by Rosemary Liss As an artist my role at Nordic Food Lab was somewhat more fluid. Yet what began as a gentle anxiety—”what is my purpose? where do I belong?”—became the driver of my projects and interactions. I found a space between the experiential, the edible, and the data-driven. While my research took many directions, I also worked to create installation pieces for the space that manifested both the principles of the lab and my personal experience of it. I began to gather discarded materials: vegetable scraps, sauerkraut, kombucha mothers. Even within an organization that champions the latent possibilities of the unwanted we continue to accrue waste. But here lies more beauty—within this waste, other types of inedible yet aesthetic elements emerge. Texture, colour, form are still richly present. The building blocks of sculptural installations reached out to me. I wanted to create work that spoke of these things: the interactions … Read more
by Rosemary Liss This project was born out of a type of failure. The kombucha membrane is the perfect medium to tell this story. The look, the feel, colour, texture, flavour. I wanted to touch and taste. I found myself in a gelatinous substrate, a mother, a zoogleal mat. Suddenly I found a confluence of art and fermentation. I became obsessed. Eating the SCOBY brought up rich and diverse imagery. Films where food stands in for sex: that scene in Tampopo where a mobster and his moll pass a raw egg yolk back and forth with their tongues in coital bliss; MFK Fisher’s budding sexuality conveyed in eating her first oyster. I find this appealing, some find this disgusting. Taste happens. With these tropes in mind, I drafted some dishes using the mother. I paired SCOBYs with salt, cream, spice, smoke, umami agents. I used chartreuse-hued coal oil, mauve dashi, … Read more
by Anna Sigrithur The chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus;Báhkkečátná in Sami language) grows on birch trees. It has become a trendy ‘superfood’ in recent years, marketed as a mystical Siberian tonic for many ailments. Yet it has also been used as a traditional medicine for thousands of years in Sápmi, the territory of the indigenous Sami people in northern Scandinavia, as well as in other regions of the sub-Arctic. Use of chaga has declined over recent generations. Yet, after researchers began studying the fungus for its health benefits and it became a health supplement sold in pill form, younger people started to reclaim interest in chaga’s traditional use. In this episode, Sami teacher Laila Spik Skaltje talks about both the uses and cultural meaning of báhkkečátná, and Sami journalist Máret Steinfjell shares her perspective on what she describes as chaga’s youth-driven renaissance.
by Kristen Rasmussen Enjoying food is similar to enjoying music—we have preferences from an early age, but by learning more about a longtime favorite or exploring a new genre, we can better understand and appreciate nuances and new styles. Cuisine is not one-note, but rather a combination of factors: the central baseline of chemicals that register taste, the chords and melodies determined by hundreds of aroma compounds, and the tangible percussion of texture and trigeminal effects, such as temperature and spice, all merge to create the songs of gastronomy. Like music, we all come to the table with culture and history that shape our experience and no one combination will work the same for every diner. Given this high potential for variation and the subjective nature of preference, how do we know what makes for a successful combination of ingredients? In a previous article, Calibrating Flavour Part I: measuring the … Read more
by Anna Sigrithur It is nowadays an all-but-forgotten practice, but there is also a Sami tradition of insect-eating. It was never a huge part of their diet, but as Laila emphasises, when you must survive in the arctic, every little thing helps, especially nutrient-dense and, for some, particularly tasty morsels like these—which is why her father taught her to eat the larvae of Hypoderma tarandi, the Reindeer Warble Fly.