Culinary Forensics Lab: Aalto Biofilia

May 15, 2014


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). 












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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.”

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“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.”

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“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.

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

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

*Entrance to the event is $5 


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.


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.


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. 


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. 



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!

FP0_G1 FP0_G5 FP0_G9

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:

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 in late April to take a look at Issue #1 “A Culinary Atlas of a Few Curious Botanical Fruits”.



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.

PSSC-1-web _MG_8693 PSSC-3-LR



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. 


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


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


Group 2: Not Amused


Group 3: Noah’s Angels


Group 4:  Respect Radiation


Group 5: Google Patents Monopoly


Group 6: Behind the Salmon


Group 7: Artificial Superficial


Group 8: Another One Bites the Crops


Group 9: Consumars


Group 10: Project Propagate


 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.

Spice Mix Super-Computer @ CultureTECH

November 21, 2013

More than a year after its construction, The Spice Mix Super-Computer is still on the road! Its latest journey was to Derry, Northern Ireland for CultureTECH 2013, a festival of digital technology, media, music and art. From September 12-14, visitors of all ages and backgrounds designed and tested their own spice mixes with the help of the Spice Mix Super-Computer. As the newest member of the Center for Genomic Gastronomy, I had the privilege of hosting the caravan and watching as visitors engaged with this new space. 


Derry3 copy

The Spice Mix Super-Computer is part of the Mobile Republic, a fleet of traveling, interactive caravans, each designed by different artists and each offering a unique experience for visitors.

Derry2    Derry5 Derry4


At CultureTECH Festival, the Mobile Republic was located in a central city square, particularly accessible to anyone passing through. From uniformed school children, to unknowing tourists, to tech industry enthusiasts, hundreds of people prototyped new spice mixes and engaged with the Spice Mix’s process of exploration.



The Spice Mix Super-Computer was commisioned by the AND Festival
Photo Credits: Craig Oates, Ruth McCullough, Emma Conley

Old Craigie Road Allotment

November 20, 2013

The Center is currently in Dundee, Scotland for an Artist Residency as part of the Nil By Mouth project. We will be here for the next two weeks, doing research into multiple food related topics.


Yesterday we visited Tom Walsh at his plot in the Old Craigie Road Allotments. There were hints of frost visible on the soil surface, and a handful of hardy plants still in the ground: kohlrabi, brussels sprouts and giant turnips. Inside his greenhouse the wood stove kept the dahlia bulbs and us warm. Tom told us that the allotment is one of about ten in in Dundee. It was established in 1933, and he has been there for 50 years.


Before visiting, I was trying to find out more about Old Craigie Road Allotment, and while digging around the internet I found a report called “To all the Ingenious Allotment Gardeners in Scotland” written by Caitlin O’Brian DeSilvey in 2001. She outlines a tour she did of allotments across Scotland and the article gives a good overview of allotment gardening practices. She wrote the following about the Old Craigie Road Allotment “when my host Alistair Bain propped a ladder against his shed so that I could take some aerial photographs from his roof, I saw the site in its gritty glory—a horticultural shanty-town of makeshift sheds and productive plots.”


You can glean Tom’s plot through the fence in the left of this image. Visiting the allotment in winter, the green was replaced by brown soil and Tom was busy with digging – getting the beds ready for spring before the ground gets too hard. He often saves seeds, although he also orders from seed catalogues, and he showed us a picture of what his garden at home looked like one season.


Tom also showed us a the potato varieties he grows: Blue Bell, Rooster, Osprey, Kestrel, Cultra and Celine(? Not sure about the last one, since my note taking was a little messy). It’s curious how many potato varieties are named after birds. After our visit I discovered the British Potato Varieties Database which catalogues the huge variety of potatoes in the UK.


Being complete novices to the culture surrounding allotments, we were surprised and interested to hear about ‘the shows’. These are competitions held by the different allotments both locally and nationally, where growers compete for awards in multiple categories, from “Six Vegetables” (the image below shows the type of vegetables you can choose to present) to “Most Unusual Exhibit”. This seems like a great way to encourage biodiversity. Judges need to be certified and it seems to be taken very seriously. We hope to speak to a judge during our stay to find out more about the competitive side of gardening.


We have lots more to explore over the next couple of weeks, and look forward to sharing our observations and discoveries.

The Nil By Mouth project is organised and supported by Crichton Carbon Centre, Creative Scotland and Wide Open.


AND Festival 2013

November 19, 2013

On October 5th The Center for Genomic Gastronomy had a great time participating in the Abandon Normal Devices (AND) Festival in Liverpool, England. This year we took part in the AND fair.

Screen Shot 2013-11-19 at 5.08.58 PM

The AND fair was the perfect setting to fabricate and demo a new project called DeExtinction Deli.

“The De-extinction Deli is a fantastical market stand designed to highlight the emerging technologies, risks, and outcomes of the growing movement to bring back, and possibly eat, extinct species.” 


 During the day long fair we spoke to people who had wide range of opinions about DeExtinction and eating DeExtinct animals. (Flickr Set)

Screen Shot 2013-11-19 at 5.16.28 PM

Visitors to the deli were able to vote on whether they thought DeExtinction was a good idea or not, and whether they would eat DeExtinct animals.


We even met one participant that completely challenged our assumptions about the rhetoric of DeExtinction. This visitor to the D-Deli self-identified as a Creationist who “doesn’t believe in Evolution or Dinosaurs”, but thought that bringing animals back from extinction was doing “God’s work”. And he would definitely eat them, too. Fascinating. 

The DeExtinction Deli even has vegetarian options:



More information on the DeExtinction Deli.

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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
28 SEPTEMBER, 2012
DA4GA exhibition at Naturalis
MK Gallery. England.
09 FEBRUARY - 05 APRIL, 2012
Edible Exhibition, Science Gallery, Dublin