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BLOG Archive for May, 2013

Planetary Sculpture Supper Club at the Center for PostNatural History

May 28, 2013

On March 28, 2013 we held an edition of the Planetary Sculpture Supper Club in Pittsburgh, PA.

The Center for Genomic Gastronomy worked in collaboration with The Center for PostNatural History & PostNatural Art Studio at Carnegie Mellon University. Students from the studio designed and prepared dishes. What follows are some of the stories and foods that were shared.


Final menu:

Three Milks: Alive, Dead & Resurrected

tasting flight
A Selection of Five Sugars

amuse bouche
Invisible: Root Vegetable Stew with Waxworm Roux
on Waxworm Fritter
Imposter: Lumpia “Wax Moth” atop a Honey-Chile Sauce
Immaculate: Waxworm Soft Shell Taco with Chile Marrón

Producer: Seaweed Salad
Primary Consumer: Boiled Shrimp Tossed in an Old Bay Blend
Secondary Consumer: Pan-Fried Catfish
Secondary Consumer: Seared Lemon-Pepper Pike
Tertiary Consumer: Blackened Alligator in a Citrus Honey Sauce

Frackfluid & Baileys

Lemon Curd, Avacado & Sour Cream Tartlet
Served with a Miracle Berry



A Word on Planetary Sculpture: Eaters as Agents of Selection

The Planetary Sculpture Supper Club is a collection of foods, recipes and stories that typify some of the ways humans unconsciously sculpt the planet’s biosphere through eating habits, flavour preferences and food technologies. We hope this semi-regular Supper Club is an opportunity to explore the co-evolution of gastronomy and larger ecological, technological and political systems.

Animal and plant breeders have steered evolution for thousands of years. However, eaters and chefs ALSO exert selection pressures on the kinds of life forms and ingredients that are propagated within the eco-agro-culinary system.Every human eater slowly reformulates the planet as they consume it.

The daily choices we make about what to eat for dinner, whether it’s a Big Mac meal or a homegrown salad, impacts the diversity, abundance and distribution of life on the planet. Every time a food-secure eater chooses to eat one kind of food over another they make a small, downstream, but not insignificant selection pressure that privileges certain genomes to propagate on the planet. You, as an eater, are an agent
of selection.

With a dramatic increase in the human population over the last century, and an increasing amount of land and planetary biomass dedicated to the human food system, human eaters are some of the most powerful forces of planetary sculpture.

 – Center for Genomic Gastronomy




Three Milks: alive, dead & resurrected
by Natalya Pinchuk and Dana Sperry

For this aperitif course, we present to you a tasting of milk in three distinct forms—raw without any processing as it comes from the cow, lifeless and reconstituted from freeze dried powder, and dead milk resurrected with kefir grains of bacteria and yeasts. Milk is at the center of many cultural narratives and myths, ideological arguments, commercial interests, scientific debates, and health fads. Who would have thought milk to be so complicated?

The first two samplings speak for opposing agricultural and economic systems. The raw milk represents the idyllic local small farm with happy cows grazing in beautiful pastures, serving the needs of individuals’ gut microflora nearby. The powdered milk comes to us from the industrial food complex with an abundance of ethical and environmental problems, yet it allows for long term storage and ease of transportation across large distances, especially useful in moments of crisis.  One nourishes the holistic body, the other addresses the logistics of feeding large populations. We offer the third cup as a possibility for addressing both. Please taste and contemplate these worldviews.

Whole Raw Cow’s Milk

Sourced from Swiss Villa, Wrightsville, PA Labeled as 100% grass fed, no grain, no soy, no corn. “Raw Milk is known to contain harmful bacteria and may cause food borne illness. These bacteria can seriously affect the health of anyone who drinks raw milk, however they are particularly dangerous to pregnant women, children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.”
– PA Department of Agriculture

Reconstituted Instant Nonfat Dry Milk

Sourced from Shurfine®, WesternFamily Foods, Inc.
Labeled as rich in calcium, fortified with vitamins A&D, no preservatives, pasteurized, extra grade.
ingredients: nonfat dry milk, vitamin A palmitate, vitamin D3

Shurfine® Milk Kefir

Shurfine instant nonfat dry milk and water cultured with kefir grains*
Fermentation by-products: carbon dioxide, ethanol (alcohol)


Tasting Flight

Tip of the Tongue: a selection of five sugars
by Max Hawkins & Melissa Bryan

“What is in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” – William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

But what is sweetness? For most, the definition ends at “tastes like sugar,” but in truth the sensation is more complex. Each sweetness is not Equal. We present a course of five sugars and sugar substitutes in an attempt to expand the definition of sweetness. Through each sweetener’s history we highlight the improbability of its discovery, its unique flavor profile, and the unlikely role that the human tongue played in the development of sugar.


Notes on Tasting

Most sweeteners were discovered on the tip of a scientist’s finger. As a reflection of this process, we invite you to taste each sugar from your fingertips. For the clearest tasting experience, reserve a finger for each sugar. Place the sugar on the tip of your tongue and allow it to move toward the back of your mouth. Cleanse the palate in between tastings with sparkling water.




Amuse Bouche
The Trinity of Entomophagy: invisible : imposter : immaculate
by Rigel Richardson & Lazae LaSpina

We aim to persuade our dinner guests that: The aversion to eating insects is psychological and can be overcome through good experiences; Insect foods can (and should) be delicious; insects are not an exotic ingredient; insects do not need to be prominent and visible as a part of your food.

Taking inspration from the Catholic ideas of Transubstantiation and the Trinity, our dish focuses on the acknowledgement of our food source as once-living organism and aims to knock down a few insect-food myths. Through a playful (and genuinely respectful) ritualized consumption, we follow the Waxworm from its food source (honey) to what would have been its adulthood (the Wax Moth) through three tiny courses.


Invisible Take comfort in comfort food! You can’t see the insects

The first course (pot pie filling with waxworm roux on waxworm fritter) incorporates the insect less apparently, demonstrating that insects do not have to be a visible component of a meal to add to its flavor and/or nutritional content. It also shows that Insects can be incorporated into very ordinary dishes and should not be exclusively a feature
of exotic cuisine.

Ritual Aspect: Anise Hyssop dried leaves to sprinkle on the fritter before consuming. To spiritually cleanse the space/food before eating begins.

Imposter: It’s the same as other foods that crunch and squish

Our second course (vegetarian lumpia) presents an artistic wax moth facsimile that possesses some of the repulsive aspects of whole insects as food sources. Laying in a swirl of chile-honey sauce, the moth’s body, a single lumpia, crunches to reveal a soft center. But these are also natural aspects of many accepted foods (tacos, lumpia, pastries, etc.) and therefore can be overcome psychologically when approaching an insect as food.

Ritual Aspect: Thyme leaves in the honey to smudge onto the lumpia. To invite positive energy and for courage to consume the third course!

Immaculate The insect revealed through its remarkable life cycle. Take it or leave it!

The third course (waxworm tacos) challenges the dinner guest to overcome their fears or hesitations. With at least one good experience and a gentle confrontation with potential aversions out of the way, what lies ahead is one last delicious morsel very obviously featuring waxworms.

Ritual Aspect: Tulsi (Holy Basil) dried leaves to sprinkle on the taco before consuming. To perform a blessing of enlightenment.




Upstream: a sampling of a southern aquatic food chain
by Allison Huey & Nathan Trevino

This course presents a sampling of various organisms from an aquatic food chain of the southeastern plains and southern coastal plains ecoregions of the United States. We chose to include a producer and three different types of consumers, preparing them in ways that reflect their regions of origin.

The samples are plated in a circle, reflecting the cyclical nature of food chains and the transfer of energy throughout. We invite our diners to participate in not only the consuming of these organisms, but also the consideration of our own place within food chains and the ways we alter them for our own personal gain.

Undaria pinnatifida
Seaweed Salad

Primary Consumer
Litopenaeus setiferus
Boiled shrimp tossed
in an Old Bay blend

Secondary Consumer
Ictalurus furcatus
Pan-fried catfish

Secondary Consumer
Esox niger
Grilled lemon-pepper pike

Tertiary Consumer
Alligator mississippiensis
Blackened alligator in
a citrus honey sauce


Frackfluid & Baileys: exploring the murky layers of hydaulic fracking
by Sarah Anderson & Jess Waldman

The Fracktails water bar combines representations of the basic aspects of the hydraulic fracturing process with some small bit of human enrichment activity. The drink consists of various alcoholic beverages encased in ice. The ice is then permeated with a small drilled hole and carbonated water is pumped inside. The liquors represent the chemicals used in the process, while the carbonated coffee represents the large amounts of water used. The syringe represents the pumping of the fluids into the underground drilled pipeline, to release the gasses leaking from the shale fractures. The bubbles from the carbonated water represent those natural gasses. And the ice structure that surrounds all this represents the contaminated groundwater. The fracking process that the guests get to learn, watch, and do is the human enrichment aspect of the project.




Miracle Berry: change the eater, not the food
by Natalya Pinchuk with The Center for Genomic Gastronomy

The last course of the evening highlights one area of emerging research at the Center for Genomic Gastronomy: using novel ingredients to cook the eater and not the food. The use of the miracle berry (Synsepalum dulcificum) is an example of preparing food for consumption by manipulating the eater. The miracle berry contains a glycoprotein called miraculin, that temporarily stimulates sweet taste receptors and masks sour-taste buds, causing the brain to have anomalous food experiences. Once eaters are in an altered state of culinary consciousness, specific meals can be prepared to cause delight and surprise. What other chemical, architectural, biological and psychological interventions can be identified or imagined for human eaters, in order to modify taste?

Miraculin itself has a hotly contested history. The plant is indigenous to West Africa, where it is used to improve the palatability of acidic maize dishes and to sweeten sour beverages. The plant and uses for its fruit were documented by French explorer Chevalier des Marchais in 1725. A failed attempt was made in the 1970s to commercialize the fruit when the US FDA classified the berry as a food additive. It is unclear how lobbying by the U.S. sugar industry effected this decision, because the FDA has refused to release files on the subject. More recently, Japanese scientists have created a genetically stable expression of functional miraculin in transgenic tomato plants.



This Planetary Sculpture Supper Club, Pittsburgh
is presented to you by:
The Center for Genomic Gastronomy
The Center for PostNatural History
Natalya Pinchuk and Dana Sperry

And all the students in the PostNatural Art Studio
at Carnegie Mellon University:
    Allison Huey
    Jess Waldman
    Lazae LaSpina
    Max Hawkins
    Melissa Bryan
    Nathan Trevino
    Rigel Richardson
    Sarah Anderson

Special thanks to Lauren for her patience as we bombarded her kitchen.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

Intern #1. Update #1. Open Engagement Conference.

by Emilie  


The Center for Genomic Gastronomy was invited to participate in Portland State University’s Open Engagement Conference during the weekend of May 17th-19th.  This international conference, centered around social practice, seeks to foster meaningful dialogue about socially and politically engaged art-making practices.  


Zack Denfeld gave a lunchtime lecture about the professional practice he has with Cathrine (Cat) Kramer, The Center for Genomic Gastronomy (CENTGG).  Cat was unable to make the lecture at the last minute , so I got catapulted into the mix.  I am, until I come up with a better, more important sounding faux-title, calling myself (in Steve Zissou-style) Intern #1.  And no, unfortunately, I don’t have a Glock, or even one to share. 


The morning began with purchasing eight pounds of grapefruits from a nearby grocer and stealing packets of artificial sweeteners from the coffee shop (don’t worry, it was corporate).  Following this, there may have been a bend in time, because next thing I know I’m preparing salads for roughly 30 attendees while Zack gives his presentation about CENTGG’s myriad projects.  I, unfortunately, am unable to go into detail about the lecture because I tuned it all out to focus on shredding jicama.  Maybe now I should be called Chef Intern #1.  I prepared two salads, created from ingredients that traveled across continents after the Columbian Exchange.  One salad brings the Old World to the New World, and the reverse for the second.  The basic recipes are listed below. 


Old World to New World


Green kale

English peas

Fresh apricot (chopped)

Roasted rhubarb



Olive oil

Raw, toasted pistachios


Lemon juice



New World to Old World


Jicama (shredded)

Red bell pepper


Corn (raw, cut off the cob)




The Entire Menu for the lunch time talk is as follows:


Mutagenic Grapefruit, Jalepeno & Gin

amuse bouche
Doug Fir Tips

Geitost, Roquefort, Seastack

Columbaian Excahange Salad:
New World, Old World

The Center for Genomic Gastronomy
for Open Engagement
May 17, 2013




Thanks to Mack Mcfarland for helping prep at the last minute. Images 1 & 2 by Lexa Walsh, all other images by Jake Richardson. (Intern #2).


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