March 18th, 2014 | daybook
Hello. I’ve been reading cookbooks.
There’s a certain kind of cookbook that you — or at least I — can read like it’s fiction. Science fiction, even. I was talking with Janice Wang, a researcher at MIT Media Lab, about this at South By the other day. (That was a really interesting visit, by the way.) She was trying to put together a thing about food in science fiction, and having a little trouble finding too much about food culture in sf. And all I could think of was the three cookbooks I’d gotten recently, written by chefs from NOMA. NOMA is a Nordic restaurant dedicated to reinventing hyperlocal, firmly seasonal foodstuffs with Science. And science is still the best poetic fiction there is.
The NOMA Leaf Broth requires fallen autumn leaves of two different vintages: the current year and the year before. They employ car parks full of dehydrators to smash plants down to a perfect powdered essence. Moss is a regular ingredient. Centrifuges and frozen gasses. All the foods are found within a certain radius around the NOMA location. It is near impossible to prepare many of the meals outside that area or without their lab. But that’s not the point.
These are books intended to make you think again about where you live. They serve the essential journalistic element of social fiction: this is where I think I am today and this is what I think it looks like. And then they apply technologies entirely unexpected in the culinary context — like their forebears, people like Heston Blumenthal and Ferran Adria — to try and make us reconsider the possibilities inherent in our current context. Cookbooks of the Science Fiction Condition. Take your eyes off the rear view mirror for a second and see people using Mad Scientist shit to make dinner.
(Taken from the top of my most recent newsletter post. Subscribe at http://www.orbitaloperations.com )