Slowly one by one, we lift our heads. Pulling ourselves away from whatever research paper has captivated us. It is that time of day. The two of them stand at the counter, adorned in white coats and brown aprons discussing our meal. She emerges from the bottom level hands full. I can spot leeks, cabbage, and kale. There is a plastic container full of a mystery grain. I wonder what the plan is. We all have our role to play. Some set tables. Some wash dishes. Some cook. Like dancers we move through the kitchen as the boat rocks slowly side to side. It is time for lunch.
The Nordic Food Lab is unlike any other environment I have worked in. The ultimate creative space as they pursue the nebulous concept of deliciousness. Here food is a world that is meant to be played with. It is meant to be explored, experienced, and questioned. Not every experiment is a melody and some are just dissonance but it is through this pursuit of “deliciousness” that drives them to search out alternatives. They are searching for the lost ingredients and techniques that have been forgotten as our food systems shrinks to just a few products. Whether it is rediscovering the past or finding a way to blend it with the present, food is the focus. They are constantly pouring over research and talking to the internationally diverse interns that enter the boat to see where creativity may be sparked. It is through this “simple” pursuit that they work to find answers to the complex question of fixing our broken food system. A system that has been reduced, abuses the environment, ignoring what naturally grows in a region or in a season.
Located on a house boat in the Copenhagen canals it sits across one of the most influential restaurants, Noma. There are two full time staff, one director, 3 long term interns, and 3 short term interns…at least for this month. The number of interns fluctuate from month to month. It is a small team, drawing inspiration from the restaurant, the lab, the kitchen, the dining room, and the farm, living somewhere in between chef and scientist. We are just a group of people incredibly curious about food.
I find myself rocking on the boat for 2 months as I work at developing a fundraising plan for this amazing non-profit run organization. Around me there is a fine line between cooking and scientific experiments being conducted. Containers are fermenting. The good mold is growing. Beakers sit beside spice mixes. Conversations range from making croissants to deliberating alternative ways to verify fat content in proteins. You never know what a day will hold. What visitor is going to come to discuss collaboration? What project is at the point of a taste test? What conversation will lead to a new world to explore?
I don’t know truly how I ended up in this mix but I am grateful to be here. Observing, watching and of course tasting. Knowing each day will be full of new experiences makes me spring out of bed with a bit of butterflies in my stomach, ever hopeful to make my mark and leave them with the tools needed. Who knows what flavors, opportunities, and distinctive moments lay ahead in the upcoming weeks. I do know one thing for sure though, no matter what a day holds…lunch will always be good.