October 4, 2011

Hey! This is Vibhuti Kanitkar from Pune, currently studying in Srishti School Of Art Design and Technology in Bangalore. I am a second year foundation course student inclined towards the idea of taking up visual communication for my specialisation. I enjoy and appreciate good food and consider this art project a unique and great opportunity to make my love for food and design meet and work together!

Foodie Me:

With both parents in the Armed forces (military) I grew up an army brat like everyone likes to call me. Having to travel in different parts of the country and actually living there has made me accustomed to a lot of variety of tastes and appreciate different kinds of food. Also the army has a section of soldiers who are trained in cooking for the other soldiers as well as the parties called badakhanas . So there is always a fixed style of food that we got to eat in the army life. The food in army is basically made out of the ration that’s allotted by the Indian army all over the country. These foods comprise of everything from condensed milk to fresh milk ready to make jell-o and custard packets breads eggs vegetables and chicken. A lot of it being made out of tined food there is a particular taste to the food. Most parties have cocktails and drinks with a platter of snacks prior to the dinner. The snacks served are generally fried innovative inventions like cheese toasts, hara-bara kebab, cheese balls, fish fingers, potato fries and tandoori tikkas. The dinner also has a pattern. If its English there will be a cutlet dinner rolls butter a baked dish generally with potatoes and one white or brown sauce chicken dish. If it’s an Indian platter, there will be an Indian dal (legume) an assortment of Indian breads and a paneer (cottage cheese) dish or a mix vegetable and then and chicken or a mutton dish. There is also a Chinese platter. Dinner is always followed with sweets. Even the presentation of how the table is set up to how the food is served is all very disciplined.

Dining table

Away from this I am from the city of Pune. Our ethnic Maharashtra meal is a simple dal, rice a vegetable and chapatti. However both my grandmothers cook them extremely differently and I love both styles. My maternal grandmother loves cooking her food full of spices and flavors. It is very spicy and has a coconut grounded past base with chilies lime or tamarind and a little sugar. On the contrary my paternal grandmother uses more jaggery than sugar has milder flavors less chilies and whole ground coconut instead of a paste while cooking her dishes.

Coming to family cooking time, my mom, brother and me love cooking. My father loves to help out but stays out of it for the benefit of all those who are going to eat it. When we get down to cooking its always a special meal. My favorite thing to do with mom is when we both cook together experimenting on our own in reproducing a dish or a meal we both ate and really liked. In short I love food. I love cooking it and even more eating it. I consider food as an ultimate art piece as it intrigues the sense of smell, taste, sight, touch and sometimes even hearing

My Tri-misu

Being a foodie and trying out every new place recommended by a friend being my hobby, my list of favorites dishes is rather a long one. But if I had to pick out three that I really like they’d have to be something special. So here goes.

The first one that I’ll like to put into my tri-misu would be Butter-chicken.Butter-chicken being one dish that I have tried in every city I have moved to. The basic ingredients and method of cooking it being the same it is fascinating to see how the little flavoring’s differ from city to city in the south they make it sweeter while in the north its much more heavy. Its one of the most common Indian chicken dish and I love how every place you try it at you know it’s the same but yet different!

The next on the list is an Afghani dish that my mother experimented after eating an Afghani meal. Its called Baujan it basic ingredient or vegetable being a brinjal it take a long time to prepare and is a baked dish made in tomato pure and an Afghani local type of cheese that my mom replaced with processed cheese. It tastes brilliant and the best part I have know I have no idea I am eating an brinjal (eggplant)!

The last is a tosses macaroni-walnut salad in honey mint sauce. It’s easy and fast to make very healthy including its dressing that made out of curd. I love the crunchy walnuts and fresh lettuce that juxtapose the boiled macaroni. The sweet and minty taste of the curd dressing is like the perfect flavoring for it. What’s best about it is that it tastes great and is healthy as well. A rare combination in the food department!

This is basically a salad experiment that my mom made. Its basic ingredients are some fresh lettuce, chopped cubes of cucumber and boiled macaroni. For the garnishing we use yoghurt and mix salt, honey, pepper, and fresh mint finely ground. After the yoghurt mayo is mixed well it only needs to be added to the salad. One can also add some cut cubes of apple or grapes to the salad depending on your taste. Its easy and fast to make.

FoodLab Bangalore – is a 3 week workshop the Center for Genomic Gastronomy conducted with sophomores from the Srishti School of Art, Design & Technology in the fall of 2011. Students will examine innovation and conservation in South Asian food cultures, building on recent research of the Center (utopian cuisines, mutagenic meals) and working towards the next edition of the Planetary Sculpture Supper Club to be held in Bangalore on Nov. 12th.

Follow the conversation all week here on our Blog, join in the comments and use the twitter hashtag #foodlabbangalore to keep up to date.


My name is Tanushree Agarwal. I belong to Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, India. But from the past year I have been studying in Bangalore in Srishti College of Art, Design and Technology.

Family Practice

Food in my family is mostly seen as substance that one consumes so as to fulfill their hunger needs and stay healthy. No one in my family spends too much time thinking about what they are going to eat, whereas I will spend time considering what kind of food I will be eating at home, or select where I eat out deliberately. So considering this, the food that is cooked at my house is a bit monotonous and repetitive, every day lunch always includes chapatti, pulses and a vegetable, and dinner usually has two vegetables with chapatti and some sweet. On the other hand breakfast has a bit of variety, everything from South Indian dosas and idlis to sandwiches and cereals is served.

In my house, we usually have a cook who comes once or twice a day to prepare the meals for my parents and me. The cook arrives an hour before lunch or dinner, and once she is done cooking she will leave the dishes on the stove, so that we can heat and eat when are ready.

My mother just hates cooking especially making chapatti is like a nightmare for her. She hates to be in the kitchen and prepare food for others. And even if she manages to make something for us, then we have to make sure we eat it quietly without nagging otherwise we will have to face a whole lot of complaining from her about how we never enjoy the food she cooks. But in the end I just feel happy about the fact that she at least tried to cook something for us and I must say she is not that bad. On the weekends my dad also likes cooking. He mostly cooks non-vegetarian for me and my brother. He is the kind of person who likes following new recipes every time he takes over the kitchen and adding some of his own secret ingredients in whatever he cooks.

The way my family eats has changed significantly since we went from living in a joint family to living separately. Earlier, my grandfather was quite particular with whatever we ate. And back then we all used to have lunch and dinner with the family sitting and eating on one table.

My family tends to draw on general Indian cuisine – not paying too much attention to any one regional style. Even though my family has lived in Rajasthan for over 2 generations, Rajasthani food is only cooked in my house about once a year.
There are three basic things in the Rajasthani authentic cuisine. One is the batti, which is like a bread with a lot of butter, then there is the dal which is a Hindi word for pulses and third thing includes a sweet called churma. Then other than these there are things like vegetables, curd, rice and pickle served with it. It is a task to eat the whole thali (plate) of food that is served. The main reason is because all of it is quite heavy and also not very easy to cook.

On some occasions even I like trying out new recipes. But mostly I do not enjoy cooking Indian food and rather like trying out different cuisines. Things that I cook most often include cakes, cheesecakes and tiramisu.

I mostly developed this fascination for food and trying out new things because of my neighbors back at home. They own a big restaurant in Jaipur, Rajasthan and whenever I visit their house (which is almost everyday) I am made to try some dish or the other. They even bake from home and the cakes they make are just mind-blowing. Looking at them cook I also wanted to know more about cooking. At a point I thought of taking up cooking as my career but somehow it just did not work out.

YUM food

Strawberry Yogurt.

I am just crazy about it. From when I was a child I have always loved curd in general.

But my liking for flavoured yogurt started when I moved to Bangalore. Back at home we always ate home made curd and I used to think flavoured curd would taste horrible but when I tried it here, I knew I could not stay without eating it again and again. I usually eat packaged yogurt. I do not prefer any brand, if I see strawberry yogurt written on any container, I would just buy it without giving it a second thought.

Chicken Momos/dumpling.

It is a Tibetan dish. Momos are made with flour and water dough and is stuffed with a variety of fillings such as vegetables, chicken, beef and many more. They are then steamed and served with a red chilli sauce.
I can survive on momos if gotten a chance. In Banagalore I feel a little depressed about the fact that I do not get them at the place where I stay. I have to travel like two hours just to eat good and authentic chicken momos, which does not happen often. I love every part of it- the juiciness, the steam coming out, the smell and also the spicy sauce served with it.

Pav Bhaji

The authentic North-Indian preparation with a large amount of butter, spices and the soft bread served with it makes me drool and want it all the time. I can eat Pavbhaji anywhere and everywhere. I love eating it with lots of onions and lemon. It is again an item that I crave for in Bangalore. I do not find any authentic place nearby that serves good North-Indian Pavbhaji but I still manage with what I get, as long as it is edible. Back at home, this is one dish that my mom has to cook for me and she cooks it quite well. The best part about it is that one can add any vegetable in it and cook it and you wouldn’t even realize what all is added into it. So I always feel satisfied after eating it as I feel a lot of nutritious vegetables have gone inside my body, which otherwise I would avoid eating.

FoodLab Bangalore – is a 3 week workshop the Center for Genomic Gastronomy conducted with sophomores from the Srishti School of Art, Design & Technology in the fall of 2011. Students will examine innovation and conservation in South Asian food cultures, building on recent research of the Center (utopian cuisines, mutagenic meals) and working towards the next edition of the Planetary Sculpture Supper Club to be held in Bangalore on Nov. 12th.

Follow the conversation all week here on our Blog, join in the comments and use the twitter hashtag #foodlabbangalore to keep up to date.

Its all about the food

Hey I am Anchana
I am from Coimbatore, I studied in Rishivalley, and have been studying in Srishti school of art and design for the past one and a half years.

The nostalgic history

Banana leaves and silver plates,
The aromas of spices and vegetables
Bubbling gravy, oil soaked newspaper
sitting on a high chair leaning on the table
Salivating as words float about in different languages
About different days and different food.
The hot cases come onto the table one by one
Rice, sambar, rasam, porrial, curd, pickle, podi…

It’s a ritual we fell into. It something we looked forward to.
It was food that brought us together.
The sambar poured into the rice, mixed and divided onto plates.
Followed by a course of rice and rasam accompanied by the recently fried savory.
Finished of with curd rice.

Its food our ancestors passed on from city to city, adapting changing through generations,
From Kota to Madurai to Coimbatore.
Lentils, rice, chillies, mint leaves, bay leaves, turmeric, cloves, cardamom, salt and pepper,
we have been taught to differentiate appreciate and consume with pleasure.
Through generations we have taken food to another level.

South Indian Cuisine
All time consumables

Its all about balance, balance between textures and balance between tastes and smells.


A Mexican taco is my favorite food as it is the perfect balance between crunchy and soft. A sandwhich is too soft, a packet of chips is only crunch, a masala papad is over bearing in its taste so you do not feel the textures, but a taco which has a beans or a chicken filling and gives room for a spicy sauce has the perfect balalnce of taste and texture. The very first time i had a taco was in a restaurant in my hometown, which was experimenting with food from various parts of the world. It was a different kind of taco, which was topped with hung curd ( and a little cheese. It was quite a task eating it because with every bite more of the shell would break and the filling would fall out. But after the first time I had it I was hooked.

Every once in a while I visit Taco Bell where they serve large varieties of tacos or go to restaurants where they serve tacos. The taco shells itself are never made in the restaurant itself, they shipped in plastic packages. I am assuming they are bought ready made, but I am not sure where the supplier is. Is there one large Taco Bell factory in India that makes all of the hard Corn Tortillas or are they flown in? I was surprised to learn..or Doing the research for this blog I learned….The real Mexican taco actually does not have a hard shell but is a soft corn bread wrapped around chicken or beans. The crunchy taco was an invented in Texas.

Milk and biscuits is another favorite that I can eat at all times f the day. It has to be chocolate chip biscuits and cold milk, so that the milk does not soak the biscuits to fast so there is a slight element of crunchiness the over bearing sweetness of biscuits is reduced by the milk. The prefered biscuits are britania goodday chocolate chip biscuits. It’s an Indian brand of biscuits.

A fruit juice is the healthiest refreshing drink. Every fruit has its own set of nutritional values that is necessary for our body. You can get fresh squeezed fruit on the street (Musambi, Chickoo, Apple, Pineapple) and pre-packaged flavored juice-drinks (Cranberry Cocktail…)

I enjoy any form of fruit and a juice is the easiest way of consuming it without having anything drip down your elbow or cover your face. Be it packaged or fresh fruit, as long as it is not saturated with sugar it is the best drink. It is very convenient that every fruit can have either milk or water added to its pulp to make it a refreshing drink.

fresh juice
Two juices I bought freshly blended at the store. You can see the mixers at the back.

FoodLab Bangalore – is a 3 week workshop the Center for Genomic Gastronomy conducted with sophomores from the Srishti School of Art, Design & Technology in the fall of 2011. Students will examine innovation and conservation in South Asian food cultures, building on recent research of the Center (utopian cuisines, mutagenic meals) and working towards the next edition of the Planetary Sculpture Supper Club to be held in Bangalore on Nov. 12th.

Follow the conversation all week here on our Blog, join in the comments and use the twitter hashtag #foodlabbangalore to keep up to date.

A Pinch of This and a Dash of That


Hey, I am Koshy Brahmatmaj. I am from Mumbai and currently studying in Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, Bangalore.

I come from a nuclear family with working parents. My parents are from Bihar. Papa form Basantpur and ma from Madhubani. Didi was born in Patna and I was born in Mumbai. Even though they were working and had a job they made sure at least one parent was home to eat lunch and dinner with me and my sister. It is only recent that I have had major meals of the day without my parents. I don’t know if this happened with my sister or not but I am pretty sure it happened with me because I am very cranky about what I eat. I can eat everything but I can’t eat the same thing again and again. I think it was only because of me the experimentation of food in my family started. Most of the time because of our schedules, dinner used to be the only time we are together. Food for us means sharing your thoughts about life, sharing your career aspirations and etc. except I wasn’t allowed to talk. Not because I talk rubbish most of the time or because the youngest member of family should not interfere in adult matters but because I can’t talk while eating. So if I would start talking I would forget about my food and take 3 hours to finish one roti.


lunch with family at Lady Hill, Gale, Sri Lanka

Cooking is something everyone in my family loves. But because of hectic lives and laziness (just me) we had to hire a cook. After around 15 years of trying out different cooks we finally found the one we like, Fatima Khala. Now khala loves taking leave. Whenever she doesn’t come all of us take charge of the food. Ma or didi make sabzi and bhujiya, I prepare dal and rice and papa and I work as a team and make roties. Both of us are horrible at it. His roties look like England and Nepal and mine like Australia and Bhutan. For dinner again I prepare dal and rice. If my parents or sister are going to be late then I prepare the sabzi as well. Ma or didi make roties.

The cooking scenario is at its best during the festival of Holi. Holi is very major festival for my family. Preparations for holi start a week before the festival. The entire family plays a major role in the preparations. Didi and I do the shopping. Ma is in charge of the sweets and vegetarian section. Papa is in charge of non vegetarian and drinks section. Didi and I are there to do the labour work. And khala takes care of rice, roti, puri and other miscellaneous things. Best situation is when khala, didi and papa are trying to convince each other that they are better than the other when it comes to cooking mutton.  Every year during holi we eat the typical Bihari food. I love Bihari food.


My three all time favourite foods are aloo chokha, tamatar ki chutney and khaja. I don’t know about tamatar ki chutney but aloo chokha and khaja are Bihari food.

1. Aloo ka chokha is mashed potatoes. The Bihari wat of having mashed potatoes is with mustard oil and dried red chilies. Other variations include adding onions and green chilies. Litti Chokha is a special dish from Bihar. If Bihar was a country then Litti Chokha would be it’s national food. Chokha that is served with Litti is either made from eggplants or potatoes.

2. Tamatar ki chutney is a wannabe salsa type preparation. Tomatoes are first roasted, peeled and mashed. Fresh green chilies, onion and salt are added for flavor. I love having tamatar ki chutney with khichdi. The even taste good with beef momos.

tamatar ki chutney

3. Khaja is my favorite sweet. Wheat flour, sugar and oil are the chief ingredients of khaja. Khaja is again a Bihari dish. They are this puff sort of sweet. Khaja from Rajgir are known for there puffiness. Whenever anyone is travelling to or from Patna or Rajgir I always ask them to get khaja for me.



FoodLab Bangalore – is a 3 week workshop the Center for Genomic Gastronomy conducted with sophomores from the Srishti School of Art, Design & Technology in the fall of 2011. Students will examine innovation and conservation in South Asian food cultures, building on recent research of the Center (utopian cuisines, mutagenic meals) and working towards the next edition of the Planetary Sculpture Supper Club to be held in Bangalore on Nov. 12th.

Follow the conversation all week here on our Blog, join in the comments and use the twitter hashtag #foodlabbangalore to keep up to date.

The Ultimate Family Food Fight!


I’m Kamini Rao, from Bangalore, your go to person on all food matters.. well South Indian food. I want to study the art of changing experiences through the design of space. As naive as it sounds, when I grow up, I want to be the Indian Thomas Heatherwick.

The Post It.

Like most families, mine (the Rao’s) eat one compulsory meal together at dinner. Depending on the meal we split our week between the formal dinning table or lounging around the TV, subconsciously categorizing each meal within a vicious hierarchy where unfortunately Indian food from our region (Karnataka) becomes the mundane ‘everyday’ meal. At the top of the hierarchy we have the relatively exotic Thai meal and it’s close second, Pasta! Our table top is chaotic and for most Indians it’s a bit confusing. Each dish describes a different aspect of my life:

Brahmin Vegetarian – Plated on regular cutlery instead of a banana leaf, consisting mainly of rice and curry’s with an assortment of vegetables (too many vegetables), Catholic Manglorean – Meat, meat and fish! and globalized youth – (unfortunately) Dominoes or Mcdonalds.

Food, the single source of life has provided our family with plethora of happy memories but above all it has created a vast amount of anxiety. Ever heard of the phrase ‘Sharing is caring’? That concept does not exist in my family. There is a constant tug of war for the last creme brule, the ultimate family food fight. This inside of our fridge almost looks diseased with Post It’s scattered across Tupperware boxes, warding off strangers. And if one of those boxes were to go missing.. the reign of forks and knives begins.


How is it possible to have only three favorites? The torture of elimination!


Dosa’s come in all shapes and sizes and the light, crispy kind is my favorite. It’s mainly a South Indian breakfast dish but has evolved into a popular street food that can be ordered any time of the day.


Sorpotel is a delicious dish made in the southern coastal regions of India, mainly Goa and Mangalore. Originally a Portuguese dish, it’s been adapted with Indian spices and made with pork (which is not a common meat). Rumor has it, not long ago, the dish was flavored with pig’s blood which terrified me, so it’s only a recent favorite of mine.


There are no words to describe Uncle Chipps. The explosion of flavor in your mouth is almost magical.

FoodLab Bangalore – is a 3 week workshop the Center for Genomic Gastronomy conducted with sophomores from the Srishti School of Art, Design & Technology in the fall of 2011. Students will examine innovation and conservation in South Asian food cultures, building on recent research of the Center (utopian cuisines, mutagenic meals) and working towards the next edition of the Planetary Sculpture Supper Club to be held in Bangalore on Nov. 12th.

Follow the conversation all week here on our Blog, join in the comments and use the twitter hashtag #foodlabbangalore to keep up to date.

Family Fondue

October 3, 2011

I’m a Bengali, which in no way defines who I am, but there are certain traits -whether cultural or genetic that have latched themselves onto me like sucker fish. Food is the solution to every problem whether it be health, psychological or emotional. Food is what gets people together or breaks ties depending on the quality of the menu. It provides the medium for soul searching and scintillating arguments.

Yes my friend, a loaded table is a happy household.

A gathering of kindred spirits makes for a hearty meal.
I have observed since long ago that a meal eaten in the right order, in the right place, in the right company can satiate the soul in a way that I can hardly believe nirvana can.

There is something about the heat from the platter, the textures under one’s fingers and the ruckus that comes with every family meal that will never find a substitute.

Honestly speaking, I’m no gourmet. I’m never the first to grab a menu, nor one for patiently sampling wine. I never consciously mull over the firework of flavours that flare up in my mouth during a good meal. No, I’m the one who sits to a corner of the banquet greedily savouring each and every magical moment that the bites reveals. The sounds, the fragrance, the sudden secret chuckles or the passing gestures.

The expression on my brother’s face one warm evening in my grandma’s house in Paris when the mysteries of a mince pie were first revealed to us. He’d bitten into a little smiling train that he thought was a candy, now over ten years later, he still has it a tiny memory of a meal. There was the time a dear old lady made a six year old me comfortable in her woodsy house on the out skirts of St. Petersburg and watched smiling as I demolished an entire plate of steaming pelminis with single minded determination. My mother and my father dancing to Dean Martin on a Sunday evening as the thick meat sauces bubbled over in the kitchen and the spectacular burst of colour scattered over the counter top promised a delicious end to the day.

Dean Martin- That\’s Amore 🙂

I listen during meals, I learn. Our family dinners have taught me more about these people who raised me than chance conversations. There is something revealing in the way a person behaves when they’re submerged in an avalanche of flavours. They find themselves willing to let their guards down, their persona on the side board and join in the numerous arguments that are a traditional side dish with every meal.

The cuisine is varied. During the week we have a fairly regular menu that’s a precarious combination of convenience and nutrition. Under my mother’s critical eye the Vitamins march themselves up to an array of pots and pans and our Muslim cook churns out a series of highly delicious, usually vegetarian dishes. But I don’t pay too much attention to these.

It’s my evening ritual of either milk or tea that I look forward to on week days. I make this myself being ridiculously peculiar about the proportion of coffee to cocoa to cinnamon in my mug (which has to be the right colour with the right kind of handle).

The orgies begin on the weekends when my family finds itself together, bungling into one another as we try to navigate through our tiny kitchen. We make what suits our mood and our pockets- Lord are the prices rising!- and we improvise. My brother has a way with garlic, my mother with mushrooms and peas. My father with meat and fish. It’s rather entertaining actually.

As for myself, I’m the kid who can gently mold chocolates and bake. When I bake I feel like an alchemist or a witch. The funny thing is, once I’m done I like sitting back and watching again. Watching expressions chase across their faces as they sink their teeth into my creations. Sometimes I barely have more than a bite of what I’ve made. I get more pleasure from watching and listening.

That’s what I look for in a banquet- knowledge.

The Trinity- Or food i can’t live without.

I’m a milk addict.

And India is the world’s largest milk producer 🙂

There you have it. But there aren’t two ways about it- I’m hooked. If I don’t have my two mugs a day, I start feeling drowsy and glum or irritable. Yes you have it: I, an average nineteen year old girl, go into withdrawal if I don’t drink.

It’s not always the inherent flavour of the substance- heck that’s sometimes rather nasty with the adulterated crap one gets now a days- but it might be the consistency. I can’t really put my finger on it. Milk and honey; milk-and-coffee; milk-and-cinnamon; milk-and-turmeric. It’s endless!

The scary thing is, years from now I can actually imagine “popping” a bottle of milk to celebrate my wedding to a dairy farmer.

Paneer. Palak paneer to be precise.

Yup another milk based product but this one is submerged in spinach and my-oh-my is that good! Originally a Punjabi dish it spread like wild fire all over the country. It’s comfort food and the bane of my mother’s existence- I get her to make it at least twice a week. There is something about the flavour and of the thick, rich green gravy and the white delectable consistency of the paneer that makes me drool.

It absolutely hits the spot!

 A recipe for you 🙂


A Persian word meaning ‘bread’ this flat bread is popular in south and central Asia, it soon spread to Suadi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states. Well to be fair I’m and about all kinds of bread. Bread, bread, bread, bread. But I’m Indian after all, my taste buds are guilty of a little partiality. I could chew on these all day long. Plain or dipped in something. There was this one time that I came across Peshawri naan coated with nuts. Wow! I’m not the kind who has mind blowing moments very often but that day I nearly kissed the chef!

Give us this day our daily bread 🙂

– Meghna Saha

FoodLab Bangalore – is a 3 week workshop the Center for Genomic Gastronomy conducted with sophomores from the Srishti School of Art, Design & Technology in the fall of 2011. Students will examine innovation and conservation in South Asian food cultures, building on recent research of the Center (utopian cuisines, mutagenic meals) and working towards the next edition of the Planetary Sculpture Supper Club to be held in Bangalore on Nov. 12th.

Follow the conversation all week here on our Blog, join in the comments and use the twitter hashtag #foodlabbangalore to keep up to date.

Cheese as an Appropriate Biotechnology?

July 11, 2011

One of the Center’s mandates is to study the biotechnologies that make up human food systems. Cheese is one of the earliest, non-obvious and most widespread biotechnologies in use on the planet.

For the Planetary Sculpture Supper Club held in Portland, OR we served three regionally produced cheeses (based on our research from Cheese Wrestling.)

Each regional cheese had different combinations of [raw/pasteurized, rennet type, milk type].

Chevre Anise Lavender, Rollingstone (ID)
[pasteurized, vegetable rennet, goat milk]

Smokey Blue, Rogue Creamery (OR)
[raw, vegetable enzymes, sheep milk]

Seastack, Mt. Townsend Creamery (WA)
[pasteurized, animal rennet, cow milk]

One question we asked at the dinner was: In comparison to ubiquitous industrial cheeses in the United States (ex. Velveeta cheese) can these regional cheeses be classified as Appropriate (Bio)Technologies? Appropriate technologies have some or all of the following characteristics:

  • small scale
  • labor intensive
  • energy efficient
  • environmentally sound
  • locally controlled
  • people-centered

We asked our diners what they thought the advantages and disadvantages of privileging the above characteristics in a technology were. Some of the diners helped us define (as well as challenge the idea) that there are “inappropriate” technologies. Some diners were shocked that Genetically Engineered rennet is used in the industrial production of cheese in the U.S.

A few diners were keen on the idea that cheesemakers should be recognized and aknowledged as some of the worlds oldest biotechnologists. It was agreed that with such a long history and diverse body of knowledge, cheese makers should explicitly be included and invited to conversations about biotechnology, ethics and sustainability. If biotechnology for food system resilience is the question, regional cheese production may be part of the answer. (And it certainly tastes better than Velveeta. And taste matters.)

Explicitly naming cheese production a “biotechnology” and comparing it to the range of other biotechnologies and controversies surrounding food is one way the Center has tried to open up a space for eaters to taste and talk about difficult topics. Controversies in cheese making include: ongoing debates about pasteurized vs. raw milk cheeses, and the role of rennet.

GMO-Microbial rennet is used more often in industrial cheese-making because it is less expensive than animal rennet. Traditional cheeses from Europe must legally be made using rennet from animal stomachs. There are also cheese innovators that use vegetable-based rennet substitutes to create entirely new cheeses.  Once you create a cheese plate with each of these kinds of cheeses, and explain the rationale for each kind of rennet, it is clear that the matter is much more complex than simply tradition vs. innovation.

Even the legal regimes for how cheeses are named are periodically contested. In 2002, the U.S. FDA issued a warning letter to Kraft that Velveeta was being sold with packaging that inaccurately described it as a “Pasteurized Process Cheese Spread.” Instead of complying with the label’s requirements, Kraft rechristened Velveeta “Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product,” a term for which the FDA does not maintain a standard of identity.

The legal regime for cheese in the U.S. seems to do two things well: protecting the trademarks rights and proprietary processes of large industrial producers, and creating designations such as Pasteurized process cheese food that seek to protect consumers by explicitly stating the components and nutritional value of cheese, based on nutrition science and chemistry.

In the EU, the Protected Geographical Status tends to protect the rights of geographic and cultural traditions. If a cheesemaker wants to use the trademark name of a geographical indicators, they need to explicitly follow rules and processes that are available publicly here. So although some kinds of innovation are discouraged (most PDO protected cheeses require the use of animal rennet instead of vegetable rennet) the processes are public, and the naming conventions are based on the traditions of a geography and culture.

Also, because the U.S. does not follow this EU convention, it can sell commercially produced imitator cheeses such as “Parmesan” cheese instead of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.  However, when American imitator cheeses are sold in Europe they need to have different names so Kraft’s “Parmesan Cheese” becomes “Pamesello Italiano”.

Kraft Parm vs. King Parm from Cheese Wrestling

In short:

In the US Kraft is protected via tm and cbi.
In the EU Parmigiano-Reggiano is protected via pgs/pdo.

And what of artisanal or small scale cheeses in the US?
What portions of the law are favorable or not to their processes and business?

Like any biotechnology: cheese is as much about the cultural and legal as about the scientific and technological.

Image Sources:
Rollingstone Lavender Chevre
Mt. Townsend Seastack
Rogue Smokey Blue

Fish Tomato (Missing)

July 8, 2011

The Center recently held it’s first Planetary Sculpture Supper Club. We wanted to commemorate our fruitless but ongoing search for the Fish Tomato.

Heather was head chef for the evening and wrote:

Genomic Gastronomy wanted to draw attention to the “search for the fish tomato,” a tomato genetically engineered with fish genes in an effort to resist frost. This idea made them think, fish + tomato=bouillabaisse, and they thought it would be a fun/interesting challenge to make a vegetarian bouillabaisse to underscore the tomato theme. It was a challenge to give it depth and flavor without any fish or seafood and that’s why I worked really hard on the finishing ingredients.

So the broth is all traditional bouillabaisse foundation: tomato, saffron, white wine, onion, celery, carrot, fennel, leeks. instead of the traditional sauce rouille that accompanies bouillabaisse, I wanted to do something lighter and also linked thematically to the rest of the menu. So I made a lemony aioli (whisked by hand, using Wag eggs, which are hella expensive, but their yolks are amazing) and put that on a pa amb tom quet with smoky spanish paprika. I was making an overture to the later Old/World course of gorilla meats sausages and polenta that I made. So I was thinking about Spain, cultural collisions.

Spanish but a resistant subculture to the dominant Castilian power: Catalan. So pa amb tom quet is a traditional Catalan dish, so simple, of toasted bread, scraped with a clove of garlic, rubbed with a cut tomato half and then drizzled with olive oil. The pimenton again is a nod to Christopher Columbus and exploration, as it is reported that Christopher Columbus brought pimenton to Spain after his second voyage. The smoky paprika also gave some depth of flavor to the tomato dish.

Photo: Ryan Fish

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