donderdag 24 oktober 2013

Weed cookbook

Found on Ebay, if the postage wasn't so prohibitive (22+dollars) I would make a bid.

dinsdag 22 oktober 2013

Vestal Fire

Am reading Stephen J. Pyne's book 'Vestal Fire, An Environmental History, Told through Fire, of Europe and Europe's Encounter with the World' (1997). It is what the title says: a history of fire, fire practises and the history of slash and burn as the cooking of Europe, as the way to prepare the land for colonization and agriculture. The book made me see the world in a different way, with fire at its centre. What is Pyne saying? 1) Fire is part of life, the consequence of biology 2) Everything must burn in the end.     

The first chapter is one of the best pieces of text that I have ever read. If the exact meandering through Europe's fire history seems a bit much you can zap yourself to the website of the NYT which has an excerpt from the the fist chapter. There is also a review by David Quammen who dismisses the book as long-winding but I agree more with William Cronon who calls the book a masterpiece in his foreword. Who do you agree with: the hack or the esteemed environmental historian?

Here is how it begins:
Whatever its larger mysteries, fire is a physical process. It is a chemical reaction, not an object. It has no existence apart from the fuel and oxygen that feed it, and the heat that kindles and sustains it. The story of fire is the story of how each of those elements came to be, and how it is they have combined. 

There is not one fire but many. Each has its habitat, its traits, its behavior, its ecology. To call something "fire" is like calling an organism a tree or an insect. Because fire depends on life for its existence, it shares in the diversity, complexity, and subtlety of the living world. Oxygen is a by-product of photosynthesis. Fuels are the hydrocarbon hardcopies of living or dead plants. A field guide to fire would distinguish between combustion that smolders in organic soils, flames that soar through long-needled conifers, fires that crackle through brush and stubble. So symbiotic is the alliance that many prescientific peoples considered fire as itself living. Today it might still be regarded as metaorganic. Certainly in any ecological inventory, fire remains elemental. 

Fire is exclusively a product of its environment. The history of fire--the explanation of why particular kinds of fires exist in particular places at particular times--is the history of how that environment evolved. How geologic forces created the lithic landscape. How evolution and ecology fashioned a biotic milieu. How climates organized winds, wet and dry seasons, and lightning-laden storms to prepare fuels for burning and to kindle them at appropriate times.

In all this, Europe was exceedingly complex. No single fire could claim dominion over all the habitats of the continent. Distinctive fires clustered, just as field mice and grasses did, into ecological blocs: fire provinces roughly defined by their geologically arranged hearthstones, the size and opaqueness of their climatic flues, and the density and magnitude of the biotic kindling and the available logs. Whatever cultural compositions humans might impose in recent centuries, that primordial order would endure, and would ensure that fire had a genealogy as ancient as Europe's stones, shrubs, and siroccos.

vrijdag 18 oktober 2013

Mapping Raymond Blanc with Map Your Recipe [more recepimatics]

In the last post I ran 21 recipes of BBC's James Martin through Map your Recipe and exclaimed how surprised I was with the variety of ingredients and their original source. 

This evoked the comment from a reader that UK food is not so much 'open minded' as I said but the result of an imperialist heritage which was anything but open-minded.     

I do not necessarily disagree with pointing to British colonialism as a source of current food diversity in the UK as presented on TV, but I do doubt that imperialism is the only or the most important reason. 

Instead I think that the diversity of the ingredients in Martin's set of 21 recipes is the result of contemporary food culture and its ingrained values of curiosity, experimentalism and, practically, the fact that virtually every ingredient from any place and any cuisine in the world is now for sale everywhere. 

We could argue about this until the microwave explodes but I have come up with an experiment to verify the colonialist-hypothesis. France was one of the great imperialist nations of Europe with colonies in Africa, the Americas, South-East Asia and Oceania. But French cuisine is not known for its eclecticism and the French themselves have never taken up a food habit similar to the UK's fondness for Indian food. 

So I have taken 21 recipes from Raymond Blanc, Frenchman in the UK, presenter of my favourite BBC cooking program. Surely this will show that culture (French chauvinism) not imperialism (England's dreaming) is the defining factor.

Well.... there goes my theory. I still believe that culture not landgrabbing is the key but Raymond Blanc is incorporating the produce of the world with even more enthusiasm than Martin does.

Martin uses 32 ingredients from 9 centres of origin. 

Blanc uses 37 ingredients from 11 centres.
Interestingly, ingredients from Ethiopia (sesame, barley) are entirely absent.

Needless to say this a random selection of recipes and Blanc's nor Martin's food can stand for the general cooking in their respective countries.  

donderdag 17 oktober 2013

Food Map of Britain in Map your Recipe [Meta-recipematics]

More Meta-recipematics with Map your Recipe

James Martin, tv-chef and presenter of BBc's Saturday Kitchen Live, has a new program called "Food Map of Britain". I haven't seen it but I have taken the ingredients of all 21 recipes given at the website and fed them into Map your Recipe. 

It helps that the list includes mains and desserts but the range of ingredients is really quite spectacular. I think it is a good illustration of the open-minded attitude of contemporary British food and its willingness to incorporate ingredients and flavours from all known cuisines. 

The only major area missing is the Brazil-Paraguay centre from which things like manioc, peanuts and pineapple originate. 

I wonder if a list of recipes from someone like Heston Blumenthal would show an equal amount of diversity. 

dinsdag 15 oktober 2013

Native trees have more insects.

The above table compiled by the Offwell Woodland and Wildlife Trust shows clearly that native trees in park bring with them a higher level of biodiversity in comparsion to introduced species. I have been going on and on recently about the joys of the anthropocene. Here is a reminder of the downsides of the great species bonanza. Found via Monbiots Return of the Native.

zondag 13 oktober 2013

A Derive in the Cryptoforest of the Anthropocene [A Transcript]

Further transcripts from a Derive, acquired by Time Travel.

Slotervaart Fashion Centre UpComing.

An important academic paper, authored by some of the most important names in the drive for the recognition of the Anthropocene as a proper geological era, mentions the Kmer Temple Ta Prohm in Angkor. Once a triving centre of humanity it has now been eaten up alive by nature. Better examples of reclaimed urbanity abound: the lost cities of Meso-America, the even more obscure lost cities of the Amazon. The last are an interesting example: these cities once housed large numbers of people, organized in what must have been politically advanced societies, have completely vanished from sights. Local myths (Viti-Viti) and the occasional observant traveller/anthropologist did mention them but to deaf ears. Concentrated study of the cities of Amazon is at best only a decade old. 

To return to the paper just mentioned (it's called the 'the new world of the Anthropocene' 2010) point its readers to the overgrown Cambodian temple to show that cities may now be the most obvious source of the anthropocene, they may well be only transient. 

I have a special way of enjoying this insight. For a few years now I have been exploring cryptoforests and I have been trying to turn what I have learned from them into a discipline: Cryptoforestry. The central tenet of which is that cities must at all times fight the onslaught of nature trying to supersede it. The hegemony of the urban, a hegemony which often stands for the integrity of society itself, is always under threat as treeroots and wild plants are wobbling the pivot. (And yes that is a very bad reference to Ezra Pound referencing Confucius Kung).

By visiting places where the urban order is breached, cryptoforests, the city is reveals its vulnerability. 

Practically cryptoforestry means finding the most difficult path between A & B. Follwoing the pavement is easy, taking an elephant path (or desire path as they are better known) to me is a form of social conformity. I prefer the untrodden. I prefer the places where the mosquitoes are.

donderdag 10 oktober 2013

Map your Recipe Meta Studies

Here is an interesting thing you can do with Map Your Recipe

I have taken 10 recipes from the veritable Mr Cool Ken Hom, the well known Chinese cook who got the west wokking.

I could have taken 3 recipes but the image would be the same.

Note that Chinese cuisine uses absolutely nothing from the Mediterranean. Also notice that only thing the application finds of Chinese origin is Soy. There are plenty of other things originating from China, but these are less obvious.

One thing to do with it to make a list of commonly-used ingredients and their places and map that. The application could offer a prediction of where the recipe came from and how much it deviates.     

dinsdag 8 oktober 2013

Anthropocene < - * - * - >Cryptoforest

In "The new world of the Anthropocene (2010)", an important paper written by a who-is-who of the term and its official bid for making it a bona fide geological epoch, you can find the above image with this caption below: 
Left - Skyscrapers on the east bank of the Huangpu River in Shanghai, China, photographed from the viewing platform of the Oriental Pearl Tower. Shanghai now has a population approaching 20 million inhabitants. Right - Ta Prohm, Angkor, Cambodia. Stones of this Buddhist monastery built in the late 12th century are held in a grip by Kapok trees. Angkor may have been the world’s first ‘million city’ long before London.
Illustration for the statement made in the paper that cities may be the most visible aspect of the anthropocene but also its most transient. One thinks of Richard Jefferies 'After London'. One thinks of CRYPTOFORESTRY. 
The most plainly visible physical effects of this on the landscape—the growth of the world’s megacities, for instance—may in some ways be the most transient. In such “terraforming”, humans have brought about a roughly order-of-magnitude increase in the long-term rate of erosion and sedimentation (8, 9). This is a remarkable, though perhaps short-lived, sedimentary signal. If construction stops or slows, for whatever reason, then natural geomorphologic processes will rapidly re-establish themselves, as shown by the fate of “lost” cities such as Angkor in Cambodia.

The Anthropocene represents a new phase in the history of both humankind and of the Earth, when natural forces and human forces became intertwined, so that the fate of one determines the fate of the other. Geologically, this is a remarkable episode in the history of this planet.

A derive in the Anthropocene [A transcript] [edited]

Ladies & Gentleman,

I thank you all for joining me on this walk titled: "A derive in the Anthropocene". I hope to explain both the term Derive and the term Anthropocene in a short while but right now I would like to focus your attention to our immediate environment. It's an urban environment, made from wood, metal, glass, bricks and concrete, and long after we are gone the environmental consequences of the mountains that were levelled, the pits that were dug, the forests that were cut, the stuff that was sucked out of the ground and the stuff pumped into the air to built it all will still be there.
The anthropocene is the proposed name given for to our era, the era in which mankind became so dominant that it became possible for a lowely species of primates to influence the history of the earth itself. The rise of the human population is the main factor that creates our planetary influence and the city is the most visible result of that.

We are going on a walk, perhaps you are familiar with the neighbourhood, and I want you to look around it and think of us living our own Vinland Saga. The Vinland Saga is, as you might remember, the story of a small number of Viking sailors colonizing first Greenland, then Baffin island, Labrador and finally New Foundland.

The need for the Athropocene comes from the recognition that the continents and ecosystems that have been brought in contact, the goods that have travelled around the world and the climate, soil and trace element balances that that have been changed, are irreversible actions. And like for Eirik the Red and his people, the overbearing sentiment we bring to Vinland is one of loss. Landscapes, pristine nature (so far it exists) are forever altered, extinction rates are up dramatically. What is happening now will never go away. But it IS a new world, with unexpected sides. Despite mass-extinctions overall biodiversity in many places is rising.  

There are differences too of course. Eirik travelled with family and clan from Norway and reached new shore in Greenland. We are not travelling in isolation, we are legion. We have no solitude but crowds. The anthropocene has no places of departure and of arrival. The anthropocene is a mess and in that it is entirely suitable for an age that takes not the clock or the grid but the network as its dominant model. 

Another difference is that the Vinland Saga is a tale. The Anthropocene is a grand narrative.

How often will you witness the beginning of a new geological age? This is a time of exploration.

The derive, the drift, known from the past and defined for us by the Situationists in the 1950ties, has lost almost all of its intended radical meaning. In a leisure society where time for sports and play, fun and games is a billion dollar industry the drift is a sanctioned way of approaching places perfectly understandable to consulting agencies and NLP-frauds. But instead of using it to get an insight in the hidden patterns of our surrounding, we might as well use it to reveal the mundane and the sameness of it. It doesn't matter how extreme your psychogeographical techniques (triangulating a route to the Northpole with a .walk in Brainfuck) the anthropocene is everywhere.

Now let's go and I'll tell you more as we proceed.