A Junction of Creative Collaboration

This gallery contains 3 photos.

Interdisciplinary education often involves interdisciplinary collaboration. So, apart from acquainting oneself with the jargon of different faculties, the most interesting part of studying Industrial Ecology was teamwork. Co-creating with techies and analysts, creatives and the business-minded, philosophers and designers. Luckily, … Continue reading

The Crusoë Company

When cold and wet nights set in, there’s nothing more tempting than revisiting memories of a French summer’s bright and starry skies. So, that’s what I’ll do. Now, yes. Since it was quite an extraordinary summer. Having spent the beginning half of 2013 working on or with my supplementary limb – the laptop – I was in dire need of some physical routine, cooking and making. Did I know there was an island for that. In France, even.

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So I swapped eight (possibly) sunny weeks in Amsterdam for eight stove-bound weeks in Rémalard. But one does not end up in Le Perche for no reason. It’s really devoid of standard travel-entertainment. Some serendip here and there led me to the single darn pearl in the Perchean woods: d’une île. There, you can sleep, eat and wander.

The driving force behind this ‘island in time’ are Michel + Sofie. They manually turned the old countryside manor(s) into eight apartments, where unwinding is unavoidable, and desirable. Love, dedication and beauty are the main ingredient of e v e r y t h i n g you see, touch, hear, feel and taste.

Café

I crusoëd along with Michel + Sofie for the 2013 summer season, and witnessed a unique process of creation. Where many of us might feel they’re overflowing with ideas, but find too little time to realize them, I discovered it’s not (only) about time, but about space. At d’une île, there is space.

Space, because:
– you overlook les fôrets from your window, making ideas grow whilst musing.
le terroir of Le Perche rewards entrepreneurial efforts that offer quality.
there’s always work to do and mainly your own pool of creative solutions to tap from.
– moments of buzz and business are alternated with time for reconsideration and reflection.
– time takes what it needs to grow d’une île organically.

What most fascinated me was that, although the space-statements above might evoke some sense of ‘slowness’, the opposite is true. The design, reconstruction and interior of d’une île were realized within a time-frame any architect or contracter could only dream of.

To me, it feels as if the key lies with a vision rooted in the courage of two talented personalities taking some space.

Food That Moves

Sounds scary, right? Food that moves, moving food. But what if you take it a little differently? Food that moves you. That gets you into eating more consciously and a whole lot healthier. Although salad bars are a default street corner take-away in parts of the Americas (here’s a Guide To), the Dutch wouldn’t really get it. Salad remained something leafy and too light for our sandwich-loving bellies.

Luckily, salad has now moved up and is definitely more than the finishing touch to a ‘broodje gezond‘. Health-conscious and creative entrepreneurs help pave the way in Amsterdam, many of them are in some way related to the Youth Food Movement. But not all of them. Such as salad bar SLA.

SLA is the creative offspring of Nina Pierson (PUP Concepts) and Jop van de Graaf (DJ, and more). Both experimental eaters gifted with a knack for entrepreneurship. A couple on a mission, inviting you to see, taste and experience how good food can change your life.

Funny, I just copied a sentence from their website, and didn’t feel really guilty. That’s because I was responsible for SLA’s copy. From tagline to tone-of-voice, manifesto to menu and online website to offline packaging. Along the way I discovered how I enjoy conversations with entrepreneurs, or ‘brand-owners’ and support them in bringing their ideology and values to their, in this case, eaters. To get food to move the world.

SLA
Photo: SLA

Experimental Gastronomy

When I met Martin Kullik for the first time, he was exhibiting recycled men’s fashion in one of Amsterdam’s design-wise hottest hotels, the Lloyd Hotel. Martin runs the project space (Steinbeisser) in the Lloyd with Jouw Wijnsma. And, since food is en mode, his next project would be a cooking experiment.

He coined it Experimental Gastronomy and challenged himself, Jouw and his friend Alexander Gehrsberg (experienced vegan chef) to cook with only bio-dynamic and local ingredients. The quest for the right ingredients resulted in a collaboration with the oldest bio-dynamic farm in The Netherlands, Land en Boschzigt, who supplied the vegetables, and wine (amazingly flowery!).

Three days in a row, Martin and Alexander cooked a 5-course meal for a maximum of 20 guests. In a small hotel room with a kitchen. There were no tables, but many chairs, a boxbed and stairs to sit on. The far end of the room was an open kitchen – and everything was prepared in sight. On the other side, a large round table exhibited cutlery from jewelry designer Maki Okamoto. Maki loves the shape of spoons, and designed fusions of spoons and forks for the dinner. The fork shown on the picture below reminds me of a pitchfork – increasing one’s awareness of your food’s road from-farm-to-fork.

Not surprisingly, it turned out to be a true challenge to limit oneself to local and bio-dynamic ingredients. Martin and Alexander explained how they had to compromise on the use of certain oils – to guarantee a desired taste palette of the dishes.

Anyhow, the boys succeeded in inspiring all the guests to cook more vegan. Here’s an incomplete list of what tickled our tongues: nettle soup with thyme, cucumber and daisy flowers (yes, they’re edible!); pumpkin flower (the green part is the best as an after-dinner refreshment); nasturtium blossoms; falafel balls (Alexander is partly Isreali) from kidney beans with parsley, summer savory and chard; pelmeni (Alexander is partly Russian) and a strawberry-sweetened oatmeal cookie with gooseberries (full of vitamin C, fiber and potassium)..

I look forward to the next series of no-frills vegan inspiration!

My First TEDx!

Whilst I’m working on a new version of Living Antenna, things are happening in the meantime – that also contribute to a better idea of what it could, and should be. So in this under construction phase I did not want to withhold this from you: my first TEDx-talk! I was invited to speak at TEDxWageningen, the academic and business food valley of The Netherlands. The theme was “The Emergence of Bio-Based Economies”.

It was exciting to think of what I’d like express to an audience of critical strangers – and amongst some other really inspiring speakers. I decided it’d be best to speak from personal experience, and from what I’m passionate about. And that is – no surprise – about everything typically Living Antenna. In other words: how I believe food, design and sustainability relate, and contribute to each other.

Click here or on the picture to watch the talk!

Unfortunately my microphone was switched off the first three minutes, so I’ve included the first paragraphs for you to read along:

“I’ve got a terrible disease, and my disease is that, in certain areas of my life, I can experience a deep sense of joy, wonder or disappointment. At those moments, I am moved to feel at dis-ease. It happens to me all day long, and the way to cope with that dis-ease, is to ask questions and that is what feeds my personal and professional life. This story is about the symptoms of my disease, and the ideas that result from it.  

The first idea is about what I think is the missing link in (effectively) tackling sustainability issues, then I move on what in our daily lives is one of the major overlooked elements on the road to realize a sustainable future, and I’ll finish by why you, sitting right in front me, can make a difference without any effort whatsoever.

My first observation concerns the whole production and consumption system, where sustainability thinking mainly focuses on optimizing either the pre- or the post-consumption phase. Pre-consumption includes energy efficiency, fair trade and logistics, whereas post-consumption deals with materials, waste and emissions.

But our daily routine of using the products and services we buy, is hardly addressed in present sustainability thinking. It seems as if this consumption phase is a foggy, grey box that we don’t want to look into.

And that is an example of what made me feel at dis-ease, because a substantial part of “unsustainabilities” are hidden in these daily routines. In our standards of normality. The power of standards is that you never question them. Apparently, it’s next to normal to shower for ten minutes, to throw away your boiling water, to only eat perfectly shaped veggies, to turn your home into a tropical paradise in the middle of winter. To me, these standards of normality are an unquestioned opportunity to contribute to a sustainable future.. “

For more, it’s best to just sit back, and watch the talk. I’m really curious what you think of it, so feel free to comment or contribute to the ideas.

The Art of Fruit

In some homes, fruit is always displayed so beautifully. In my home, it’s often a pile-up of a day’s score at the market in too small a bowl. The worst is that some fruits don’t go well together, or disappear below dominant apples and oranges and start decaying before you know it.

At Pecha Kucha Amsterdam, Rogier Martens showed how he, accidentally, solved this problem. He turned some of his glass experiments into an upside-down oriented fruit bowl, based on the Jonagold apple. True fruit art. This movie shows you how the mold-blowing of glass really works. Worth a look.

And from today, I’ll treat my fruit bowl as a canvas.

Photo credits: Rogier Martens

Bye, Bye Mediterranean Diet

The past year I’ve come across so many emergent, and promising food movements, that I decided to publish a series. This third post is about the New Nordic diet, a promising alternative to the long-time lauded Mediterranean diet.

Breakfast during a holiday weekend in Copenhagen (2010)

New Nordic is the name sometimes attributed to the main culinary shift of the past decade. Where sometimes a Mediterranean diet is perceived as the ideal diet, both for health and the environment, Scandinavia might take over this spot. Scandinavia, with its “earthy and refined, ancient and modern, both playful and deeply serious” cuisine that does not thrive on the new (techniques, stabilizers, ingredients), but instead emphasizes the old (drying, smoking, pickling, curing, smoking), returns the balance to earth itself.

The Nordic Council of Ministers (NCM), the official body of cooperation of the Nordic countries, will promote the concept of New Nordic Food in collaboration with the United Nations as an example of cooking for a sustainable future. Chef Trina Hahnemann, who wrote The Scandinavian cookbook, defines the New Nordic cuisine as “an everyday cuisine that can inspire people in the northern hemisphere to eat both locally and seasonally.” She emphasizes traditional recipes and eating from your own vegetable garden.

Noma’s artichoke ice-cream (by Prive International Blog)

New Nordic sidesteps the year-round demand for non-local foodstuffs that currently dominates the Dutch supermarkets. René Redzepi, chef of the S. Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurant Noma in Copenhagen, says: “We need to give ourselves the challenge of seeking out what we have here [in Denmark] in order to understand it and to work with it. And when it gets tough – which it does in winter – we keep going.” Redzepi argues that “food is everywhere,” and tries to challenge perceptions of what is good and when food is good. This means he embraces underripe strawberries and salad roots. He tries to question when vegetables are ‘optimal’, and will harvest them long after they are ready, calling them “vintage vegetables” (Interview with Redzepi in Lucky Peach‘s second edition – 2011).

What do you think will dominate 2012 as the novel healthy and sustainable diet?

Home-, hand- and manmade

The past year I’ve come across so many emergent, and promising food movements, that I decided to publish a series.  This first post explains you how doing-it-yourself  (DIY) is slowly pushing away our call for convenience in the kitchen, cellar, garage, or wherever you brew your beer, stir your ricotta or store your chutneys.

The DIY movement started in Brooklyn, among people in their 20s and 30s who “have a sense of community and an appreciation for traditional methods and flavors”. We all want to know what’s in our food, but most of all it’s exciting to make food the artisan way. And get it right. Exactly right.  

By adopting traditional preservation and conservation methods,  food processors and supermarkets  are side-stepped.  Many amateur, and professional chefs prefer to do the bread-baking, the meat-curing and the cucumber-pickling themselves. Preferably at home. By hand.

The book shown here is a perfect starting point for any DIY foodie. It’s made by cook and culinary illustrator Yvette van Boven. I call her book a cross-over between a cookbook, and Instructables.

Once you’ve finished your batch of chili-jam or get fed up with your home-brewn punch, start a bottom-up initiative, where community is built through the sharing and swapping of homemade food. An overseas example is the (again Brooklyn-based) food swap where homemade goods are exchanged for other edibles as a means to combat the lingering economy. Your shelf will be happy.

A Dutch example of swapping amazingly tasty rhubarb wodka, seaweed lasagne and eggnog icecream is the Underground Farmer’s Market (Underground Boerenmarkt), where Amsterdam-based food trendwatcher Marjan Ippel brings together all types of avid home-cooks to share their produce with other cooks, and a limited (paying) public.

If you’d sell your homemades there, what would you like to make perfectly?

The How To Of Small Gatherings

“A meal, according to my understanding anyhow, is a communal event, bringing together family members, neighbors, even strangers. At its most ordinary, it involves hospitality, giving, receiving and gratitude.”
Wendell Berry

The end-of-the-year holidays are so much about kinship, that is – relationships. Kinship means being connected, by blood or  marriage, but also by common characteristics, or affinity. Feeling akin to someone is a good reason to share a table, and a meal.

And why should we leave these valuable shared meals to holidays, weddings and birthdays? Each day, we have the chance to make something of our gatherings with family, or friends. It need not be extraordinary. “Simple, uncomplicated and less contrived” is sufficient. That’s what the makers of Kinfolk Magazine  – an inspirational guide for small gatherings – advocate in their Manifesto.  They share their “natural approach to entertaining,” and I love it.

Kinfolk is a both a print magazine, online  journal and photo and video gallery. It is run by a community of artists, writers, photographers, designers and cooks across the globe (especially the United States) who all share this love for spending time with kins, accompanied by good food.

I am a huge fan of their approach to quality time, especially heir tips for the winter season – running from  snowy cooking adventures to  brisk morning walks and warm fires. Have a look, and make sure to spread the density of end-of-year quality time over the whole of the New Year.

I will.

What’s Wrong With Frozen Food?

Most households have one. A refrigerator. Preferably with a freezer tray. We purchase these “time machines” to help us manage  the pressures connected to today’s scheduling and co-ordination of domestic (and work, and social, and.. ) life. We fill them. Sometimes out of necessity, or to cater for those nights you don’t feel like leaving your home. The way you organize your fridge, probably reveals more about you than your Facebook profile.

Originally, I used my fridge as a way to extend the shelf life of some of my vegetables. Not the fruiting ones (such as tomatoes and pepper), but the salads, herbs wrapped in a wet towel and root vegetables (carrots, beetroots). Nowadays, in my small apartment, the fridge has turned into highly valuable space. It is always full. I fill it up for the sake of using all the space I have in my kitchen, for food. And I realize that once the food found a comfortable spot on the back of a shelf, or the left corner of my freezer tray – I totally forget about it.

Don’t they say “out of sight, out of mind”? Well, that definitely holds for me and the contents of my fridge, and freezer in particular. Fridges and freezers make us think food will last forever. But we still throw away more than 30% of the food we buy. Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland, even equals “the growth of American refrigerator volume”  to “the growth of American body-mass index”. (Fortunately, my fridge is really, really small.)

To me,  frozen food either needs to become so valuable, or exciting (or pretty – as the berries shown above), that I just cannot forget about it. Till date, what’s on offer in the frozen goods department of many supermarkets does not look appealing. Boxes with squares of spinach, bags with peas and pizza boxes. All catered toward shopping food “we might need”.

Please, learn from Picard! This French food chain specializes in frozen goods. They open gourmet stores in large French cities. Here you find frozen escargots and quiches, instead of peas and pizzas. Frozen vegetables contain more nutrients than the “fresh” vegetables we buy in the supermarket. There are Dutch companies, such as Iglo, who even guarantee that their vegetables are frozen within 24 hours after harvest, making them “field fresh” and thus healthier than what we deem “fresh” produce. Although I can truly appreciate the effort, it won’t suck me into that chilly corner of the supermarket.

So, could you do without your freezer? And your fridge? Or would you die for a see-through fridge, like I do?