D.O.M.: Rediscovering Brazilian Ingredients

Alex Atala’s cookbook is out. This year, the brazilian chef was named one of Time’s 100 most influential people, spoke at events like MAD3 in a controversial performance killing a chicken on stage and now he comes showing his discoveries, creations and some of Brazil’s widely diverse food traditions.

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D.O.M.: Rediscovering Brazilian Ingredients is an exclusive look at one of the world’s most exciting chefs, his unique relationship with the produce of his native Brazil and the food he creates from it.

Recently voted as number 4 in the San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurant Awards, Alex Atala’s restaurant D.O.M has built its unique style of cuisine on the discovery and exploration of Brazilian ingredients combined with a commitment to finding sustainable solutions to sourcing them to the benefit of the Amazon and its people.

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A former punk DJ who was classically trained as a chef in Europe, Atala refuses to import ingredients such as caviar, truffles and fois gras, staples in many high-end restaurant kitchens, into Brazil and instead scours the Amazon for indigenous produce to fuse with classical techniques in his cooking. He then works with the Amazon’s native communities and small-scale producers to extend the availability of these native products around Brazil.

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This commitment to not only producing delicious food, but also using his kitchen as a tool for social responsibility and conservation has led to the introduction of many new and unknown ingredients onto his menu, such as a new variety of palm heart that can be farmed and harvested sustainably; the first of its kind.

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This book will tell the individual stories of 65 of the unique ingredients that are used in the kitchens at D.O.M. and Alex’s relationship with them. Each ingredient will be accompanied by a recipe for one of the dishes that it is utilized in and a beautiful image of both the ingredient and the finished dish.

The fascinating texts, stunning photographs and inspiring recipes will combine to create a beautiful cookbook that is fully accessible to the general reader.

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About Alex Atala

A creative chef, Alex Atala is known in Brazil and throughout the world for exploring, through classical techniques, the gastronomical possibilities of Brazilian ingredients. Atala began his career when he was 19 in Belgium, at the École Hôtelière de Namur. In France he worked at Jean Pierre Bruneau’s Michelin 3-star restaurant, and staged at Hotel de la Cote D’Or with Chef Bernard Loiseau. In 1994 he returned to São Paulo, where his performance in several establishments around the city attracted the attention of journalists and gourmands. He opened D.O.M. restaurant in 1999. In 2009 Atala opened his second restaurant, Dalva e Dito, to critical acclaim.

Book photos via R2 Design

Book description via Phaidon

Annunci

Mark Bittman: What’s wrong with what we eat

In this fiery and funny talk, New York Times food writer Mark Bittman weighs in on what’s wrong with the way we eat now (too much meat, too few plants; too much fast food, too little home cooking), and why it’s putting the entire planet at risk.

Future Food Studio & What we will eat tomorrow

Following some links from the Lab-Grown Burger post, I got to know some of Hanni Rützler‘s work on food trends. Food future, it’s worth reading.

 

 

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Future expert for: food trends, food quality, health nutrition and dining culture.
Hanni Rützler studied nutrition science in Vienna, Austria and ecology at Michigan Technology University, USA. She is founding and board member of Austrian Society of Nutrition Scientists and a member of the board of Austrian Society for Nutrition.

She has published several studies and bookson food quality, healthy nutrition, dining cultures and consumer safety. She is author of „Food Trends“ published by German „Zukunftsinstitut“.

Hanni Rützler defines her role as a translator between nutrition scientists, responsible political and economic authorities and public organizations.
Her aim is to work on new strategies for a healthier and more enjoyable future of nutrition.

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What we will eat tomorrow

Is it possible to predict what we will eat in the future? If so, what distinguishes serious scenarios from technocratic fantasies? What are the most important food trends? And what impact will they have on the restaurant industry? Trend expert Hanni Rützler takes a look into her gastronomic crystal ball for us.

If the technocratic fantasies for the future developed in the sixties had become reality, our diet today would consist primarily of pills. Eating out would, at best, be an exotic weekend pastime rather like visiting the zoo. This gourmet‘s nightmare has not come true and the restaurant sector has not degenerated into a branch of the pharmaceutical industry. On the contrary, restaurants have become an increasingly important aspect of our nutritional everyday life.

The moral of the story: it is not possible to tell the future. However, on the basis of complex analyses, it is possible to develop scenarios that make it easier to take a serious look at tomorrow‘s options. To this end, we must firstly try to understand the present more thoroughly. Not only, as in the future-oriented fantasies of the sixties, with an eye on the technically feasible but also, in particular, on the social and economic processes of change that affect our lives and which we always react to with new strategies.

Food trends are nothing more or less than strategies for coping with specific nutritional problems, problems that arise from social change and are then also reflected by certain products, in various foods and in the dishes offered in restaurants. In highly complex and differentiated societies, such as those in North America and Europe, these strategies are no less complex and differentiated. Thus, what we eat in the future will not be determined by one but by many trends, some of which will complement and reinforce each other while others will run counter to them. Some insights:

Eating and drinking hold an ambiguous position in our everyday life. They have come to be both a source of desire and sorrow. The one aspect corresponds to the on-going gourmet and pleasure boom (luxurious foodstuffs, starred restaurants, gourmet and wine magazines, etc.) while the other ties in with health and personal complaints about pandemic obesity and food scandals, etc. Aesthetic ambivalence, which is becoming clearer to us in connection with many foodstuffs, also underscores the fact that food is no longer something we take as a matter of course.

Additionally, eating and drinking no longer give structure to our everyday life. No more do we consciously stick to ’meal times‘. Our dining habits have become more spontaneous, more dependent on the situation and more individual. In everyday life, eating is frequently only of secondary importance: a snack between two appointments or during the news, a pizza during a meeting or while checking the latest e-mails. As a variety of studies show, this has relevant effects on the composition and consumption of food and, therefore, on our health. Only at weekends or in the evening, after work, do many people have the time to enjoy their meals consciously and to present it pleasingly, something that can also have compensatory aspects: in their own homes or by visiting a special restaurant.

Moreover, eating and drinking have become more public – the share of away-from-home diners in restaurants, canteens and snack bars has risen significantly – and, therefore, more communicative (socialising, distinction, lifestyle). In the minds of both producers and consumers, food is becoming more and more of a means of communication and a way of solving problems, i.e., products that, in a variety of situations, help us cope better with everyday life or give expression to our cares and joys; to improve our time and feeling management; to meet our need to be different, etc. We no longer eat primarily to still our hunger but to express, portray and delimit ourselves.

The decision what and how we eat is no longer delegated or simply accepted, as in times of material shortage or rigidly structured societies. Eating is no longer simply a matter of satisfying basic physiological needs but more of emphasising one‘s identity, creating social distinctions and obtaining aesthetic and sensuous pleasure (cf. Sensual Food). The trend to individualisation also means that people can choose who they want to dine with depending on the situation and their needs. Today, meals are increasingly taken with friends, customers, colleagues, etc., and no longer predominantly with the family. Accordingly, dinner in singles households is frequently cold. The younger and the smaller the household, the less is the inclination to cook. This holds particularly true of ’highly networked and mobile individualists‘, i.e., young singles who tend to eat more away from home or between traditional meal times (cf. Fast Good). The more irregularly or rarely people cook, the greater is the share of ready-to-eat and semi-finished products, as well as deep-frozen products, because keeping stocks of fresh produce in such households is neither economic nor practical.

Traditional home cooking that, despite different facets and recipes, emerged over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries in (Central) Europe and was the root of our notion of what constitutes a good meal, is also based on specific household and kitchen practices. And these practices are not applicable to one or two person house-holds. Thus, traditional home cuisine is declining in significance for everyday cooking. At the same time, however, this trend is giving rise to compensatory developments. (cf. Authentic Food and Pure Food, page xx).

When choosing their food and deciding on their style of eating, an increasing number of people ask whether their choices are beneficial in terms of physical and psychological well being. ’Wellness‘ is the name given to this trend, which includes far more than the maintenance of health and fitness. The latter no longer refers simply to physical performance but also to intellectual agility. This opens the door to light dishes with lots of vegetables and reinforces the trend towards low-fat preparation, (cf. Health Food and Pure Food, page xx). In the medium term, particularly in the restaurant sector, this will lead to new menu concepts, different portion sizes and to a vegetable to meat ratio based on the latest findings of nutritional physiology. The seven most important food trends:

1. Sensual Food – the new desire for taste.

A large proportion of what we eat has been processed before it reaches us, so we cannot taste it in its original form. Thus, we forget how to use our senses and have increasing difficulty in tasting or smelling differences. This loss goes hand in hand with a diminution in our capacity for enjoyment because our ability to enjoy and differentiate are not automatic – they have to be learnt, something that calls for a willingness to be taught and the time to gather the necessary experience.

Today, more and more consumers are willing to do this – a reaction to the absence of different experiences and the increasing standardisation of the taste of industrial products. New gastronomic trends à la Ferran Adriá (“My recipes make you think”) and Heston Blumenthal take account of the need for greater sensory expertise. Whereas the taste and appearance of a foodstuff used to be fairly standard, today, nothing seems to taste like it looks. Molecular cuisine experiments with the boundaries of our sensory perception and invites us to once again taste food in a more conscious way.

2. Fast Good Food – quick and healthy pleasure.

The opening of the first American fast-food restaurants in Europe 35 years ago represented the beginning of a new cultural trend. The success of these restaurants is not only due to the attraction of Big Mac, Whopper & Co. among children and young people. These products also cater for our changing way of life. In Europe, however, fast food is still regarded as being of inferior quality and unhealthy. The contradiction between the frequent need to eat quickly and the desire for healthy nutrition with complete culinary pleasure promises to trigger a new food trend: fast good food combines the functionality of US fast-food restaurants with the culinary qualities of European and Asian cuisine. As a product of globalisation, the new trend draws on numerous traditional cuisines from all over the world, which ensure fresh and healthy variety (rich in carbohydrates) even in the case of fast food – and which makes the paradox possible: healthy junk food. With bio-burgers and bio-doner-kebab, Asian streetfood and organic vegetables and sushi from bio-aqua-farming, fast good food is taking up the trend towards organic food and wellness, and making the eternal bad conscience a thing of the past.

3. Health Food – new options for health-conscious diners.

In the past, health was regarded as the victory over suffering and pain. Today, it is a synonym for the quality of life. Lifestyle is developing into ’healthstyle‘. In this connection, nutrition plays a central role. For most consumers, perception is not determined by classic, scientific arguments but by practical, everyday knowledge, such as the consumption of plant foodstuffs. Nutritional systems from the Far East appear particularly well able to reconcile the cyclical, health-motivated ’go-without‘ trends in western societies: less fat, less salt or, most recently, less carbohydrates.

Moreover, Asian cuisine, in which elements and energy flows play a significant role, harmonises perfectly with the western trend towards esotericism and is thus becoming the dominant force in the health-food segment. Particularly important, especially in the German-speaking region, is product freshness, a factor that, besides the vegetable components, has become synonymous with healthy food. The trend towards health food has also led to a revival of gourmet whole-food cuisine (in distinction to traditional grey-beige vegetarian fare). Additionally, the fruit and vegetable juice segment continues to grow rapidly.

4. Ethic Food – eating with a good conscience.

What use is it to gourmets when, although turbot, bass and sole can be obtained in places hundreds of miles away from the sea thanks to perfect cold chains, industrial fishing is endangering the survival of these species in the short to medium term? In recent years, we have been made aware of ethical quality criteria not only through the efforts of environmental organisations but also, and in particular, by the numerous food scandals, which have focused attention on the ecologically doubtful breeding and husbandry methods employed for beef, pork and poultry. This is opening up ever more opportunities for products distinguished by ethical production criteria, which can be enjoyed with a clear conscience.

The new ecological trend has cast off the tight-lipped image of the fundamentalists. And thus, via more room for manoeuvre and interaction, paved the way for a much larger group of producers and consumers. Demand has risen significantly thanks to a broader assortment and greater accessibility for ecological and fair-trade products, which are also packaged and presented in a more appealing way. The LOHAS target group (Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability), which is expanding rapidly, especially in urban areas, stands for a new type of consumer who is oriented towards health and sustainability. And not just in Europe but also in the USA, where market leader Whole Foods has been remarkably successfully by exploiting the ’moral hedonism‘ of better educated and earning consumers. Today, the US market for biodynamic food is worth US $ 25-30 billion per year. Although this represents only 6 % of the total food market, this share is growing five times faster than the rest of the sector.

5. Authentic Food – the yearning for handicrafts and originality.

Food and beverages are not only for consumption. They also tell a story. In modern everyday life, this story is not particularly exciting. What else should standardised, industrially produced meals, also known as UFOs (unidentified food objects), tell us? The situation is different when it comes to produce from regional farms that are closely bound up with the ’terroir‘ and the people that grow them. These stories satisfy our desire for intimacy, closeness and home or our yearning for new experiences when travelling. The trend towards authentic food is a reaction to globalisation and the fears it causes. Authentic food offers consumers orientation and gives them a feeling of security. Traceability (guaranteeing product origins) and authenticity (original and handicraft production) are gaining continuously in significance.

Foodstuffs with protected names, such as Parma ham, ’Diepholzer Moorschnucke‘ (lamb), ’Thüringer Leberwurst‘ (liver sausage) and ’Steirisches Kürbiskernöl‘ (pumpkin-seed oil) continue to rank among the winners on the market. Today, there are more than 600 products on the European market with protected places of origin or place names – especially from tourist regions with a special culinary image, where it has been possible to incorporate the specific features of the landscape in the product. This trend also favours the rediscovery of regional dishes and opens up new marketing opportunities for the restaurant sector. Thus, the region gains in significance compared to the nation as a whole. No longer is the focus on Italian, German, Austrian or French cooking but on, for example, Umbrian, Piedmontese, Alsatian, Styrian or Pannonian cuisine.

6. Pure Food – absolutely safe even for allergy sufferers.

The number of people suffering from food allergies is increasing markedly. In Switzerland, 2 to 4 % of the population is affected clinically. Subjectively, the number of allergy sufferers is considerably larger. Experts predict a further increase in food intolerance, especially among children and young people. In principle, any food or ingredient can cause an allergy. What makes a diagnosis so difficult is that most foods contain several proteins, any of which could be the allergen. Thus, foodstuffs that are free of (certain) allergens have bright perspectives for the future.

Additionally, the continuing debate about chronic obesity is having a positive impact on the ’no foods‘ segment (food without sugar, fat, salt, etc.). The trend to pure, basic foods – a striking countertrend to food presentations and molecular cuisine – is also influencing the restaurant sector: simple recipes and very gentle, non-adulterating cooking methods appeal even to typical slow and organic food consumers who appreciate pure food and an unequivocal product philosophy.

7. Mood Food – Eating as emotion management.

Eating is increasingly being used as a mood regulator. Scientific studies are also on the track of the connections between psychological moods and the consumption of certain foods or the influence of certain ingredients on changes in mood. Nutritional factors that seem to stabilise moods have been found, especially in the case of people who are prone to stress or depressive. The food industry has commissioned research into natural human psychoactive substances, such as serotonin, a hormone, or dopamine, a neurotransmitter, to develop foodstuffs specifically for better emotion management. The aim: to be able to supply the ever-growing target group of people who are prone to stress or depressive with therapeutically effective mood-food products. Classic mood foods, such as chocolate, will be produced and marketed for specific target groups. Depending on whether the product is aimed at men, women or children, the outer layer is made of milk or plain chocolate and the filling of cream or fruit and nuts.

Hanni Rützler has made an international name for herself as a pioneering dietician, a researcher with a multi-disciplinary approach to eating and drinking behaviour. Her expertise is in demand not only by food companies and health politicians but also by multi-national food groups and big system caterers.

 

Lab-Grown Burger

Here are two nice articles about the Lab-Grown Burger taste test that happened this week.  Some media folks even call it Frankenburger. It’s certainly one more tip about how the world’s food context is changing in the next years. For bad or for good. What’s to come regarding the food production sector, mainstream or alternative, is being developed in many different directions as a response to our contemporary changes. While our environment struggles, money talks and there are some people running for new answers. We must also remember the role consumers play in all this food future design that’s being made… No more to add, I leave you guys with the lab-grown, Frankenstein-like burger. Enjoy.

From The Guardian

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All it took was a little butter and sunflower oil and, in less than 10 minutes, the world’s most expensive burger, grown from muscle stem cells in a lab, was ready to eat.

“I was expecting the texture to be more soft,” said Hanni Rützler of the Future Food Studio, who researches food trends and was the first to get a taste of the synthetic beef hamburger at a lavish event in London on Monday that bore more resemblance to a TV set than a scientific press conference.

The lack of fat was noticeable, she added, which meant a lack of juiciness in the centre of the burger. If she had closed her eyes, however, she would have thought the cultured beef was definitely meat rather than a vegetable-based substitute.

The fibres had been grown in the lab and bound together, coloured with beetroot juice and shot through with saffron to complete the burger that, from a distance at least, looked perfectly ordinary. The chef tasked with cooking it was Richard McGeown of Couch’s Great House Restaurant in Polperro, Cornwall, who said it was slightly more pale than the beefburgers he was accustomed to but that it cooked like any other burger, was suitably aromatic and looked inviting.

American food writer and author of the book Taste of Tomorrow, Josh Schonwald, was next up to take a piece of the precious burger. He said he had never been pleased by meat substitutes but, after chewing a bit, gave it full marks for its “mouth feel”, saying it was just like meat and that the bite felt like a conventional hamburger.

But he also noted, several times, the absence of fat or seasoning. “I can’t remember the last time I ate a burger without ketchup,” he said, when trying to explain whether or not it compared well to a real hamburger. Later in the tasting he described the texture as “like an animal protein cake”.

Lab-grown beef hamburger Dr Mark Post with his lab-grown hamburger

Mark Post, the scientist behind the burger, which took three months to make, said the ambition was to improve the efficiency of the cell-growing process and also to improve flavour by adding fat cells. He wants to create thicker “cuts” of meat such as steaks, though his would require more tissue engineering expertise, namely the ability to grow channels – a bit like blood vessels – that can feed the centre of the growing steak with nutrients and water. Similar technology had already been shown to work for medical applications, said Post.

The €250,000 cost of making the burger was paid by Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who said he got into the idea for animal welfare reasons. In a film to mark the taste test of the burger, he said that people had an erroneous image of modern meat production, imagining “pristine farms” with just a few animals in them. “When you see how these cows are treated, it’s certainly something I’m not comfortable with.”

Dr Post’s team at Maastricht University used the money to grow 20,000 muscle fibres from cow stem cells over the course of three months. These fibres were extracted from individual culture wells and then painstakingly pressed together to form the hamburger that was eaten on Monday. The objective is to create meat that is biologically identical to beef but grown in a lab rather than in a field as part of a cow.

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Photographs: David Parry/EPA

From Vice

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As the world’s population hurtles toward an estimated 9 billion by 2050, global food shortages are becoming a very real problem. In no sector is this more apparent than the meat industry. The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization estimates that around 70 percent of all agricultural land on Earth is currently used for meat production. It also predicts the demand for meat will increase by more than two thirds in the next 40 years as the middle classes grow in newly industrialized countries in Asia and South America.

Aside from awful humanitarian and animal cruelty issues, the meat industry is thought to have a significant effect on global warming since belching, farting livestock produce huge quantities of methane—a greenhouse gas 33 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. It’s obvious that the meat industry as we know it is unsustainable, but for the vast majority of us the prospect of turning vegetarian is pretty grim. Vegetables aren’t filling, Tofurkey tastes like wet Band-Aids, and the prospect of mass-farming insects to squish into Boca burgers makes me want to sew up my mouth and anus.

Fortunately, Professor Mark Post thinks he’s come up with a way for us to save the planet and gorge until we get the meat sweats. Unfortunately, it’s not all that cost effective yet.

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By harvesting muscle tissue from a living cow, Professor Post is able to cut the tissue into individual muscle cells. Each cell can then yield up to one trillion more, which will then naturally join up to form new muscle tissue. Five years and approximately $384,000 after he started, Professor Post had created the world’s most expensive burger patty, ready for an unveiling and tasting ceremony in London. As the world’s media descended on the presentation in Hammersmith, I went along to see if “cultured beef” really was the savior the meat industry needs.

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The tasting was taking place in Riverside Studios—the former home of Brittish shows Top of the Pops and Dr. Who. When I arrived I had to line up with the rest of the media in a corridor filled with portraits of famous comedians.

The one thing I learned from this experience is that journalists love puns. I heard, “Cultured beef? Is that beef that enjoys the opera? [relentless chortling]” about ten times before we even got into the tasting room. It was enough to make the portrait of Al Murray (perhaps the least funny man to have ever been given a TV show in England) holding a giant chicken seem like the best visual gag I’d ever seen.

The event kicked off with the above informational video, which was a sort of hybrid between the science videos you watch in school and a Shark Tank pitch. Despite that, you should probably give it a watch anyway as it explains the science of cultured beef in groovy, easy to understand graphics. Also, it means I don’t have to stretch into the depths of my tenth-grade biology knowledge to try to explain how people are growing edible meat in Petri dishes nowadays.

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After the video, Professor Post took to the stage and unveiled the burger. This was it—the moment we’d all been waiting for. He pulled a burger-size Petri dish from a cooler, opened it up, and there it was: a $384,000 beef patty. I’d love to say that the true significance of this moment resonated with me, but the truth is I was sitting very far away and could barely see anything. Plus, as grand in scale as the patty’s prospects might be, connecting to lab-grown mincemeat on an emotional level is pretty tough.

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The tasting was presented by Nina Hossain from ITV London. Here she is interviewing Richard McGeown, the chef in charge of cooking the burger. You could tell he was a little nervous about ruining it. Which is understandable, considering the burger was—pound for pound—probably the most expensive piece of food ever cooked in the history of humanity. And burning a piece of meat that’s worth the kind of money that could fund the building of 50 wells in Africa isn’t going to look on your CV.

Not that Nina did much to ease his stress levels. While he was trying to concentrate on the cooking she kept bombarding him with repetitive questions that nobody really needed to know the answers to, like, “Is it cooking like a normal burger?” and, “From a chef’s point of view, is there anything different about this burger?” (In case you do need to know the answers, they were “yes” and “no.”)

It took the burger slightly longer to cook than I was expecting. Maybe Richard was cooking it on a low heat to avoid burning it as 100 people stared intently at the frying pan in front of him. Or maybe I was just really, really hungry (I was).

Anyway, as the burger was sizzling away, we were introduced to the two special guests, who—along with Professor Post—would be eating and critiquing the first-ever cultured beef burger.

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The first guest to dive in was Hanni Rutzler, a food and nutritional scientist. Hanni, while perfectly pleasant, was perhaps the worst possible candidate for this job. There were around 100 journalists hungrily waiting for quotes, and the best Hanni could come up with were, “It was hotter [temperature-wise] than I expected,” and—when asked what it actually tasted like—”It’s a bit like cake.”

By this stage, the assorted media weren’t just hungry for words, but for a bite of the burger they were all there to write about. A writer from the Huffington Post asked if just one of the assembled journalists could try it and give their feedback, but unfortunately that notion was shot down as “unfair” to everyone else. A writer from the Times yelled, “I really don’t mind!” But it was no use; the dream was over.

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It all rested on the second taster, Josh Schonwald. Josh is an author, so surely he could muster at least the beginnings of the description that the entire world’s press was gagging for. “I’d put it somewhere between Bunga Burger and McDonald’s,” he said, forgetting that he was in London and nobody had a clue what Bunga Burger was. “But it’s hard because I don’t know how many burgers I’ve eaten in my life without ketchup.”

Tasting over, it was time for the Q&A. Again, many of the questions related to a more accurate description of the taste, but all we got was, “It could use salt and pepper,” from Hanni. Meanwhile, Josh—in between shamelessly plugging his book, The Taste of Tomorrow—offered up, “I feel like the fat is missing. There’s a leanness to it, but the bite is like a conventional burger.”

Which, again, didn’t really satisfy anyone in the audience.

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After resigning ourselves to the fact that we were neither going to taste the burger nor get any real quotes on what it tasted like, the press instead started asking about the future of the science behind the patty.

Professor Post said he could envision mass production of cultured beef within 20 years and that it should, in theory, be the same price or cheaper than regular beef. He also alleviated concerns over how safe the meat is to eat, stating that it’s genetically identical to beef found in a cow and that, yes, he would let his children eat it.

Probably the most astonishing fact of the day came when he was asked if he’d given any thought to a catchier name than “cultured beef.” He said they’d had a naming competition at Maastricht University, where the research was carried out, to see if anyone could come up with something better. Seven thousand people entered, but apparently not a single one of them was “satisfying.”

After the Q&A session I, along with a few others, rushed toward the stage to get an up-close look at the remainder of the burger, but by the time we got there it had already been whisked away by security goons, like Nicki Minaj being led away from a mob of paparazzi.

I may have witnessed a historical moment, but as I left the tasting room I couldn’t help but feel a little let down. The whole event was to find out if the taste of beef could be replicated in the lab, and thanks to the incompetence of the tasters that’s still something we don’t really know the answer to. If I’m honest, I was also disappointed that I hadn’t been able to nab a bite of it myself. But it looks like I’ll just have to wait 20 years like everybody else.

Follow Matthew on Twitter: @matthewfrancey

All photos courtesy of Maastricht University.

Edible Insects

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It’s been from May 13th that eating insects is again in the buzz of the specialized media because of a work presented in the FAO’s International Conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition. The work is Edible insects – Future prospects for food and feed security.

It shows the many traditional and potential new uses of insects for direct human consumption and the opportunities for and constraints to farming them for food and feed. It examines the body of research on issues such as insect nutrition and food safety, the use of insects as animal feed, and the processing and preservation of insects and their products.

FAO made also available this information guide: The contribution of insects to food security, livelihoods and the environment.

Here in our Food Design Association, we have Giulia Tachini. She took her Product Design Master’s Degree in the Polytechnic of Milan presenting her final project: A Hypothesis of Food System Compensation: Eating Insects for Food Security and a Sustainable Future. The work got good critics and she kept on with the theme organizing other projects supporting her aims. Like this insect biscuits presented in the Milan Design Week 2013. Get to know more on her site.

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Another nice project I found on the web is this one by Monica Martinez & Rosanna Yau, take a look here.

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Here’s an interesting video… “FAO consultant, Afton Halloran, describes the use of insects as food in developing nations to provide nutrients missed in local food supplies and how the practice is spreading globally. She speaks on Bloomberg Television’s “The Pulse.”

Buycott

Buycott is an an app to find out what companies and causes your money supports when you are looking for a product. Using the app, is possible to get information about the product’s traceability and make their root informations available to more people by sharing it.

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Have you ever wondered whether the money you spend ends up funding causes you oppose?

A buycott is the opposite of a boycott. Buycott helps you to organize your everyday consumer spending so that it reflects your principles.

Example: During the SOPA/PIPA debate in 2012, a number of companies pushed to pass legislation that reduced online freedom of expression, while other companies fought hard to oppose the legislation. With Buycott, a campaign can be quickly created around a cause, with the goal of targeting companies with a boycott unless they change their position, or buycotting a company to show your support.

When you use Buycott to scan a product, it will look up the product, determine what brand it belongs to, and figure out what company owns that brand (and who owns that company, ad infinitum). It will then cross-check the product owners against the companies and brands included in the campaigns you’ve joined, in order to tell you if the scanned product conflicts with one of your campaign commitments.

Get the app here.

Martí Guixé. Interview by Klat – English / Italiano

Clicka per la versione completa in italiano sul Klat.

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Interview by Valentina Ciuffi. Klat #05, spring 2011.

His Food Designing was placed third at the Gourmand World Cookbooks Awards in 2010. Which means that a publication which has nothing to do with traditional books on cooking,  constructed as it is around the theme of “designed food,” was given a prize despite not belonging to the same genre as all the other publications in the running. Thinks like this keep happening in Martí Guixé’s career, which is littered with unexpected successes and super-amusing episodes (as he would put it). His delightfully visionary ideas continue to be picked up by small and large companies that are willing to bet on the least classifiable of designers. Conscious that he can be destabilizing, but not at all worried about it and at peace with all his contradictions, Guixé goes on coming up with thoughts (rather than forms), between Barcelona and Berlin, without a real studio and living an insistently and indispensably nomadic existence. Our meeting took place during an interlude in Milan, over two meals, seeking to investigate his work, from the origins to the latest projects.

Something often happens to the little men you draw to narrate many of your projects (that, in the end, become an integral part of those projects. You sum it up by writing: “Aura comes!” What sort of feeling hits your characters at that moment?
In English there is a word, “insight” (its German counterpart is “einsicht”), that pretty well describes what I mean by “Aura comes”: I’m referring to a sort of enlightenment, what the marketing people might call the “ah-ha effect,” or something like that. It often takes a minute or two to grasp the sense of my operations (though they seem very simple to me!), so “Aura comes” means, first of all: “Wow, I got it!”. But then “comer,” in Spanish, means “to eat,” so the word game goes a bit further: the satisfaction of understanding something can be described with the expression “eat the aura,” which works even better, given the fact that I often design food! In the end, in the association of these two words, aura and comes, there is already an idea of how many layers every little gesture can have in my work, and of how much passion I have for linguistic matters.

Sticking with the expressions and words you use most often, one of them is “contemporary.” An adjective you always apply in a positive sense, also associating it with your work.
True. If I think about my work, especially at the start it was very hard to make myself understood: while I was trying to make truly contemporary projects, everybody thought I was working on future scenarios, designing things projected way ahead in time. My goal, on the other hand, has always been to interpret the present and to try to interpret it in the best possible way, producing things for which there is an urgent, timely need, though perhaps not everyone has realized it. Having said this, the idea of the contemporary is very relative, probably my take on it is more extreme (but I would say more realistic) than that of others. So-called contemporary design, in most cases today, seems like the reworking of things of the past, or even a tribute to works from many years ago.

What do you think about traditions and the rhetoric of traditions?
I believe traditions are an important point of reference, but it is also necessary to be selective and critical: some of them no longer have anything to do with our time. In these cases we need to rethink them completely, to update them or ignore them, otherwise they become an obstacle to healthy evolution.

What prompted you many years ago to choose Milan as a city in which to go to school? Today Italy is certainly not the place of the contemporary, but back then maybe it was different…
In 1982 Milan was a reference point. I had studied Interior Design in Barcelona, but I was too young to start working, so I began to look around for a masters program: in the end, the choice came down to a school in India and the Polytechnic School of Design in Milan, where all the post-Bauhaus greats were teaching. Furthermore, Milan was the home of all the great design companies, and the embryonic scene of post-Franco Spain could not be compared to the ferment in Lombardy. Apart from the fact that India was rather far away, I believe Milan was the right choice for me: those were fun years, full of things, of encounters. While in Barcelona the Product Design course was closing (there were more professors than students!), the school in Milan was growing: it was special, perhaps a bit traditionalist, given the fact that my year was the first one without uniforms. But it was also very serious, with a focus on social themes, truly interesting. In the nineties things changed a lot, I don’t know if I would still have chosen Milan at that point.

What makes you choose Barcelona and Berlin today? Which of those two cities is the best expression of the contemporary?
The more contemporary is undoubtedly Berlin. After the Olympics Barcelona became a different, unrecognizable city: many people left, I left too. Then I went back, but if you ask me why I live there, today, the only thing I can say is… I’m there by chance! In general, in any case, I prefer staying in motion: when I move it seems like time is passing more quickly, and I like that sensation. Now I would like to add a third home-base city (besides Barcelona and Berlin), so together with my partner we are picking it: it won’t be New York, that’s a city that might have been good back in the thirties, but today I don’t understand the point. It cannot be London, there’s too much focus on money there for my taste. It can’t be in France, because I don’t speak the language. It might be Istanbul, a place with great energy and potential.

Your design is often made to respond to the modes and rhythms of a nomadic life. Could you talk about a particularly good example of this?
Pharma Food, in 1999, a system that nourishes by inhaling, without the need for any utensils, without swallowing anything solid, simply absorbing molecules of vaporized food by breathing, microscopic particles like the dust that is all around us. I developed this experiment with the help of my dietician and a microbiologist. In the air of a room there were vitamins, proteins, carbohydrates, invisible essences that could be breathed by the contemporary nomad who is nourished without the need of any objects, just by crossing the space. The basic idea is to design functions, not forms, to eliminate the weight and the bulk of objects.

But if someone really began to gain nourishment in that way wouldn’t his body change?
Yes, but the evolution has nothing to do with me, at least not when I do design: as I said, I focus on the present, not the future. Though others may think it sounds strange, I consider my projects to be closely connected to today. Though many people see sci-fi and surreal aspects in my work, I also meet a lot of “parklifeists.” This is a term I have invented, based on my project called Park Life, a true Kitchen-City where large works of architecture transform the activity of cooking into a hobby, a sport. My kitchen-city represents a condition that already exists, but people go on overlooking it. If the traditionalists continue to design and live the same old obsolete kitchens, the “parklifeists” are the only ones who are really in tune with the contemporary scene, who would enjoy getting their nutrition by fishing in the vats and cooking on the solar dishes of my park.

You’ve thought about humans who gain nourishment in a big kitchen-city, but you have also imagined them engaged in an activity of reforestation, where they ingest seeds and defecate. Are these just messages, or do you really believe you have found a way of redensifying vegetation?
In general, I imagine things I think will be made, things I think are convenient and feasible. In some cases, as in that of Reforestation Seeds, instead I create a clear, unusual representation that can convey a message. I am aware of the fact that to putReforestation Seeds into practice you need a particular situation, maybe a vacation in the country, or on an island… I also have fun playing with the need people have today for prepackaged programs, user’s manuals. You know, those throngs of people who do as they’re told and flood cities on “white nights,” or those ladies who wander through art galleries sipping wine and get drunk on the third glass? So, are you hungry for pre-set situations to live by following precise instructions? Well, just buy Reforestation Seeds(they are also on sale at the MoMA!) and follow the instructions! This work is above all a message, there’s some irony, but also a sincere fascination with seeds: the fact that they contain so much information, in spite of being so small, has always impressed me. I believe it is absurd to throw away a seed, so I keep on inventing ways to avoid wasting its natural transmission capacity.

What is your relationship with ecology?
I’m certainly not a fanatic, I try to be ecological in my projects, also for the economic and commercial advantages it brings. An ecological approach leads to savings and guarantees better quality. Today being sustainable makes economic sense, though not everyone has understood that, unfortunately. Having said that, it is also true that I can’t stand moralists, the ones who want to change the world, the true believers, the obsessed. I need to feel free: everything I have done thus far is ecological, it’s true, but who knows, maybe one day I will design weapons… To define myself, sometimes I like to use a German word: frech. I don’t know how to translate it, exactly: maybe cheeky, brash. I mean that I don’t feel ethical in the hyper-coherent, rigid way some other people are, or pretend to be.

You operate by producing ideas and functions instead of forms. But what happens when the time comes to develop a form? Is that really something that doesn’t interest you?
I started doing design with a theory: in a global world, the idea has to be global, the form has to be local. A good example is one of my projects from 1998: a chair made of stacked books, which from country to country was supposed to take on different forms. That was what I thought, but in the end I had to admit that there was a dominant, uniform, undifferentiated global taste at work. The form and its process of realization are not very important to me. I might even regret it, but that’s the way it is. In an ex- and post-industrial society it seems stupid to get involved in solving technical problems: constructing, making things, no longer has value. The value is not in the object, but in what it represents, what its maker wants to say.

OK, but at a certain point the moment comes in which you have to come to terms with form…
Let’s say that more than anything else I find myself interpreting forms, associating them. I am a designer and I could not do otherwise. But literally working on forms bores me, it seems like correcting spelling. I would never go to a factory to follow the production of one of my objects. I really can’t understand how people, in the two-thousands, can still get excited about form and material.

You seem like an excellent analyst of this historical moment, of our society. I have always thought that your design was the result of interdisciplinary reflection, with a number of connections to anthropology. Are you interested in that subject?
I have read anthropology, but I couldn’t tell you the name of a book or a theorist that influenced me, a part from Octavi Rofes, an anthropologist who is also a dear friend of mine. He is one of the most acute interpreters of my work that, he tells me, he finds it interesting for his studies. He says, for example, that Spamt Factory, the performance in which I and a group of friends prepared “contemporary tapas” during an opening at the H2O gallery in Barcelona, was a good representation of the transformations that were impacting the world of design. In his interpretation, considering the decline of the industrial society and the spread of globalization, we designers will have to invent a new job for ourselves. Exactly like the characters in the film The Full Monty! Instead of designing chairs, we will have to become the players in an improbable, captivating spectacle…

Who are the clients and fans of Martí Guixé?
They are bourgeois people full of contradictions, bourgeois people who don’t accept the fact that that is what they are. They have money but they don’t like environments for the rich. They could afford expensive restaurants but they look for original, casual places that have character. They’re like me: I too could afford to eat in very expensive restaurants, but I prefer to eat in a well-conceived fast food place, with quality food prepared and served in a contemporary, functional way. I have a good example to explain who buys my stuff: some years ago, for Danese, I made the Xarxa seat, composed of five excellent cushions that could be assembled in different ways. The seat cost one thousand five hundred euros. I remember someone said: with one thousand five hundred euros at Ikea I can buy a nice four-seater divan! Those who buy Xarxa, on the other hand, are buying a new seating concept: they are not looking for a big divan, they choose an original and rather radical idea instead of a conventional object. Of course you have to have money to spend one thousand five hundred euros on five cushions.

What do you think about democratic design?
At the start, but just at the start, I believed in it. Then I understood that it is not my thing: it forces you to become more commercial, simpler, and instead I like design that is a bit more complicated, full of layers and interpretations. I like projects that are usually understood and appreciated only in certain social contexts, it would be hypocritical to claim otherwise. My super-sophisticated and contemporary snacks would not be successful anywhere. I believe that the experiences of the big discount chains (Ikea, but also Muji), in the end, are really negative: they produce billions of cheap objects, all exactly the same, things that don’t last, substitutes.

Once, however, you wrote on a plastic chair: Stop discrimination of cheap furniture. Is there a contradiction here?
No, anything but. Once again, the project has layers of interpretation that is not immediate or universal. The chair was shown in Holland, and “cheap” in Dutch corresponds to gut gekauft that literally means “well purchased.” So the meaning was: don’t discriminate against a chair that has been well bought. This work, then, is a statement to defend a plastic monoblock, which I consider a brilliant object, above all if you think of it as a sort of disposable thing, something that can break or easily get lost. If someone steals a monoblock from your garden, or if the winter climate destroys it, you can replace it very easily. The basic idea is very different from the furniture that is worth nothing and is sold to furnish entire homes.

Your design often has a playful character, but it is a subtle game, aimed mostly at adults. Have you thought about doing projects for children?
Yes, there is one in particular that I really like; I’m working on it for Magis, in the Me Toochildren’s collection. It will be called My Zoo, a series of gigantic animals made of cardboard, all white. Five of them are already in production, but I’ve designed twelve. The thing that convinces me about them is that the children will be able to sit on them and color them, but also go inside them. The whale will be eight meters long, enormous! It’s the one I like best, the one with the most meanings, connected to fables, the tradition, psychology. Just think how much fun it would be to enter the belly of a whale!

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We said that your work is multi-layered, dense with overlapping, conscious meanings, in a dialogue with different disciplines. What, on the other hand, is the role of chance? In your design, but also in your life.
I love chance. Some of my projects, like the interiors of the Desigual shops, were made by seeking the complicity of chance: I organized parties inside empty spaces, and during the parties anyone could color or draw on the walls, whatever they wanted, in a rather wild way, helped by the atmosphere of the party. The resulting environments were truly authentic, nothing like the fake-spontaneous graphics that are all the rage in clothing stores. In my life, too, chance plays a central role: it was purely by chance that I staged one of the first performances in the field of design, the one we mentioned earlier. It was 1997 and I had an exhibition at the H2O Gallery in Barcelona to present my Spamt, substantially techno-tapas, a contemporary reinterpretation of traditional Spanish snacks. Specifically, Spamt transforms the classic bread-tomato-oil-salt combination into a snack that is entirely contained by a small tomato, making it very easy to eat. Well, to present that I had decided to just show photographs. The gallerist did not agree, and the local TV station was disappointed about the fact that there were no objects in a design exhibition. So the gallerist convinced me: since I didn’t want to exhibit things, at least I would have to act out the preparation of the Spamt snacks at the opening. Because I don’t like to work with my hands, I got four friends involved: a Japanese guy to cut the tomatoes (precise!), a Swede who emptied them, a Frenchman to fill them with bread, and an Italian to season them with oil and salt. I was the quality control guy, to make sure everything went smoothly… it was fun, a success that happened by chance, that indicated the path to a new way of doing design, as we were saying before.

Today “performed” design is very much the vogue, an unstoppable trend: I’m thinking about Design Miami, Craft Punk and many other such events. What do you think?
These things don’t interest me at all, they have little to do with the preparation of mySpamt snacks, and they even make me a little depressed. It’s like going to the zoo, lots of cages, with these designers who show you how they make their chair. I repeat, in an era in which only ideas count, in which objects take form in Chinese factories without any attention being paid to the process, staging the work of a craftsman on a piece of contemporary design seems completely out of place, and somewhat pathetic.

What about the artists who do performances with food? Rirkrit Tiravanija, for example?
Once in Berlin I went to an event: there was Thomas Demand who showed some of his films, while Rirkrit Tiravanija cooked up a storm, for thirty or forty people… I hate working with my hands, and I don’t understand the appeal, I don’t see the fun in cooking for all those people, doing all that work. It is easier for me to understand the work of someone like Antoni Miralda, for example. I’ve always been intrigued by his artistic experimentation with foods: he worked in an era when there was the boom of colorings, and the way he used them in his works demonstrated an avant-garde focus. Of course, his work has nothing to do with my design: he makes art, I design saleable concepts.

And your relationship with the marketing side, the sale of your projects? I tried to interact with the site buyguixe.com, though now it seems to be closed. What was it?
Just an experiment, which says a lot about my great passion for computer languages and new technologies. I developed it myself, many years ago. At the time I often said: I speak six languages: Spanish, Catalan, Italian, English, German and HTML! I was truly obsessed by the novelty of the Web, at the beginning I went crazy because I knew it was there but no one could explain to you how to get access, how to use it. I remember that for three months I chased a friend of mine who was a programmer, to get some explanations about it. Buyguixe.com was a custom site to show my projects, which could be purchased online, or at least that was part of the intent! But the companies were against a formula that combined different brands, and then people said there were lots of problems involving payments. In short, it never really worked, commercially.

You seem to have very good relationships with companies that are very strong commercially, like Camper and Alessi, that have had faith in you and even go along with your more poetic, visionary projects.
I often propose very extreme things, that I am able to complete only partially, though in general I must say that certain relationships function very well. I am very pleased, for example, about the project for the new Alessi space in Milan, on Via Manzoni. They were enthusiastic about my idea, even though it was absolutely unconventional, and to tell the truth a bit disorienting. While the French store I made for them mixes red, white and blue neon, to garb it in a strange pink light, in Milan we went even further with the lighting. Usually in shops only a few lighting mixes are permitted, but with Alessi we could be daring.

Before you said you were obsessed with computer languages. I might add: you love instructions…
As a kid I loved comics. Mariscal, as a comic artist, was my idol. But instead of drawing comics, I found myself designing instructions, the users’ manuals for a company that produced optical lenses. It was one of my first jobs, in 1988. My task was to invent storyboards for these manuals, and that is where my passion began. At first I drew clear, precise figures, but then I started to make sketches, removing more and more. Now I like to doodle: essential figures, but eloquent. The more succinct and quick the drawings, the more meaningful and effective they are as instructions.

How did instructions get to be so essential in your design?
It still has to do with my conviction that forms are no longer important today. I really believe that you can produce locally, following general, global instructions. Once I got very angry because during an urban event in Valencia I wanted my design object for Droog to simply be a set of instructions. For example: paint that wall white, make a flyer that indicates the most interesting bars in the center of town, etc. Droog did not accept the project, they said it was too abstract… My idea was replaced by some containers, in which Valencians could do some sort of creative activities, melting in the heat. Outside it was forty degrees in the shade, so inside it was unbelievably hot. The creator of this piece was a Nordic designer. I am also reminded of another similar episode, I think it was during a conference of Doctors Without Borders. Some doctors working in South America pointed out the uselessness and waste of some very expensive masks – by a Spanish designer, produced in Finland – to protect communities struck by earthquakes against the dust and fumes caused by the quake. According to the doctors, all you needed was a piece of wet cloth, placed over the mouth and nose. In certain circumstances it is fundamental to make the best possible use of the available resources, by following instructions.

You have very clear ideas about what doesn’t make sense in design. What do you teach to people who turn to you to learn about it?
First, I try to transmit the need to be critical: nothing should ever be taken for granted, we should never rely on previous ideas or knowledge, never offer superficial responses. I’ll give you an example. Some time ago I conducted a workshop at the Polytechnic School of Design: we had to develop some design projects starting with three typical products from the Lombardy tradition: panettone and two types of cheese. I introduced the workshop by saying that panettone could become a sandwich with the two cheeses inside it, between its layers. The Italians immediately turned up their noses: bleah, disgusting, impossible. Well, I advise against this type of attitude: if you say it is impossible, you have to tell me why! Or, before saying that it is not a good idea, consult a taste expert: he might find a way to combine even very different flavors, correcting the acidity with one ingredient or another. First experiment, go as far as you can, there will always be plenty of time to say bleah… and what if you find out you were wrong?

Via Klat