Food, food culture, food as culture and the cultures that grow our food

Kouba Libre
Supermarket Babylon

October 26, 2007

kouba box
Homemade ice kouba in a sponsored freezer

In the grain section there are more than 20 sorts of rice and then there’s a formidable bulgur department. How often does one get to write that, formidable bulgur department, but there is one. Never mind the lack of competition, Babylon is hands down the best Iraqi supermarket in Rotterdam.

In the non-food bits there’s more or less anything you’d want to outfit a home hammam and an extensive henna assortiment for hair, hands and nails. And for the guys there’s every imaginable spare part for a water pipe and an entire shelf filled with myrrh.

homemade kouba in the freezer
Bags and sacks of cracked wheat dumplings

Of course I’m here for the pickles of the house, with the secret ingredient that isn’t sumac. Totally delicious and made with love. And there’s an entire freezer devoted to homemade dumplings, where rice dukes it out with bulgur. Formidable bulgur.

Homemade pickles in the fridge
The secret ingredient isn’t sumac

In Hashim’s shop stocked with stuff from the Middle East, Central Asia and several countries to the right of the Stans, Supermarket Babylon is tiny but you can lose yourself for hours. I love that this place has been put together in a geo-politically poetic way and that buttinsky fellow customers spout home-sick recipes when you wonder aloud how to spell kouba, (the dumplings made of bulgur or rice).

bags full of kouba

debra at 0:59 | Comments (2) | post to

Water, pure thyself

October 23, 2007

herman lijmbach's SODIS waterpurifier in situ
Trickle-down theory, solar disinfection water purifier by Herman Lijmbach, image used with permission

Gawd knows I’m a sucker for water purification, so even though there was a goodly handful of other wonderful work and pretty thingy-thingies at the Design Academy Eindhoven’s graduation show last weekend, I was most impressed with Herman Lijmbach’s solar disinfection (SoDis) water purifier. Spanned across a wall to receive the sun’s full attention, it can clean nearly 5 litres per hour, a day’s worth of drinking water for 10-15 people. Lijmbach decided on a humanitarian project for his exam work and developed the purifier based upon a process called SODIS (solar water disinfection), a simple technology used to improve the microbiological quality of drinking water through solar radiation, destroying the pathogenic microorganisms that cause waterborne diseases.
Easy as pie, put some water in the sun for 6 hrs, and bottoms up, image from SODIS website used entirely without permission

Good old-fashioned sunlight is used to treat contaminated water through two synergetic mechanisms: radiation in the spectrum of UV-A (wavelength 320-400nm) and increased water temperature. If the water temperature rises above 50°C, the disinfection process is three times faster. Lijmbach’s prototype can hold up to 30 litres and once the water has passed through the entire tube system (in roughly 1,5 hours) it’s been exposed to so much UV-A and heat that the water has been effectively pasteurised.

The water purifier is designed to work well in all situations where (water) infrastructure is compromised - and y’all know that’s not just for developing regions anymore. Factor in the possibility of a natural disaster, and compromise is easy. I’d like to see versions of Lijmbach’s purifier tested on the rich and fair at campsites or in remote and natural locations where it would be a darn shame to set up water infrastructure in the first place. With production costs at only about € 3,- per purifier, broad field-testing could be as simple as one hand washing the other, or am I just talkin’ hippy-talk?

In any case Lijmbach’s SoDis is ready for pilot projects, and he’s connected to enough field workers in different compromised water infrastrucutre zones to be able to do so. The first steps will be to find a way to make a small industrial series and to get a sufficient body of testing models with a consistant level of quality.

I love the light design approach and even think the object itself is beautiful. One can imagine this working well in combination with a yurt both white and fair by the river (deep and audible sigh) where the purifier placed on the sloping roof could be dragged around for exposure to the full force of the sun.

herman lijmbach's SODIS waterpurifier infogram
SODIS infograms from left to right: do not place in shade, do not add urine (or champagne), do not drink until process is complete, do not tilt, and either do not clean with amonia and bleach or do not add ketchup and mustard.

Grey (and black)water fetishist that I am, when I asked Lijmbach how clean the initial water has to be for the purifier to work he assured me that as long as the pollution was biological, the purifier would clean it. ‘Salt and chemical pollutants take a much more complex cleaning process. This solution is not a solution to every situation, but by not trying to cover every possible situation, I was able to keep the design simple. I figured I’d rather design a product that is a solution for half the people yet affordable to all, than to design something suitable for all people in all situations, but utterly unaffordable to half of them.’

debra at 16:55 | Comments (5) | post to

Urban landscape architecture as a source of new recipes

October 12, 2007

Urban agriculture in Saint-Etienne

Saint-Étienne public landscape architecture featuring curly and red kales, fennel and bananas. Based upon this planter I can imagine a dessert Stephanoise: a bed of flash fried caramelised kales with banana fritters and sprinkled finally with powdered sugar and pulverised fennel seeds.

urban agriculture in Saint-Etienne

It’s daring from a planting point of view as wel, red kale and bananas, but why the heq not? I’m diggin the ready steady cook factor of this planter…

urban agriculture in Saint-Etienne

debra at 16:22 | Comments (1) | post to

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