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June 5, 2020

“India’s pickle culture goes back thousands of years to when cucumbers and other vegetables were simply preserved in salt. Modern Indian pickles are more complex and probably more delicious, too — hot and tangy, deeply perfumed with aromatics and ground spices.”

— Tejal Rao for The New York Times

It all started when someone in the studio passed on the article “India’s ‘Pickle Queen’ Preserves Everything, Including the Past” from The New York Times, asked me to take a look into the book ‘Usha’s pickle digest’  by Usha Prabakaran that was mentioned in the article, and do some research into pickles. The article by Tejal Rao reveals the decades-long journey that Ms. Usha Prabakaran took to write the incredible book.

“The reason for writing the book was to ensure that the vast culinary heritage of this land stays on the map,” said Ms. Usha Prabakaran.

After reading the article I was really curious to check out a few cookbooks from my mom’s kitchen closet. After surfing through a few, I found a very interesting cookbook that belonged to my grandmother: ‘Samaithu Paar’ written by S.Meenakshi Ammal. The book was first published in 1951, about 60 years ago. It belonged to a time when recipes were passed on from one generation to another through practice. There weren’t many cookbooks then that documented recipes. It was pretty common in India for the bride to leave her house and move into her husband’s house. She brought with her the recipes that belonged to her family. At her new home she would get the opportunity to experiment and put it together with the new recipes and methods that her new household members would teach her. Thus, unique recipes were born that belonged to only one family. One bite could tell you who cooked the food that day.

The book ‘Samaithu Paar’ is a very important document not just for safeguarding the recipes, but also to understand the culinary scene of Tamil Nadu during the 1950s. Cookbooks don’t just give out recipes to people, but also serve as a repository for the future generations to take a peek into what their ancestors ate.

As I read through the old book, it triggered childhood memories of drying veggies on the terrace with my grandmother. Today we don’t dehydrate vegetables or pickle them as my grandmother did. There were a number of vegetables mentioned in the book which I had never heard of. My mom knew all of them, but didn’t know why we never cook with them anymore. 

I decided to check if the other families in my area were aware of the vegetables, and if they also didn’t cooked with them anymore. So I sent out a list of vegetables from the cookbook to all the houses in my neighborhood and asked them to choose the vegetables that they used more than twice in a week. I also asked them to give a reason why they did not use some of the vegetables mentioned in the list regularly. The results showed that the most used vegetables were not the traditional ones, mentioned repeatedly in the cookbook. Some of the neighbors had not even heard of the native vegetables before the survey.

The survey covered only a very small group of the population and cannot be used to theorize the results into insights or reasons. The only definite reading of the results is that the way we eat today is very different to how we ate 50 years ago. This is due to many complex factors, from changed farming practices to kitchen practices or even changed lifestyle choices.

The kitchen has changed, the cooking techniques have changed and the time spent preparing a meal has changed. The transfer of recipes between different households or different generations has reduced. A woman’s role in society has also changed a lot. Women are no longer tied to spending their time in the kitchen. In the words of my colleague, “The fact that women had the freedom to leave the kitchen is a great achievement in many respects”. Eventually, YouTube channels and recipe blogs have replaced mothers’ and mothers-in-laws’ recipe banks.

Change is inevitable. Humans have changed over so many years of growth and advancement along with their eating habits. In the process of changing, recipes and ingredients have reached new places and taken new twists. But at this point, we have to stop and question if the rapid changes and the globalization in the 21st century have made us skip a step. Recipes and ingredients are a reflection of a culture and local identity. But when globalization threatens the loss of local identity and its uniqueness, how do we hold on to it in these changed times?

Interestingly from the survey, most of the answers to the question on why they did not cook with some of the vegetables mentioned that the vegetables were not available in the market or that they were not aware of how to cook with them. None of them talked about having less time to cook or the difficulty of the process. In the past, we have let go of a number of traditions or even traditional recipes because they did not make sense anymore in these changing times. But in this case, my question is, were these vegetables or cooking techniques eliminated naturally by a change in society or were they influenced by external factors like the markets and social media? I do not have the answers right now.

To find answers to these questions I decided we needed to proceed with the research. If not, these cookbooks would just become repositories of forgotten foods from the past for the future generations. I believe in the survival of the fittest. The recipes and ingredients that we use today are here because they have survived the changes of the past. But in a time where the population is heavily influenced by social media and market changes, the old techniques and ingredients should be given a chance to fight for themselves.

I have started a campaign based on the cookbook “Samaithu paar”. I’m cooking 100 recipes from the book in 100 days. Cooking them and documenting the process would help me understand the challenges faced if we brought back these ingredients and techniques and introduced them to today’s lifestyle. Through this processes we can learn what kinds of challenges people will face when incorporating these recipes and techniques into their day to day life. This could help us understand why these techniques and ingredients were forgotten, and help us anticipate the future. Otherwise, I am afraid we might soon be adding a lot more to the list of forgotten vegetables and recipes without knowing why.

Written by Akash Muralidharan
Follow his 100 Days Recipe Challenge here: https://www.instagram.com/akash_muralidaran/


March 13, 2020


Our SEED-O-MATIC vending machine is at Colby Museum of Art, Maine, USA, September 2nd 2019 – May 8th 2020.

The world’s slowest vending machine dispenses unique seeds with cultural, ecological or culinary significance. The future is slow, biodiverse and open-source. The future of great food is good seeds.

Simply put in your change, turn a crank, and you are ready to get your hands dirty.  Each SEED-O-MATIC packet contains enough seeds to grow a small row of vegetables, encouraging healthy food choices and agricultural biodiversity

The seeds inside each SEED-O-MATIC packet are provided by Fedco seed suppliers and are the result of many years of dedicated breeding work by Fedco’s seed breeders. See some videos with the breeders here.

“Adaptive breeding cannot occur under a system of restrictive ownership.”

—Frank Morton, a founder of the Open Source Seed Initiative

As a cooperative, Fedco does not have an individual owner or beneficiary, profit is not their primary goal. Consumers own 60% of the cooperative and worker members 40%. Through their product lines and cultural hints, Fedco encourages sustainable growing methods and offer a large selection of certified-organic cultivars and regional heirloom varieties. 

Fedco’s inventory manager and grower Roberta Bailey has added her ‘Matchbox Hot Pepper’ seed to the open-source seed initiative. “A group dedicated to offering up their genetic plant material and varieties to the public domain so that anybody can use them in any way.” By doing so these growers protect the breeding lines from ownership and patenting by large multinational seed companies, establishing a protected commons for non-patented seeds and pushing back against the hegemony of “Big Food.” 

The ‘Matchbox Hot Pepper’ seed can be found amongst the following in the dispensed SEED-O-MATIC packets:

Be My Baby Cherry Tomato

(65 days) Open-pollinated. Indeterminate. This productive cherry is the ongoing result of a cross of three famous tomatoes: an heirloom potato-leaf beefsteak and two cherries, one orange and one red. The grape tomato in its background lends a rich sweet flavor somewhat akin to that of Sweet Baby Girl, which it replaced. Bred by relentless. 2007 Fedco introduction. Breeder Royalties. OSSI. 

Flashback Calendula

Calendula officinalis. (55 days) A mix of orange, apricot and peachy doubled petals, all with red backing to create a distinctive contrast. Colors fade to bicolor yellows or yellow-peach, adding interest as the plants mature. Blooms withstand light fall frosts; still look good in October. Annual. OSSI. Seed purchased directly from the independent breeder. Especially attractive to pollinators.

Freedom Lettuce

This gene pool was created by Frank Morton in his so-called “Hell’s Half-Acre lettuce trial,” in which he crossed his most disease-resistant cultivars with his best-tasting varieties to select and recombine for excellent traits. Morton invites growers and breeders to work with this mix to create new varieties for their farms or for the general public while stipulating that nothing derived from it may be patented or protected from others’ use in any way. This strategy, originated by software developers, is now known as copyleft (as opposed to traditional copyright). Morton has adopted it to keep his varieties and their derivatives in the public domain as a protected commons. OSSI. Seeds as nature’s software! Copyleft has the potential to return to free use such shared resources as our plant heritage that rightfully belong to all of us. Seed purchased directly from the independent breeder. 

Matchbox Hot Pepper

(75 days) Open-pollinated. A product of our inventory manager Roberta Bailey. She has created an open-pollinated selection of the hybrid Super Chili, whose parents include Hungarian Hot Wax and Hot Banana. The squat plants bear prolific upright fruit, averaging 2″ long, 1⁄3″ across and ripening from pale green to deep scarlet. Like Super Chili, they bear well in cold damp weather, hot dry weather, sandy soils and heavy clay. They have plenty of heat and the characteristic finely cut lightweight leaves of many hot peppers. OSSI. 2000 Fedco introduction. 

Sweet Basil

(70 days) Open-pollinated. The heaviest-yielding variety, recommended for drying, all-around great eating, and large-scale pesto production. We sold more than 4,000 packets last year of these two strains of Sweet Basil. Tested for fusarium.

As simple as it is to operate, SEED-O-MATIC provides a point of entry into complex issues of food justice.

Today, SEED-O-MATIC’S vision is more important than ever. Large agrochemical companies are buying out seed suppliers and patenting the genetic information of the seeds they sell, posing serious threats to agricultural biodiversity and food sovereignty worldwide. In stocking seeds that are organic, locally saved, and/or open-source, SEED-O-MATIC makes supporting an agricultural system based on access and equitability as convenient as using a vending machine.

Website: http://seedomatic.com/
For more on seeds, see our newest issue of Food Phreaking: http://www.foodphreaking.com/


January 30, 2020

by Akash Muralidharan

As the newest member of the Center for Genomic Gastronomy (CGG), my Dubai visit was indeed an amazing welcome into my journey with the CGG. On the day of the travel, my anxiety was not helping me. Having slept for only a few hours, I got ready for an early flight. It was an unusual start I should say, for a number of reasons.

My dad offered to drop me at the Chennai International airport, and gave me a good pep talk before bidding goodbye, which doesn’t happen that often. Also I was upgraded to business class for free on Emirates Airlines, which doesn’t happen that commonly. Travelling to Dubai on business class was not exactly what I envisioned for my journey as an artist. It was indeed an unusual start to my travel and my journey with CGG.

So that’s how my journey to Dubai began with some champagne, good food and a very good sleep that I had missed the previous night. So with that my excitement overtook the anxiety on reaching Dubai. I quickly checked in to the hotel and moved to the venue to check the exhibition for the final corrections before the opening night.

The venue was all set for the big night. We quickly made a few changes and the chef’s team were right on time to put the food out for the incoming guests. I trained as an Architect and Designer so public speaking was not my main strength. But Thanks to Catherine Flood, curator from V&A and Yasmeen Sabri, our design coordinator from Alserkal Avenue I slowly got the hang of it and prepared myself for the following days.

An important learning moment, during the event was my conversation with Catherine Flood. On the first day of the event we were to render a talk to the public on how the New National Dish: UAE exhibition came into life. In preparation for the talk we had a very good conversation on how the V&A exhibition “Food Bigger than the Plate” was setup, the challenges faced, and sacrifices made.

The exhibitions at V&A and New National Dish UAE were attempting to change how exhibits in Museums and Galleries were experienced. As an amateur artist it was an eye opener to experience it first-hand. A lot of people who came in were surprised when they were told that they could eat the food in the exhibits. It was lovely interacting with the visitors, looking at the exhibition through their eyes and experiencing it in very new perspectives. Some of them left me with very intriguing questions.

Some of the visitors were confused by the signage and thought that the New National dish was the burger joint right next to the venue. Which actually wouldn’t be that far-off, since a prominent Emirati told us, “the unofficial national dish of the UAE is probably hamburger sliders”.

Alserkal Avenue put up an amazing show for the Al Quoz fest 2020. The event was teeming with artists and good food. Their in-house team is very enthusiastic and passionate. The piece was a particularly good match for their series of tours for visually impaired visitors.

On the last day I had the chance to have breakfast at the eL Seed studio, cooked by the artist himself. It was an amazing opportunity to see all the artists in the same room and share Shakshuka with them. Thanks to the team at The Center for Genomic Gastronomy for this incredible opportunity. Looking forward to where the next New National Dish would take me.

JAN 2020 Food Research Travelogue

January 27, 2020

From January 9 — 19, 2020 two researchers from the Center for Genomic Gastronomy traveled to the UAE and China for site visits and food research. Below is a summary of the trip, with additional writings about the food research to follow.

In the UAE we were completing research for the New National Dish project and in China we explored the Shunde district, which fittingly has been a UNESCO “City of Gastronomy” since 2014.

From the very start of the trip geopolitical and historical events seemed to swirl around each stop, but never fully derailed the progress of the trip itself.


Even before the researchers took off from Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport on January 9th we got the sense that this trip might be taking some unexpected turns—the pilot came on to announce “today we will be taking a slightly different flight path than usual.” Yup. 

The 2020 Baghdad International Airport airstrike that killed General Qasem Soleimani had occurred just 6 days earlier and Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was downed only one day before we flew over the region. 

Flight paths in and out of the region were adjusted accordingly, and we wondered how the events would impact our interlocutors in the Emirates and what the mood on the ground would be. However, upon arriving in Dubai any geopolitical tensions seemed overshadowed by the enormous rains and flooding that were taking place.

As one of our interviewees attested “Anytime there is tension or instability in the region, money and people flood into the UAE. The wealthy send their savings and their families for safety in the UAE, and we benefit financially.” This interviewee had a business that was struggling at the time due to the softening of the Emerati economy, and certainly saw the irony of him benefiting from these tensions, but the man-made rain was an immediate concern.


We drove from the airport to our hotel in a taxi, and had the very unusual experience of heavy rain the entire ride. It only rains a handful of days in Dubai, and we had thought we left the we weather with us back in Europe.

A rainy taxi ride from DXB to our hotel in Dubai.

However, we were even more shocked to wake up to rain each day that were were in Dubai. The streets were flooded, traffic crawled and many of our site visits to farms had to be canceled because we would not be able to make it to the sites and back due to the flooding and traffic.

Flooding outside our hotel in Dubai.

We spoke to market vendors, restaurant owners and other people who uniformly seemed to believe that all this rain was a result of state-sponsored cloud seeding programs.

Dubai fish market.

While we have done research on cloud seeding and weather modification in our own work, we were not expecting that to be the research topic while we were in Dubai. There was some sense that cloud seeding was tied to the government’s desire for water security and food security, but that this might come at the expense of the dominant tourist economy.

Skyscraping—for rain. The UAE “seeded” clouds more than 185 times in 2019. (GETTY IMAGES / WIRED)

These tensions played out right before our eyes in fairly dramatic ways, as the ceiling tiles fell from our hotel lobby and hallways, and water damage pervaded most parts of the building. Dubai’s pop-up city wasn’t designed to be buffered against massive rains and flooding.

Falling roof panels and flooded hallways in our hotel.

We will need to follow up our research on cloud seeding, and how it relates to food and water issues, but some great reporting by Laura Mackenzie was posted on January 11th, 2020—“Bringing in the rain: Has the UAE’s cloud-seeding program gone too far?”

As we sat in the unflooded Dubai International Airport (DXB) on January 12th, 2020 we began reading breaking news articles about the Taal Volcano eruption in the Philippines, which was causing evacuations and cancelled flights within the region.

Taal eruption by Adisidis (CC BY-SA 4.0)

We took off on our flight from DXB to CAN and the additional volcanic activity that occurred had mostly local effects and our flight was not diverted. Volcanoes and cancelled flights are significant for our research Center, because our founders initially met while they were in Spain, expecting to possibly be stranded for days or weeks with the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland.


We landed in the Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (CAN) on January 12th, and began our site visits the next day. One of our first site visits was to an open air fish, poultry and vegetable market. It is common during our research to visit markets as well as farms and kitchens, but we entered the market this time with a slight bit of apprehension. The Wuhan coronavirus outbreak was just starting to be reported on in the days before our arrival, and it was clear that the initial outbreak centered on the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which sold live animals. Additionally, a few cases of symptomatic people were reported in Guangdong. Because this was all occurring during the Chinese New Years celebration when many people return to their families and criss cross the country, the risks for a pandemic or just general level of confusion and fear were heightened.

Exterior of Shunde food market.

As we chatted to the vendors at various market stalls we began to wonder what kind of animal may have caused the virus to jump into humans. We primarily focus our energies on plant-based food research, but on that day in particular, the fruit and vegetable stalls seemed like the preferable places to look, touch and taste. One of our ongoing research threads are various forms of Culinary Paranoia that emerge in the global food system, and this was an example of us witnessing and participating in an emergent unease about the purity, health or safety of food, without having much in the way of details, facts or methods of verification. 

Vegetable vendor at Shunde food market.

We returned to Europe on January 19th, 2020, just four days before Wuhan province was put in quarantine. As of this writing the local and international impacts of the outbreak are still underway, but it seems likely that this event will have some consequences for the level of culinary paranoia across the planet. 

The people we met, the food we tasted and our on-the-ground experience was amazing, and we are immensely grateful to our hosts and interlocutors. However, history was making some pretty strange gestures in the background the entire time.


November 4, 2019

On November 9th, 2019 the Center for Genomic Gastronomy will install the Smog Tasting project in Hong Kong City Hall.  Citizens will be able to taste and compare a range of smog meringues collected from around the city considering the flavors, ingredients, and composition of Hong Kong’s atmospheric taste of place.

Since 2011 we have been studying Aeroir (the unique atmospheric taste of place) in various locations around the planet.


In Hong Kong we will be using the methodology of Smog Tasting: Take Out — local volunteers use Smog Tasting Kits to capture their neighborhood’s smog in the batter of meringue cookies.

These neighborhood Smog Harvesters will then bake and send a batch of smog meringues to Hong Kong City Hall where citizens can taste and compare a range of smog meringues asking:

— What is in Hong Kong smog, and what does taste like in 2019? 

— What are the current smog conditions and how do industry, energy production, transportation, commerce and even civil unrest contribute?

— Have recent actions, including the extensive use of tear gas, changed the composition and flavour of the air in the short term?

— In the slightly longer term, has Hong Kong (and the planet) begun to reach peak pollution, and what would a future of clean (and less pungent) air require?

cc 2.0: Studio Incendo


It isn’t uncommon for the world-famous skyline of Hong Kong to be obstructed by smog. On January 22, 2018, thick smog covered Victoria Harbour. According to National Geographic’s reporting, “Every monitoring station in Hong Kong reported dangerously bad air (…) particulate matter levels on January 22 hit eight times the acceptable maximum. Officials warned children, elderly, and those with heart or lung problems to stay inside.”

As we are writing this in late October 2020, the air quality across Hong Kong is considered “unhealthy” according to Air Quality Index standards and citizens are advised to “limit prolonged outdoor exertion”.


Air pollution is composed of several ingredients mixing together under UV sunlight. 

The main three ingredients of air pollution are typically:
1)  “PM (particulate matter)
2)  NoX (nitrogen dioxide or nitric oxide), and 
3) SO2 (Sulphur dioxide)
which are all produced by different factors.

Four major contributors to Hong Kong’s smog are: 
A) coal-based power stations
B) local motor vehicle traffic (Hong Kong has one of the highest vehicle densities of any city in the world)
C) marine emissions from large ships coming to and from its ports and 
D) pollution drifting over from mainland China

According to a study commissioned by Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department in 2012, a large percentage of Hong Kong’s particulate matter pollution (which can be the most detrimental to respiratory health) drifts over from mainland China. This can account for an estimated 60% of total air pollution in Hong Kong throughout the year and up to 77% in the windy winter months.

Hong Kong has one of the busiest ports in the world, and along with its neighboring cities in the Pearl River Delta zone, these ports create a lot of dangerous air pollution. Large container ships and cruise ships which use sulphur fuel actually create more pollution than road vehicles. To mitigate Sulfur Dioxide pollution, Hong Kong introduced a law that required ships to switch to a low sulfur fuel when mooring in the city. As a result, concentrations of sulphur in air pollution went down 30% to 50% in 2016. 

Over 50% of Hong Kong’s energy is generated by burning Coal. Most of Hong Kong’s energy inputs are imported, with coal usually coming from Indonesia. Hong Kong does use alternative energy sources, like very small scale wind power, but use is quite minimal in the scheme of total energy production. Most energy is consumed for domestic use (52.3%) followed closely by commercial use (41.9%). When coal is burned it releases heavy metals pollutants into the air as well as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter.


But what are the other unique tasting notes of Hong Kong Smog? With the recent protests and police conflicts, the flavor of tear gas is a new ingredient in the aerior of Hong Kong. According a report by Buzzfeed, “The most common type of tear gas used today — and the one that’s filled the streets of Hong Kong — is known as CS, or chlorobenzalmalononitrile”. Though The Chemical Weapons Convention banned tear gas for war, it categorizes CS as a riot-control agents and not a chemical weapons. CS is created by an American company called Nonlethal Technologies and exported to the world.

IMAGE CREDIT: cc 2.0 Studio Incendo

According to multiple reports, police fired over 1800 rounds of tear gas by August 2019 in Hong Kong. At one point launching 800 rounds in a single day. Even though CS is common, its effects are not well understood. Sven-Eric Jordt from Duke University School of Medicine said, “I’m very concerned that we’re underestimating the toxicity, especially when it’s fired in these more dense cities like Cairo and Hong Kong” Although there are guidelines — such as not firing tear gas indoors — it’s impossible to say how well enforced they are…There’s no rules that these companies insist on once the products leave the US.”

File:HK anti-elab protest police expired teargas.jpg
Image credit: wikimedia commons.

CS burns and irritates, often leaving victims coughing until they vomit, but how long does it linger in the air? Are its peppery overtones what you notice when you taste the smog in Hong Kong?


In 2015 the Center for Genomic Gastronomy and CoClimate partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO) and World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to create the exhibition BREATHE which featured a version of Smog Tasting. 


The show took place on the opening evening of the High Level Assembly of the Climate and Clean Air Delegation meeting and was designed to engage delegates on the matters of particulate air pollution and its impacts on health. The show traveled to the WHO Library and then COP21 in Paris and was specifically used to highlight connections between air pollution, climate, and health, which there was a general lack of awareness around. 
In Hong Kong, awareness of the vast array of health issues related with smog is still fairly low.

Coronary heart disease and stroke, as well as skin problems, respiratory issues, and even mental health have all been linked to air pollution. Most people do not take action based on the advice of Air Quality Index readings, and carry on their daily activities as normal. Additionally, local people often compare the quality Hong Kong’s air to other large cities in China rather than the rest of the world, making it seem fairly normal rather than unsafe or unhealthy. In fact, while many countries and cities are becoming less polluted across the planet, others, like Hong Kong, seem to get even worse. Why is this?


Have some nations or cities already reached peak pollution? Are we at a point where things can really only get better? The US, UK, Western Europe and even Mexico have seen a decrease in PM 2.5 pollution, while China, India and Northern Africa have increased.

Is this because some zones are “cleaning up”, installing alternative energy systems, reducing waste, minimizing pollution with better technologies? Or is it because some of us are outsourcing our pollution to neighbors nearby or across the world? Who has control of the means of pollution production anyways?


Smog Tasting: Take Out will be on display from November 9 – 17 at Hong Kong City Hall as part of the Microwave Festival. We will taste and compare smog from these 4 – 6 locations, considering the flavors, ingredients, and composition of the Hong Kong’s taste of place.

Peng Chau,  Kam Tin,  Tai Po, Lok Fu, Kwun Tong (unconfirmed), Wan Chai

LOCI @ Foresight Conference Berlin

January 10, 2019

Last week we the Center participated as speakers and artists in the Conjectural Futures Conference, a two-day event around foresight and forecasting in Berlin. 

The conference session, “(Inter-)planetary Conjectures” focused on how we will live on and with our planet in the future. The Center gave a talk about our work, specifically looking at the ways we use food as a mechanism for forecasting and creating new images of the future to debate and discuss. We focussed on two projects in specific: New National Dish: Portugal and LOCI Food Lab.

Between sessions, the Center hosted a pop-up LOCI Food Lab performance, where visitors could choose from a selection of attributes, which would generate a unique bite-sized taster, composed of ingredients from the Central European Mixed Forest.

LOCI MENU: Central European Mixed Forest

Ingredient research and recipe development by Vilma Luostarinen

Baked from once-threatened local varieties

Made with Scots Pine bark and juniper berries

Czech poppy seed butter blended with imported tahini

Pâté with foraged forest mushrooms

Pork sausage with British-occupied, colonial spice mix

Crafted but not yet certified Polish cheese

Made from uncanny Alpine and Arctic ingredients

Quick pickled, unsellable Polish apples with exportable Asian flavours

Self-sustaining, Berlin-grown lettuce from Infarm with Brandenburg pumpkin seed sprinkles

Capsules of grass from imagined bison comeback habitat



Serendipity Festival Goa – Brinjals & Planetary Sculpture Picnics

July 23, 2018

In December of last year, the Center visited Goa, India to participate in Serendipity Festival. We ran two projects during the festival: the BTBS brinjal food cart and a walking tour called Planetary Sculpture Picnic.

(Above) “Brinjal Taste-test & Brinjal Seed-saving” food cart for showcasing the agricultural biodiversity of Brinjal. (From 3pm to 7pm, December 19th, 20th, 21st)

(Above) “Planetary Sculpture Picnic” (PSP) a walking Tour and Eating Experience with short readings and small tasters. (Twice Daily: 11am-11:45am and 12pm-12:45pm, on December 19th, 20th, 21st)

BTBS Food Cart

The name BTBS doubles as the acronym for “Brinjal Taste-test & Brinjal Seed-save”, as well as a reference to BT Brinjal (a transgenic suite of brinjals) and the negative public opinion around the release of these GM varieties.

Leading up to the festival, The Center designed a cart that could function as a station for taste-tests, seed-saving, and recipe exchange, specifically to celebrate the diversity of brinjal that exists in India. In Goa we visited local markets to collect as many varieties of brinjal as we could find.  

At the cart, visitors could learn to save brinjal seeds by extracting, washing, sieving, and drying seeds from the brinjals we had collected. The most committed visitors took home seeds to try and grow their own brinjal plants. Our brinjal collection increased on Day 2 of the festival, when one of our collaborators in Goa brought us a brinjal from her yard (seen below) and two visitors to the festival brought us a unique white variety from their garden.

Each day, the cart served a free small brinjal dish made by local cooks. 

Visitors could also leave behind a Brinjal postcard, contributing their own recipe or story about their favorite brinjal.


Planetary Sculpture Picnic

PSP was a walking tour with four stops and a few snacks and stories from the past, present, and future. Planetary Sculpture refers to the different ways in which humans sculpt the planet through food choices. PSP was a tour that focused on concepts and flavours for eating in a new way, one which not only minimizes our impact on the planet, but actively attempts to heal it. The tour took place in Children’s Park, Goa.

PART 1: Taste Around Us

At this stop, entitled Smog Tasting, visitors tasted the air pollution in Goa through tiny meringue cookies which had been whipped with air from the nearby street. After tasting the smog cookies, visitors mapped out their perceptions of high and low smog areas in Goa.

(Above) Elizabeth whipping meringue cookies on a busy street in Panaji the night before the first PSP tour.

PART 2: Taste Before Us

At this stop, entitled Midgley Celebration, we imagined a future ritual based on a villain from the past: the one human responsible for the most atmospheric damage to earth. Tour-goers gathered around a “Midgpin tree” in the park to enact a future Earth Day “Midgpin” smashing. A clay piñata in the likeness of Thomas Midgley Junior hung from the tree and one visitor was given the job of smashing the piñata. The Midgpin was filled seeds for bioremediation, carbon sequestration, or seeds for plants that can withstand harsh environments due to climate change. Midgley was responsible for inventing leaded petrol and Freon, which have caused great damage to the earth and atmosphere. The seeds released from the Midgpin are resilient. They replenish, restore, and revitalise. After the smashing, two tour-goers were asked to bring the ritual to a close by spreading a bag of soil over the fallen seeds.

PART 3: Taste Ahead of Us

Next we walked further into the park where we spread out blankets and took a seat. This third stop on the tour was called, Cover Crop Cuisine. Here we discussed and tasted the “noneconomic” plants that are grown to suppress weeds, fix nitrogen, control pest and diseases and replenish the soil. Each visitor was offered a Cover Crop Cuisine taster: Cover crop crackers with cowpea and mustard greens hummus, miso pickled mustard seeds and honey roasted cowpeas.

(Cover Crop Taster Recipe Here — Recipe development & above images by Vilma Luostarinen)

PART 4: Taste of Us

Finally, for the last stop on the tour, our visitors were asked to lie down and look up at the sky. This story was called To Flavour Our Tears and focused on humans as food source for other organisms: the skin we shed, the waste we produce, even our meat and blood and bone will all be consumed in due course. But what do we taste like to our consumers? Is there a way for us to modify our flavour to please our parasites and saprophytes? Tour-goers then closed their eyes and tapped lightly on their eyelids as they imagined a specific kind of tear-drinking month coming to feast on their tears. As they did this we read aloud a passage from a scientist in Thailand who was studying these months. In the passage, the scientist recalls his first-hand account of feeding his own tears to wild moths in the moonlight.
Finally, visitors were offered a tea and time for discussion as they reflected on the tour experience and imagined additional ways of healing the earth through new or alternative (agri)cultural practices.

Thank you to curator Manu Chandra and Serendipity for inviting us to participate in the festival. And a huge thank you to Koshy Brahmatmaj, Elizabeth Yorke, and our Serendipity Volunteers for bringing these projects to life.

To Flavour Our Tears – DDW & Lisbon Food Studies

November 22, 2017

The latest version of our To Flavour Our Tears project was featured at Dutch Design Week as part of the Embassy of Food and the Lisbon Food Design and Food Studies Conference in October. 2017. 




November 18, 2021 - December 12, 2021
Grafill, risography exhibition, Oslo, NO
October 24 - November 21, 2019
ClimATE, Aalto University, Espoo, FI.
March 1, 2018
Climate Fiction PT
October 21 - 29, 2017
Dutch Design Week: Embassy of Food
October 19 - 21, 2017
Experiencing Food (Lisbon)
Nov. 5 - Apr. 2, 2016
2116: Forecast of the Next Century
Nov. 5th, 2016
KiKK Festival Workshop