Ruminants chewing and re-chewing their cud has shaped human civilization. By grace of their unique four-chambered stomach and its microbiome, plant material indigestible to humans is transformed into food for the animal—and by extension, for others.
Yet the rumen itself, the chamber of the stomach responsible for this microbial break-down of plant matter, contains a nutritionally-dense slurry known as 'green soup' that has been eaten as a last-minute supplement by herders and hunters around the world. Roberto and I wonder if we can interact with this process in vitro to create new dishes, or to render edible new ingredients. But a question begins to gnaw at us, forcing us to some rumination of our own:
When it comes to food traditions, is there a line between surviving and thriving? Or is it less a line than a loop? And what is the value is in trying to translate ephemeral, in-the-field food experiences into dishes in the kitchen?
United States


00:00:17Nordic Food Lab radio
00:00:28yeah well I guess I'm just wanting to maybe coordinate with you some of the fermenting trials rid of Lori their head chef the lab and he and I are in the kitchen washing up some ideas for a dish I think I like to do is I like to try like really cellulose heavy plants but I also do you want to try like him because that's one of the main gear we're not really a dish but a technique a novel fermentation technique to be exact that would aim to mimic the fermentation chamber and called the room in inside a class of animals called ruminants
00:01:15we wanted to make something that we had only heard mentioned and heroin survival Tales this thing called green suit
00:01:24butchered the animal
00:01:28I mean it's really difficult to handle something like this. Asher is really really a protozoa yeast and fungi richfood slurry inside an animal's room in the second of four stomachs chambers that enables these animals like to digest kilograms of plant matter at a time the name is pretty self-explanatory when the room and of a slaughtered animal is opened up inside is this hot spicy smelling and Juicy Green liquid composed of all the vascular plants mosses lichens and whatever else the animal has been eating these room and contents are known to be consumed for immediate nutrition in Urgent Moments by many as my Sammy teacher Lila whom you know very well from the rest of this season emphasize to me and she spoke specifically about the rain in your room in
00:02:18Coleman besito so different from family to family what you eat and take care of the old traditions in coming out of the store and they have the bacteria in the stomach so when we slope did we take care of that and so we could do the Mystery Lady beats water and so we give the reindeer in the stomach
00:03:11go to new life since it started to eat it again about a probiotic taste way better inside or the interest because they go all the vitamins and minerals that interested us fermentation has been growing massively in popularity in Europe and North America as we remember and realize the importance of our microbiome not only to our house but two are very existence but there's something else about the green soup that in trance both Roberto and me convergently even
00:04:04I thought it up after hearing Lila stories and Roberto got inspired after an experience slaughtering ago
00:04:24distance between potential to make edible things otherwise we could not high cellulose plants for instance things that the ruminants and microbes have co-evolved with each other over millions of years to be able to digest for me The Wonder of the four-chambered stomach is rooted in the microbiome of the room in and how it transforms the huge amount of biomass and adjustable to humans into milk meat Blood and Bone this is Nina copy on she's an associate professor of veterinary medicine in the department of large animal sciences that the University of Copenhagen I visited her to find out the final details behind this remarkable transformation G is Cows as an example but said that the Reuben mechanism is nearly the exact same among all ruminants
00:05:19once and it goes down into the first stomach here and there and from from there she has to chew it a couple of times until it deposit goes are so small that they can flow into the big fermentation chamber that's in the room
00:05:40and we have a lot of bacteria
00:05:54some of them you know that's a group that integrates the carbohydrates in that group. Just do grades then leave hits and the fat and there's a group that attacks the protein bless them and do some of them to go and did they also produce these is not a type of fatty acid producer and a producer and a producer some kind of food can a check outside also so that environment in here is unfriendly to most bacteria but the but of course the bacteria that device in Kia other ones that do the job the back to the room and compact frequently mixing up this slurry of microbes and fermenting feed stuff so that all of the protozoa bacteria
00:06:54have a chance to get fed all the while breaking the matter down into absorbable food stuff for the cow itself is similar to go to our stomach it has to be active and it has all these other ways to enzymes to the great in the rest
00:07:21it is no hyperbole to say that room in fermentation has deeply shaped human civilizations and the idea to try to collaborate more directly with this process was exciting but we first wanted to understand how the room and contents have been used as a food by people with close relationships to the ruminants
00:07:37it is in English is a consumer if you cook it is not cooking this is whatever like at least when it comes to the semi and the reindeer eating the room and contents has been a definite Last Choice kind of like a salmon food or survival food so is this what Roberto and I were trying to replicate a survival food what even is a survival food I had met in retrospect I didn't even have a good sense of why I was using this as a category
00:08:18survival instance of different than just food at this point survival because for us is the idea of eating something that we can eat only if we don't have anything to eat so it's like a kind of we can choose
00:08:37to eat that food because we need to survive
00:08:50different point of view
00:08:57was the green superfood plain and simple I'll be at one that is eaten only in the most urgent circumstances or was it something categorically different I did some research to see what literature I could find on green soup or some version of it being use regularly in a food tradition but came up with little more than references to it as a last minute reindeer hurting and Caribou hunting food the only other person we could find besides Lila actually eating the stuff personally with her head your friend yes for shoota now a jovial middle-aged man with silver hair yes we experience the soup when he was a Burly 20 year old hunting student with a great mustache kit been invited to Denmark's first big hunting trade show of sorts and part of it was a competition for hunters where they had to go down this line and answer trivia questions and shoot some targets student episode of course I could
00:09:48for every Christmas so I wonder if this guy comes up to him who turned out to be from a hunting guide company
00:10:03we're leaving in three weeks and you're supposed to be there in 2 weeks and you are supposed to help I've never been this sounds like a pretty good deal to Young esper so he agreed and they said Off the Grid land in early September
00:10:35around the 10th day of the Expedition he was leaving one of the customers and a couple other Hunters on an overnight trip into the bush looking for big game but they ran into a problem yes or has what he calls a stomach Compass icon field wherever I am not lost in this remote Bush as you might expect but they did run out of food waking up in the morning famished from their long hike and with only a few pieces of rye bread to last them the day I'm on the way
00:11:09underway to golf and went along to the intention was to find something small to eat first but both likely and unlikely opportunities. Brought the tree Box review book
00:11:27just standing in front of my customers one big buck and the other because they are the paying guests immediately pulled out his walk back to the main camp where they needed to head immediately so they wouldn't spoil
00:12:04now there was no time to hunt a rabbit skin it and cook it but then he remembered something he had heard from other Danish Hunters about one of the classic fast greenlandic survival Foods
00:12:14then I remembered that from the help
00:12:45Straight Outta
00:12:55I guess it would have been
00:13:01what are some of the tenderloin raw and warm feeling replenished they set off back toward the camp with the antlers in the meat 52 kilos in total two glasses of whiskey and I felt asleep
00:13:36I asked him if he had an upset stomach later and he said no
00:13:40it is said that hunger makes the best sauce but maybe Hunger does more than that maybe over time and with necessity it defines what we consider edible if yes for hadn't being so hungry I probably would have taken more than a couple spoonfuls of sugar to make the green soup seem like a good meal idea but in that moment eating sustenance he enjoyed it and was nourished
00:14:04so is it simply needed that Define survival food
00:14:07if you if you want to look me in the history
00:14:12processing food in general is a way to create survival thing you know imagine like
00:14:23aging cheese so making a purse from the milk creating the cheese is a way to preserve food is a way to survive
00:14:35I mean you are dying and you need to grab something family related with how much beautiful
00:15:36this is not something that we are going to end in 3 months so you know something that I want to really be clear this is something that is a kind of really interesting project that is not a project that will be close in Tremonton
00:15:57as weeks turned into months at the lab the room in biomimicry Project became less and less a technical project and more a symbol for the conundrum of turning a new femoral kind of in the field food experience into a dish in the kitchen we both had many ideas to mimic the Romans remarkable fermentation capabilities in the lab ideas which would require some hard to find materials expert advice many trials and time we didn't have that the biggest hurdle we kept bumping into was this concept of survival food as Roberto says processing food is a way of ensuring survival so does that mean that all of the foods we eat on the planet or survival food and it's some simply gravitate closer to the cores of food traditions While others for whatever reasons remain at or just be on to their for a free if so I can't help it Wonder at the survival origins of some of the stronger flavor is in various who Traditions the Nordic countries of course have their share of these flavors off and their fermented fish products like I signed a cow card for minted shark lutefisk Norwegian
00:16:57preserve fish and surstromming Swedish fermented herring
00:17:08this is the sound of a surstromming priva one of the many ways swedes celebrate midsummer's day around June 21st the Riva typically happens in Northern Sweden for The Preserve fish has its Geographic roots and the northlanders celebrate the stinky fish with much Pomp and Circumstance and schnapps I found myself at 1 while I was insulted look to staying with Leila and it seemed imperative that I experienced this deeply loved and to me vile smelling food
00:17:36in a long-haul up as hell to looked at or station bulging tins of the fish were burst by waiters releasing wafts of rotten eggs rancid butter and pungent nostril filling ammonia into the room
00:17:47I did manage to eat some but no amount of the requisite thin bread Red Onion in creme fraiche could mask the taste
00:17:57it's got me wondering how does an entire geographic area of people cherish the strong flavor at the core of their food tradition well I was very happy to keep it to my Pro free perhaps it has something to do with repetition accepting the flavor because it's what you have eating it repeatedly adapting to it and then not being able to live without it and perhaps even engaging in developing these now desired qualities further when I had spoken to Leila about the reindeer rumens she mentioned another food made from the stuff inside of animal organs this time of the crops and perhaps even intestines of rock time against the way she talked about it about preparing it eating it and serving it to her guests made it clear that this might be a food that had gravitated closer to the center of Lila's food tradition
00:18:44and I also take to the interests of the birds and specially Tongan and I mix it together with it
00:18:54fresh & so you could use it for when I make something nice
00:19:01and the people said many times take in the parish and they taste like it because they eat it too bad and then I had to realize that if I wanted to turn the green soup into a food weather in everyday one or a gastronomic product there is much more to it than just making a tasty version of it I would have to ask myself about the value and significance of even doing such a thing
00:19:50call Mike we can try to bring into a more ordinary diet something that is the finest survival to reindeer in all like her because this is the kind of really bad way to create the light reserves and I was like I think it's really important
00:20:32at least recognize that
00:20:47are there Landscapes of food choice in availability rapidly change foods of even recent past take on different meetings as academics chefs and gastronomers we walk the line between being both documentaries and generators of cultural food knowledge rolls that come with certain responsibilities to explore something like green soup in a gastronomic setting is to change it and that's fine we do not need to fight to keep things the same the same as what even but we do need to be aware of what happens when we take a food from one context and put it in another it becomes and some cents a different food the challenges to figure out how different this is what I think Roberto means when he says I'm worried about the concept of survival food into something that is weird for many of the people that cared about this
00:21:45he means the food should make sense and the green soup certainly made sense to yes / out in the fields and to Sami herders during the second world war and as tempting as it is for an outsider to romanticize the context from which emerges any traditional food perhaps we would do better to remember that whatever separate survival and culinary tradition is less a line than a Mobius strip of causality
00:22:12so what's next for the room in biomimicry Project who knows if you're looking to do a PhD in microbiology and want to spend a lot of time with cud chewing animals I'd suggest you go for it there's always more to explore
00:22:35for this episode I'd like to thank our friend Hunter yes we should have for his story I will speak for her teachings on Sammy foods which inspired the episode and a huge thanks for Chef Roberta Flory for his guidance and insights in and outside of the kitchen thanks also tunic happy on AI KU into the wonderful Saraland Vic who although she didn't end up in the peace filled Us in on the Glorious process that is bacterial and fungal enzyme creation music in this episode from Ben sound. Org and Alexander Navarro and Massimo ruberti and sounds from freesound.org recording done at CQ W in Winnipeg Canada and this episode of Nordic Food Lab radio was produced by me and a cigarette there and hey just a note this is the last episode of season 2 and I just wanted to say a big personal thanks to the team in NFL and to you for listening it's been such a pleasure to share these stories with you

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