing freely in alleys and along the street. Here’s a few tasty (and some less tasty) varieties we found:

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We immediately came across an apple tree with lots of fresh fruit. Becky informed us that her general rule is; if it hangs over into public areas, you can forage from the public side. 

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Western Red Cedar: edible needles, often used medicinally.

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(left to right, up to down)
Sweet Asylum: part of the mustard family, edible flowers and leaves
Mustard Seeds: edible seeds
Rose: edible flowers
Yucca: edible flower petals
Mallow: edible plant
Mallow ‘cheesewheel’ fruit: part of the mallow plant – tastes like a tiny squash

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(left to right, up to down)
Hazelnut Tree: Edible nuts and common in Oregon
Hops: Flower is edible. Used as stability agent and flavoring in beer.
Hens and Chicks: edible leaves
Lamb’s Ear: edible leaves
Mimosa Tree: edible flowers and bark (medicinal – blood circulation)
Mimosa Flower: sweet tasting, wilts quickly. We would love to use this as an ingredient, but it appeared as if it would last less than 5 minutes from plucking to plate. Maybe if there was an outdoor restaurant with a Mimosa tree in the courtyard?

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(left to right, up to down)
Black Elderberry: edible berries and flowers
Lemon Balm: edible leaves
Figs: edible fruit
Live-Forever: edible leaves
Hawthorn: Fruits and leaves are edible
Kousa Dogwood: edible fruit – when ripe, these spiky red lollipops are sweet like mangoes! They are currently all over Portland.

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Here is an example of where we walked. In a small alleyway just off of Alberta, Becky showed us at least four different edibles sprouting up as weeds all over the place.

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Happy foragers around the yucca plant at the end of the tour. Thanks to Heather K. Julius for arranging it for us, and Becky Lerner for sharing all of her knowledge.

LOCI Food Lab v. 1.0 [Portland, OR]

September 10, 2014

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For the very first deployment of the LOCI food lab, we set up at the First Thursday street side event in Portland, Oregon. It was very exciting to feed about 100 people in the space of 2.5 hours. The majority of our eaters seemed to be intrigued that they were being fed by artists, and were very interested that their own bite-sized bioregionalism was being “plated” in front of them. With 6 components, the plating was a performance similar to what you see at a Chaat stand in India, one of our main sources of inspiration for this project. In future iterations I would like to continue to play up the performance of plating, both because it communicates a generosity and attention to detail that we think the future of food needs more of, but also because it speaks to the goal of “bioregional food research in public and in the street,” or as it has also been termed “NOMA for the people”.

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At least 1/3 of the visitors to the stand were not from Portland arriving from Massachusetts, Florida and South Africa. Only one visitor did not like the flavor of the food, the majority smiled and said they enjoyed the experience, and about 25% of visitors seemed truly moved by a novel flavor experience.

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A few visitors gave suggestions for other possible bioregional or seasonal ingredients including: blackberries, hops and chanterelle mushrooms. For a first round of research and experimentation, we were happy with the ingredients and the overall dish, but I think we want to continue to push ourselves beyond the ingredients and flavors that are already ubiquitous in “Pacific Northwest Cuisine”. This is easier said than done, because seasonal and bioregional eating, and real time culinary research are already pretty well represented in Portland. As we take this project to other geographies and food cultures, it is likely that we will need to leave more time for research and experimentation. 

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Loci Food Lab Research: Urban Farm Tour

September 4, 2014

Last weekend in Portland, Oregon, we went on a farm tour as research for our upcoming project Loci Food Lab. We were told about the event and attended it with Heather Julius, our long time collaborator. 

During the tour we visited four sites ranging in size from 1/4 acre to 58 acres. In preparation for Loci Food Lab, we are exploring bioregional ingredients in the Willamette Valley and the Pacific Northwest of the US, but also asking the question – what is bioregional? We will post more on that later, but for now, here is a summary of our field trip.

FARM 1: NEIGHBORHOODS COMMUNITY GARDEN 

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The first stop we made was Grow Portland‘s Neighborhoods Community Garden at 835 SE 162nd Ave. Some of the space was sub-divided into allotments that individuals can rent on an annual basis, while the area we visited was a community farm managed by our host Christopher. With a focus on food security, the farm had a goal of growing bulk storage crops that can be stored and eaten well after the end of the growing season. Storage crops are difficult for individual families to grow on smaller plots.

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This project’s primary focus was food justice and community engagement, and it was experimenting with strategies to share the harvest. In addition to purchasing the harvest, there was a work/trade system in place where people could earn $10 worth of food for one hour of labor.  

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One of the communities that Christopher grows with is a refugee population from Bhutan, who were forced out of Bhutan after the government instigated an ethnic cleansing. On the farm, they have requested to grow Daikon radishes, which they eat fermented. We purchased some at the farm for our test kitchen. Daikon radishes are crispy and delicious, and may serve as an ingredient in the loci food lab, representing the shifting agricultural trends of regions as populations of people travel across the globe and share their food cultures, of which American cuisine is a true testament to. Daikon radish is also useful for soil remediation due to it’s ability to de-compact the soil it is growing in.

FARM 2: THE SIDE YARD

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The Side Yard, founded by chef Stacey Givens, was our second stop on the tour. On just a 1/4 acre this urban farm grows hyper-local specialty crops for a handful of Portland restaurants. From edible flowers and micro veg to unusual varieties of herbs, The Side Yard has carved out a niche for itself in the Portland food scene. It seemed the community here was one of chefs and foodies concerned with sustainability and growing local, not only for ethical reasons, but also for novel flavor experiences.

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The Side Yard currently has 2 locations with a third opening in 2015. An interesting model of urban growing where space is at a premium. It makes sense to have a distributed network of smaller spaces rather than a single centralized space.  

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When urban farming first became a fashionable contender in discussions about future food systems, one of the limitations I noticed in the utopian projects that I visited was that they grow basil really well, but weren’t about to provide all the nutritional sustenance for a community of any scale. However, as Bliss, the tour leader emphasized, sustainable farming practices should follow many models and be an “and also” equation, not an “either, or”. It’s important to encourage and support many approaches we observed on the tour, as they complement each other and in their diversity they fulfill different needs within the food system.

FARM 3: OUR TABLE 

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Our Table was the third stop on the tour, and the closest thing to what you might imagine as a traditional farm. This farm is 12 acres and is a coop with a farm to plate mission. We were given a tour by the founder Narendra Varma who also explained in detail the philosophy behind the project. It was very idealistic, but also pragmatic, and very exciting to see such a well-managed experiment with an articulate leader. He explained how Our Table is building a model community food network, and as a cooperative they are trying to directly engage with the whole system from production, processing, aggregation to retail. 

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They distribute their crop to Portland through their CSA, which is designed to cater for single people, or urban couples who don’t always eat at home. They were also in the process of building a retail outlet on the farm, and offer u-pick for their blueberries and flowers.

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The farm is located just outside of Portland’s urban growth boundary. The land was purchased by Narendra’s family and became a land trust under a not-for-profit entity that rents the land to the Our Table Co-op. He was very supportive of renting farmland as a model, because often young farmers can’t afford expensive farm land, and a rental model makes more sense financially. He even suggested that cooperatively people could get together and purchase large areas of land at the urban growth boundary and lease it all to young farmers. The ambition for this model to scale and be adopted by others was apparent. Our Table is pioneering building a new food system in a very experimental, yet professional and pragmatic way, and I’m excited to see how it will evolve and inspire others over time.

FARM 4: LEARNING GARDENS LABORATORY 

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The last site we visited was the Learning Garden’s Laboratory in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood SE Portland. These 12 acres belongs to parks and rec, and a number of organizations seems to collaborate in running the site. On our tour we were told about three of the programs currently active on the site. 

First, the Lane Family Gardens were allotments for families and guardians of lane middle school students, designed to support this largely working class and very diverse community. The second program was garden-based education for lane middle schoolers. The students learn science, social studies and sustainability in the garden, and the classes are taught by graduate students of the Leadership for Sustainability Education course at PSU. 

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The third program was BUFA (Beginning Urban Farming Apprenticeship Program) run by instructors from OSU and Multnomah County. This sounded like an exciting program, where students were taught practical sustainable farming techniques and business development, enabling graduates to start a CSA or participate in any other farm or food-related small business. 

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When given 30 minutes to explore the site, we also visited the Orchard and the OSU Master Gardener Demonstration Garden.

It’s exciting to be conducting this research in Portland, where food experiments and initiatives are so plentiful and prevalent. What we observed on this tour was just a small sliver of what’s going on in the city and along it’s perimeter. It’s an inspiring starting point for our Loci Food Lab tour. Next stop: eastern Scotland in the late autumn.

Culinary Forensics Lab: Aalto Biofilia

May 15, 2014

Zack_Cat_web 

As part of Aalto University’s Dinner’s Ready programming, the Center for Genomic Gastronomy was invited to host a 2-day lab at Aalto Biofilia. We ran three Culinary Forensics labs:

      • Honey Analysis
      • DNA Fingerprinting  
      • Who Wants to be a Parts Per Millionaire (Gluten Testing). 

IMAGES FROM THE LAB: 

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STUDENT REFLECTION

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“As a student of bioinformation technology, I was somewhat familiar with lab work already before the workshop. This, however, certainly did not lead to boredom, thanks to the relaxed atmosphere, learning by doing, passionate discussions, new methods and equipment, and altogether the versatile approaches to studying food.

I was actually quite inspired by the somewhat simple idea of the three approaches to studying food: labeling, scientific and tasting. Through labeling, the social and economic aspects somehow visualize. I like the idea of accessible science – that not all science is rocket science – because these things are way too important to be left only for scientists. And last but not least: tasting different honeys before investigating them with chemistry and a microscope made it all so much more fascinating.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * 

“The scientific and biological point of view of things as explained through participation in real life experiments was indeed really fruitful in the learning process. To be honest, being a chemical engineer I didn’t come across so many useful experimental techniques under one roof and that too put in such a delicate use. In fact I learnt PCR in real life which I never did before and which was completely out of my imagination of course when I signed and I am very happy about. I truly believe that skipping my other lectures and labs for this Biofilia course was indeed rewarding to me.

Also the slides and the topic discussion was very interesting, I was not asleep the whole time and actually learnt quite a deal from it and started to ask many questions like Taste matter?? Why??? What do GMO actually taste like ? no one knows, but I never thought like this before. What if GMO is actually threat and what if it’s the quick solution to natural disaster hit areas. For me the idea of super food is really amazing and having a lateral thinking in this field is of great use. The part of using microscopes in evaluating if the honey was made of pollens or multiple pollens was pretty amazing and the shapes and pictures of real pollens under microscope looked really beautiful.” 

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“By tasting the honey first we were able to have a really multi-sensual experience of this magical liquid. It is quite often the case that there many types of honey on the supermarket shelves, but we consumers have no real understanding about where or how it has come to be there. The exchange we have with the ‘free labour’ bees is minimal. We have no idea about their welfare, the pollen content or true extent to which the hive has had to be substituted with sugar syrups for us to enjoy their treasure. Honey is fantastic and more than ever I want to embark on a mission to try and understand the world of the honey bee.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * 

“When I entered the Biofilia lab for the first time, I admit that I secretly expected that everything would be just as easy and smooth as the acacia honey we tasted – I kind of wanted to see the lab, its tools and all the tests as perfectly designed mechanisms that would give us just the right answers. This being said, it is also probably the main reason why I think that getting no results from the GMO tests was one of the most interesting and important things for me: realizing the uncertainty of all that phasing and accuracy of measuring was maybe even more valuable than just getting straightforward answers from that blue, slightly surreal piece of gel.

Failure after such a complex and intricate process is not really unexpected in science, but there is something surprising in the way how the things we choose to do (and not do) and tools we choose to use (and not use) affect everything, not just the final result or product – in all that scientific accuracy it is still about our choices, preferences and natural curiosity.”

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Thanks to Ulla Taipale, Marika Hellman and Oron Catts for helping it all come together.

Food Book Fair – Brooklyn this weekend!

April 23, 2014

Saturday, April 26, 2014 the Center will be at the Food Book Fair in Brooklyn, NY!

Our friends Jen Tong and Joel Alter will be representing us at Foodieodicals: A Foodie Zine Fest. We’ll have books and posters for sale and visitors have the chance to place the very first orders for our second issue of Food Phreaking: The Journal of Explorations in Human Food Systems.

WHERE
Wythe Hotel Screening Room
Wythe Ave at N 11th, Williamsburg
Brooklyn, NY 11249

WHEN
Sat, Apr 26, 2014
12:00pm – 4:00pm EDT

*Entrance to the event is $5 


ITEMS FOR SALE:

FP0_G1FOOD PHREAKING #00 – $20.00

FP01 Receipt BookmarkFOOD PHREAKING #01 - $15.00
“A Culinary Atlas of Genetically Curious Botanical Fruit Cultivars”
Available for pre-order (with bookmark receipt!)

FP01 CoverFOOD PHREAKING #01 Cover Art Poster – $25 
Limited edition screen printed artwork by Jen Tong 

 

Hope to see you there!

Kindle Nexus Update

April 4, 2014

This post originally appeared on the Kindle Project’s Nexus blog. The Kindle Project have been amazing and generous supporters of our work.


RECENT WORK

It has been a little less than a year since our last blog post for Kindle Nexus and a lot has happened. This is a visual report of some of our most recent work, and an update on research mentioned in our last transmission.

COBALT-60 SAUCE

In last year’s blog post we described the Cobalt-60 Barbecue Sauce that we were in the process of making. This project dives deeper into the untold history of mutation bred crops.

Here are some image of the bottles of sauce that we produced, an image from the party that helped pull it all together, and the final installation of the work at the San Jose Museum of Art’s “Around the Table” exhibition. 

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Our research into the history and future of mutation bred crops continues, and we are exploring the possibility of working with a research scientist to put one or more mutation-bred crops that are currently in our food system through the same rigorous screening process that new transgenic crops undergo. 

Based on our literature review on the subject thus far, no one has returned to these somewhat unusual crops and used contemporary scientific tools to get a clearer understanding of how their genotypes were transformed by radiation.

We believe this research into mutation breeding research is important in order to better understand how scientific and political decisions made in the recent past (1950s – today) are effecting our current food system, and the contemporary choices we make. 

As wider range of techniques are employed for transforming the genomes of food crops (selective breeding, mutation breeding, transgenic breeding, CRISPR techniques), and seed cultivars are increasingly swapped in and out of the food system at a faster rate, humanity would benefit from a more thorough and nuanced understanding of what has happened in the past. 

 

FOOD PHREAKING

After much collaborative effort, we finally rereleased Food Phreaking issue #00 in July of 2013. Since then it was named one of Gizmodo’s and Edible Geography’s 2013 books of the year. This has meant that we are almost completely sold out of the first print edition!

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A free .PDF of the book is available here, and for those people that want to hold and flip though hard copy, a few are still available for purchase here: foodphreaking.com.

As we work on Issue #1 of Food Phreaking (due out in April 2014) we continue to strike a balance between free information and beautiful book design. Both the printed books and digital copies are creative commons licensed, and we ourselves are drawing on the commons significantly in the creation of these publications. Visit www.foodphreaking.com in late April to take a look at Issue #1 “A Culinary Atlas of a Few Curious Botanical Fruits”.

 

PSSC LISBON

In 2013 we were commissioned to design a pop-up restaurant in the dining room of a historical palace as part of the Lisbon Architectural Triennale. After many months of planning and collaborations with Turismo de Portugal, we finally launched the restaurant with a series of 3 meals. Culinary students from three local food colleges ran the restaurant for 3 months, and we were able to make connections with interesting producers and food thinkers throughout Portugal during the run of the restaurant.

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THE CENTER TURNS 3

Finally, a video that summarizes our first 3 years of activity (2010 – 2013). The video gives a comprehensive overview of all of our activities for the last three years:

This video was used to apply for the VIDA 15.0: Art & Artificial Life awards. The Center was selected as the People’s Choice awardee. This meant that we were able to travel to Madrid, Spain in March of this year, and install a new archival library of all of our work to date. The library was conceived as a shipping container that can be sent and pop up any where in the world, and it is currently looking for it’s next home. 

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The container was fabricated in collaboration with Matthew Williams, a craftsperson in Portland, Oregon. 

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Center for PostNatural History Entrance Hall

February 11, 2014

Extremely zoomable Gigapan photo of the entrance hall to the Center for PostNatural History in Pittsburgh, USA. Some of our posters are in the upper left. 

Culinary Hacking Workshop NL

January 21, 2014

On December 2013, the Center for Genomic Gastronomy held a 2-day workshop called “Cooking with Constraints: Leaks, Databases & Policies” for 50 undergraduate students from the Willem de Kooning Academie in Rotterdam. The workshop concluded with a 10 course meal event where each student-group presented their work.

Each student-group was assigned one database, primary source document or policy document. They were asked to sift through the database or primary source documents looking for inspiration and leads, in order to create new ingredients, recipes or menu items.

Group 1: Wikileaks cocktail

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Group 2: Not Amused

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Group 3: Noah’s Angels

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Group 4:  Respect Radiation

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Group 5: Google Patents Monopoly

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Group 6: Behind the Salmon

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Group 7: Artificial Superficial

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Group 8: Another One Bites the Crops

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Group 9: Consumars

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Group 10: Project Propagate

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 The workshop and dinner were generously hosted and put together by Anja Groten and  Selby Gildemacher who run the De Punt artist space in Amsterdam.

Event description: 

Designers used to define their practice (and some still do) by the medium they use. Nowadays more and more designers are thinkers who develop strategies. They do research. Designers are social; they consider process as design and create systems, which design for them. The medium seems to become secondary. The attitude and approach gets relevant instead. Designers are involved in think tanks, community and participatory projects, interventions in public space and so forth. They are investigators, journalists, editors, coordinators, advisors, … One can think of a designers’ practice as a set of mind, which demands flexibility.

In the spirit of the current editorial and research project “Culinary Hacking – Another cookbook” we invited Center for Genomic Gastronomy to guide a 2-day workshop/ food lab for all 2nd year graphic design students.

Zack Denfeld and Cathrine Kramer, the founders of Center for Genomic Gastronomy, will come to Amsterdam on 16th and 17th to give us some insight in their independent art-, design and cooking practice. Furthermore they will investigate with us how a designer, can tell a story with food.

The venue for the workshop will be artist-run project space “De Punt” in Amsterdam. At De Punt you will collectively design new recipes in order to investigate the topic of food in relation to politics and cultural change.

Each group is assigned one database, primary source document or policy documents. You should sift through the database or primary source documents looking for inspiration and leads, in order to create new ingredients, recipes or menu items.

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CURRENT & UPCOMING

Sept. 25 - 27, 2014
London Bridge Live Arts Festival
March 11 - April 19th 2014
VIDA 15.0 Award Show
March 28 & 29, 2014
Future Everything Festival
06-08 DECEMBER, 2012
MutaMorphosis Conference, Prague
07 OCTOBER, 2012
Artist Talk, Article 2012
06 OCTOBER, 2012
ArtMeatFlesh
28 SEPTEMBER, 2012
RECIPES FOR DISASTER
JUNE–DECEMBER 2012
DA4GA exhibition at Naturalis
JUNE–JULY 2012
MK Gallery. England.
09 FEBRUARY - 05 APRIL, 2012
Edible Exhibition, Science Gallery, Dublin