Insects, blood and faeces may not sound particularly appetitising, but they are among the produce we should consider eating if we want our food to be sustainable and healthy, according to a team of chefs and scientists in Denmark.
The Nordic Food Lab was set up on a boat in the Danish capital of Copenhagen in 2008 by Michelin-starred Noma head chef René Redzepi and culinary entrepreneur Claus Mayer to better understand the flavours and the gastronomic potential of Scandinavia.
But in almost a decade – and now based at a laboratory at the University of Copenhagen – its researchers are travelling the world to piece together a holistic approach to eating. Scientists, artists chefs, designers and specialists in education are all rolling their sleeves up and getting stuck in to the cause.
“We try to work with every type of produce. Insects, blood, jelly fish, fermented products that sometimes smell and develop mould, and the products look rotten,” explains Roberto Flore, Head of Culinary Research and Development at the lab. “It’s about giving people more confidence with different produce and reconnecting with process of producing food.”
“One of the main problems with sustainability is we are completely disconnected to food,” he argues. “We don’t know how it is produced or to how handle certain products. That is a huge problem, and we risk losing knowledge collected over thousands of years in the next few decades. It’s important for us to document this knowledge and make it available to the world.”
Currently, researchers are working on how to make edible insects – from ants to larvae – more appetising to the uninitiated.
Other experiments have explored how animal blood, and its coagulating properties, could be used as an egg substitute as intolerance to the kitchen staple is one of the most common among child in Europe. (The result of that test were not entirely disgusting-looking blood pancakes and meringues, and an arguably more appealing black forest gateaux.)