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Approaching New Nordic Food's disciplinary boundary

Prang Lerttaweewit & Mischa Billing
Prang Lerttaweewit & Mischa Billing
Let’s celebrate knowledges. You maximize impacts when working together across disciplines. Demand more from food and it will give you more. We would like to encourage people from farm to table to pose new questions around food when looking at it. Collaborate on interdisciplinary projects and contribute your skills outside of its realm from time to time!

Prang Lerttaweewit & Mischa Billing

We would like to encourage people from farm to table to pose new questions around food when looking at it. Collaborate on interdisciplinary projects and contribute your skills outside of its realm from time to time!

“This article wants to envision and boost collaboration scenes and platforms, so that Nordic food could impacts societies at even greater level in the coming future. If we don’t find that out, we might miss a great competitive opportunity from our competences.”

Three questions

The New Nordic Food (NNF) program has made its leap taking Nordic food to be very appealing and rendering regional and global attentive crowds. On March 2004, the manifesto of New Nordic Food was written by 12 male chefs running successful fine-dining restaurants. Today, new Nordic food has been well explored. The programme has demonstrated that it is possible to achieve global impact when its actors are united working together toward the same goal. Within the program, various food movements were also conceived along the way, outside fine dining rings. Had the NNF programme created a ground ready for a growth of any next thing as well? Positively, we think so. 

Food is never out of function to life and to the society. Yet in fine dining, food is arguably more or less an entertainment. An interaction with food is punctually a top-down function having the chef sharing his/her knowledge to his/her guests. Having said that, when you look at food as a means that embraces life at different levels, you could see how every single gesture of it would shape the society in one way or another. This view presents an airy and spacious field to us so called food people. How is it possible to participate in this share outside fine dining domain?

Is Nordic gastronomy isolated or interconnected? It has driven far within the field in the past decade. The height in one segment was truly charming. Now, there is more to aim for -- across the disciplines. What if NNF expand the arena using interdisciplinary perspectives, involving more players to achieve an even more powerful impact?

Example 1

The growth of our gastronomy can be achieved in various directions. Prang’s work ‘Mx.’ (Mixology) presents a long table with food cut into tiny pieces arranged in a colour of spectrum. Participants have to make every new combination from 3 components. Using web app on smartphone, the input (combination, rating, description) is collected and also projected real-time. What you get is a growing data collected over each event. With information generated by various minds and backgrounds, many findings and inspirations could be drawn from there. Mx. event makes tastings evident as they are collectively generated from bottom-up, permitting randomness, playfulness, and chances to pitch in some magic. Without a top-down relationship commonly offered in restaurants, it could instead create a data that inspires chefs for a change. Mx. has collaborated with Nordic fine dining restaurants and at times with basic food preparation.

Example 2

Summer of 2013, we created an oak bottle titled ‘INNEI’ for Wallpaper* magazine’s Handmade issue. To celebrate the era that spirits are so stylish and prices are soaring high that it could come to be a prescription to ego boosting, we looked to make something that gave pleasure but shifted the source of satisfaction. INNEI takes drinking experience to another height by directing our appreciation of the ‘process’ not less than of the ‘product’. Due to surface: volume ratio, the bottle functions as time accelerator. The bottle is made to use with 'young and cheap liquor'. Its owner could enjoy experimenting on character development of spirits in various wood types at different toast levels, while respecting personal preferences at the same time. Inquisitive attention and keen expectation will create the new drinking experience that this bottle exists for.

Interdisciplinary work

The complication of interdisciplinary work is that a set of skills needs to be met. It’s a wicked barricade. What disciplines is needed in order to form an advantageous interdisciplinary team for a certain objective? While the final outcome toward an issue could seem right-on obvious to experts of different fields, it is most likely that none of the stakeholders had thought of creating it. One reason is that it takes thinking across the fields whereas a person is most likely bound to vision within one field he/she was trained to. In order to overcome that, ‘Posing the right question’ is the key.

Example 3

In collaboration with Palliative Centrum in Uppsala, Memory Sphere, a project on using Experience design to improve time in hospice, started by Prang asking the question “Where quantity of time is limited, how could we improve the quality of the time?” Why does the time in palliative care associate with negative feelings? In our society, we see dying as oppose to living. The late palliative phase associates with despair -- ‘I’m just waiting’. To perceive dying as living the last part of life gives people power to make it meaningful. Hospice time is there to make a closure of life. Recalling memories of how lives were shared together at the same time of creating new memories could become a coping strategy for both patient and family. Prang looked to create an intervention that could facilitate conversations and proximity despite the awkwardness of the visit. There is a strong connection between smells and the recollection of memory (olfactory memory). The question had led to creating a scrapbook of 40 smells of  Swedish seasons using micro-encapsulation technique. A smell of leather in winter, then campfire and wet sand in spring, rosemary and fresh laundry in summer, hay and gin in autumn, Björnklister as the school started. clove and pine forest, when winter comes again. In hospice, patient and relatives may then create a unique artifact, a personal legacy. Mischa’s skill in tasting and smelling could contribute to improving healthcare.

When gastronomy is done in an interdisciplinary way, the advantage of it will be promising. Mischa has in recent years equipped creative thinking to students of the School of Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Meal Science at Örebro University by workshops with Prang and others. She has also worked by an aesthetic perspective where smell and taste are in focus to students at Konstfack. The opportunity of interdisciplinary projects is that a skill can be constructive to even a field outside of its own field. The interdisciplinary project NanoForm* aimed to develop methodology for artistic research through haptic, in an interdisciplinary encounter that investigates connections between nanostructures and haptics. Mischa took part in the project with her haptic skill: to smell and taste and to communicate the sensory experience.

When you start with your interdisciplinary idea, you may find that organizational obstacle is common. It might take a long time to find collaborators. Resource in terms of time, staff, and finance to such initiative may not be feasible in common organizational structure at workplaces. Entering a new way of working naturally involves a high risk-return trade-off. This seems to be a threat subjected to most of us. Involving high failure rate and high return, the custom of start-up businesses yield a drastic growth handling this threat right. Originators, investors, inheritors have their unique roles in business partnering structure. In gastronomy world, however, financial platform is bounded. Besides, intellectual property protection for an idea doesn’t exist here. Conditionally, the owner of an idea frequently performs all kinds of business functions, which make the gastronomy world grow in-depth but fairly closed.

What if the players in Nordic food arena altogether pose questions in a new manner, addressing competences in a broader arena? We think that interdisciplinary work is an important opportunity to increase growth rate of Nordic food industry. The fact that the Nordic food network already has made the Nordic food scene and markets appealing, actors may attract collaborators with ease. Altogether, it is possible creating exciting trends for New Nordic Food in a very broad arena in the future. “Design process is a creative approach to problem solving and creating impact.” Creative industry is your new partner to achieve your next ambition. In interdisciplinary projects, giving designers the right brief is probably the most important factor toward potential outcome.

In the autumn of 2014, the Nordic Council of Ministers invited a group of leading players from across the Nordic Region to discuss their visions for the future of Nordic food. This essay formed part of this initiative #Nordicfood2024