When you walk along the riverside, What do you see, hear, smell or taste?
When the river flows, it connects people, places, and ecologies.
We cordially invite you to explore your city and its river banks by walking along them, capturing/documenting your sensorial experiences, and transforming them into a recipe to share with a wider network of alternate cooks during our online workshop.
Although the pandemic restricts our access to Göteborg, we want to embrace this forced localism as a catalyst for remote collective creativity. Inspired by the city’s river, the Göta älv, we propose an alternative channel to explore our relationship with the water bodies (sea, river, lake, or canal) of your city at your own pace – a decentralized call for cross-border participation.
What is the relationship between food and urban water bodies?
“The feeding of cities has been arguably the greatest force shaping civilization, and it still is. In order to understand cities properly, we need to look at them through food.” – Carolyn Steel (Hungry City)
The author and architect Carolyn Steel, in her book "Hungry City", explains how the formation and expansion of cities were directly proportional to the capacity of a government (and urban planners) to provide food for their citizens. This meant how efficiently food could be transported and supplied within an urban area. In many cases, archipelagos, rivers, and canals were excellent means of accomplishing this task.
Cities such as Gothenburg achieved exponential urban development and economic growth in the 19th century thanks to its river connecting to the sea. The river Göta Alv (known as the Gothenburg branch), which rises in the north at Lake Vänern, runs 93 km to the Kattegat Strait. It connects the North Sea with the Baltic Sea. As Gothenburg became a growing harbor city, it allowed trading ships and boats to mobilize commerce and food with ease. Around the Göta Alv peers and decks, all types of merchants gathered to exchange seafood (especially salmon), spices, and foreign products coming mostly from the Swedish colonies.
Accordingly, water bodies have always been means for transportation and migration. One can argue that flavors and stories are intertwined with these bodies of water. But the more these rivers and archipelagos support the industrialized food production of big cities around the globe, the further away they are from their natural state. While the water ecosystems suffered the impacts of cargo ships emissions, the riversides’ natural geographies are transformed into fenced decks, piled up of containers. Since the shore, algae, and fish have decreased (and in some cases ceased to exist), sourcing activities, such as fishing, are relocated to the outskirts of the city. We are left with just a visual fluid landscape - a supplier entity taken for granted.
Through food, we are constantly reinforcing this sourcing relationship with our urban water bodies. But, does the fact that we can sit in front of the river to eat, or get our favorite foreign food at the supermarket, speak of the river’s ability as an ecological system?
How can an urban water body inspire a modular recipe?
In this workshop, we want to reflect on the urban ecologies and politics of the water bodies in our cities, by looking into our food activities (sourcing, cooking, and eating).
We aim to do so by developing modular recipes that enable us to experience and interpret our surroundings from different perspectives.
What is a modular recipe?
Modularity in design is defined as understanding a system from its smallest and individual parts, which can then be altered and exchanged for another or between other systems. When we talk about modular recipes, we want to understand a dish's preparation in terms of food-material properties. This means that if the recipe calls for a potato, it can be replaced by its modular archetype “root”; or if the dish needs lemon, it can instead request an acidic element. In this way, the recipe preserves its infrastructure but allows the cooker to experiment with different roots such as sweet potato or beetroot, and other acids like vinegar or apple cider for example. The ingredient selection for a modular recipe depends on the geopolitical context, biodiversity, food access, cultural heritage, and preferences of the bodies who cook.
We chose to explore the modularity of two street food staples you can come across in Gothenburg. Kanelbullar and Coffee - or as we came to learn: ‘a state of mind, an attitude, and an important part of Swedish social culture’ – The Fika! And ‘Fish and Chips’ – the popular street food you know from British Pubs and pop culture. Although originally from the UK many variations can be found across harbor cities in Europe. In Gothenburg, you can stumble upon food trucks serving ‘Fish and Chips? around the canals of Nordstaden.
These recipes have been chosen as archetypes that can be reinterpreted and moduled after your local urban conditions. They have overt and hidden connections to the city of Gothenburg, which we hope you start to explore during the workshop. As we break these two recipes down to their modular elements, your interpretations and cultural flavors will color them with your local geographies.
Fika – Pause of warm liquid and sweet pastry
Fish and chips – Fried protein/umami and fried roots to go
This three-part workshop will take place between the 25th and 26th of September as part of the Gothenburg City Triennale. The details of the workshop are as below:
Saturday, 25. September 2021
After our presentation, we hope that you can go outside and start sourcing for your modular recipe. (assignment 1.)
Sunday, 26. September 2021
We will gather in an online session for exchanging and discussing the recipe-making process as well as cooking collectively. (assignments 2. and 3.)
Join us via zoom.us
Meeting ID: 620 1014 1393
While we walk along riversides, seas, or lakeshores, we can look for different types of resources for our modular recipes. We may recover forgotten nurturing relationships, either by gathering wild foods or visiting the nearby markets. These immersive walks can help us the source for knowledge, memories or inspire mythologies of the relationship between our food and our urban water bodies.
We will ask you to first choose one modular recipe, either Fika or Fish & Chips, and start the sourcing process next to your chosen water body. Maybe you choose the one closest to you or one you haven’t visited in a while. They will serve as your starting point to think about your recipe.
We’ve listed questions to trigger possible connotations between the body of water and the modular recipe. Try to answer them as you walk and document your thought processes and questions around them:
How do you feel next to the water? Can you name the relationship between your body and that of the water next to you?
Can you relate to the water's biodiversity? Are there any fauna (animals, fish, birds) and flora (vegetation, algae) visible, or not?
Does the physical and sensorial environment you’re currently in spark any of your memories? Which ones? Where?
Can you source (directly) from the water? If not, why?
Can you talk to someone who has access to the water’s resources (what are the resources) or a place that shares/sells them?
By now, we have appealed to your senses by documenting and recording your experiences along your walk.
Now we would like to ask you to interpret your surroundings into modular flavors and lastly translate them into concrete ingredients and cooking methods. These questions can guide you through this process:
Can you remember any specific smell, flavor, or image from the body of water you walked along? Is this related to anything specific or edible resource?
Do any of these flavors inspire you to assemble ideas/ingredients for your recipe?
Do you see any connections between the body of water you’ve walked along and your chosen recipe (FIKA/Fish and Chips)?. This could be historical, political, economic, or cultural for example.
Each modular recipe contains tastes and flavor-descriptions that belong to each ingredient. After giving an overall thought to the recipe, choose one description and think of one ingredient/flavor/memory from your sourcing experience. Note it down, choose another one and go on with the rest of the reinterpreted ingredients.
Now let’s cook and discuss together.
During our online cooking session, we will exchange our unique paths, findings, and recipes. Building on this infrastructure of kitchens and stories, we want to discuss how the results of this assignment relate to our urbanity and redefine how we source food within our cities. In doing so, hopefully rooting us back to underappreciated cosmologies or the timeless metaphysical networks that link our water bodies to each other.
The spectrum of each recipe interpretation serves as our communal and conversational tableau. This tableau will grow inside this digital platform with each entry, creating a participatory archive with images, stories, and flavors. This online flow will connect Göteborg with the world and bring the world a little closer to Göteborg.
If you want to contribute your recipe - please follow this link. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and write us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Let’s re-encounter our fluid landscapes together in this digital flow”
In between/Mediating critical cooking landscapes
Cocinas Alterinas is a collaborative project that explores food as a means to reflect and meditate on plural visions of design. Either by sourcing food, cooking, or eating together, we look into kitchens as spaces of care, recreation, and resistance. We create hybrid communal processes, digital and/or analog workshops with local and global communities, based on long and short-distance complicity.
Mayar el Bakry
Mayar is a Swiss-Egyptian designer based in Zurich. Currently, she’s focusing on food and cooking as a means to create spaces of discourses, exchange, and communal reflection.
Gabriela Aquije Zegarra
Gabriela Aquije is a landscape architect and design researcher from Lima, Peru, based in Germany. The plural landscapes of Food Systems, their politics and ecologies, are the framework of her critical design practice.