Skip to content

“We do not stop the world when we eat; we go into it a little more deeply.”

August 26, 2012

In his introductory essay (for René Redzepi’s NOMA: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine), Olafur Eliasson asserts: “We do not stop the world when we eat; we go into it a little more deeply.” (p.7)

“We are constantly confronted with a trivialized sensory world, largely the product of banal commercialization,” he explains. “The makers of that world aim for ‘safe’ sensations, selling experiences with which their target group can immediately identify. As a result, the individual’s imaginative ability is levelled off to become the same for everyone. The senses are blunted. By contrast, what is continually being developed at Noma helps to keep our senses keen. Its ability to surprise and sow the seeds of uncertainty is of the essence. You might say that Noma offers its guests a new language, but this language only acquires meaning by virtue of our personal way of using it – that is, though our individual experiences of taste (this also applies to good art: it simultaneously creates meaning and investigates the meaning it creates).” (p.8)

A person has only one set of taste buds – they may react to sweet rather than savoury – and they may associate certain images of moods with the dish they are eating. Their expectations and scale of perception are specific to them. Their body ingests and converts the food in one particular way, whereas I have a different set of taste buds, a different body, a different previous history, and therefore a different experience. The difference we experience helps to emphasize that it is all about experimentation at a high level. It concerns an event that prioritizes individual perception within a space that is very much collective – the meal, the act of eating together.” (p.8)

He goes on: “We have grown up as part of a tradition that sees the eating of food as an isolated phenomenon, as an interval or a pause during the day. The food may be beautifully served; a miniature work of art that is detached from its surroundings by its pedestal – the plate. But this offers an impoverished taste experience.” (p.8)

“Food is just so commonplace. Everyone eats, everyone has an opinion about food. But taste is not exclusively a matter of individual perception, and food is never ‘just food’. Whether we like it or not, what we eat affects how the world looks. And that affects the way we understand it. When we look at a plate of food, we should see the greater ecosystem too. If we find out where the food comes from and where it goes to, maybe this knowledge can be made into a kind of flavour-enhancer. It matters whether the potatoes come from New Zealand or from the Lammerfjord area of Denmark, and I can see great potential in not dividing knoledge and flavour (just as in art, we should not separate form and content). They can be part of one and the same food experience. In the same way, cooking and eating and taste are associated with many other things. Food can be political. Food can be about responsibility, sustainability, geography and culture.” (p.9)

Ref: Olafur Eliasson (2010) Milk Skin with Grass, pp.6-9 René Redzepi NOMA: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine. Phaidon Press: London


Comments are closed.