Thu, 02/15/2018 – 12:07
Cecilie Dawes, founder of Food Studio
Cecilie Dawes of Norway’s esteemed Food Studio co-edited our new book Farmlife. We spoke with Cecilie ahead of the release to learn more about “Food Empathy” and the joy of growing plants and raising beasts alongside meaningful agriculture and intentional ways of growing and preparing our food.
Can you explain the concept Food Empathy and why it is important?
To me it means actually understanding and respecting the essence of the food you eat – where it comes from and the journey it has undertaken, the resources spent from sun, soil and grass, how it enriches not just our souls, but how our bodies are made and nourished and how it finally returns to nature when we throw it away or digest it. It means activating not just your mind, but also your emotions and senses in relation to food. So much of our knowledge around food used to be transferred without words but through learning by doing. This is the approach we want to bring back with our “School of Food Empathy” – which for us means harvesting, cooking, preserving, and enjoying meals together.
What did you have for breakfast today and what’s for dinner?
I usually skip breakfast. Since I Dove into the philosophy of Ayurveda the last year I have figured out that my main energy type (Kapha) has a very slow digestion in the morning. I therefore start my day with warm water infused with apple vinegar followed by a cup of my favorite coffee, Hunkute Ethiopia from Tim Wendelboe. In Norway, women who drink lots of coffee are called “kaffekjerring”, and I am definitely one of them. I can’t cut it out of my life, I just love it too much.
I hardly ever never know what’s for dinner before I get home. I really love the challenge of making something delicious from what’s left, without going to the store. Now in wintertime, root vegetables play a big role in that process, but with a nomadic life of having visitors and friends over, visiting farms myself, and leftovers from community feasts at the office, it usually turns out to be a good starting point and a decent meal in the end.
When growing food from start to finish, what is the most surprising part of the process?
I think the most surprising part to me has been to understand that the devil is in the details. How experience, knowledge, and passion play such a major role when it comes to the amount and quality of the harvest. Last year we did a project in the city center with healthy, organic plants, decent soil, sun, and water, but not enough soil nutrition through the summer. The harvest was unfortunately symbolic and only a fraction of the yields other city farmers achieve working more professionally with compost and natural fertilizers as bokashi.
What can we as consumers, eaters, and people who live on our planet do to rekindle our natural relationship with food and where food comes from?
I think it’s important to remember that every tiny step in the right direction matters. Instead of trying to change the world in a day, try and experiment with measurable, realistic goals that also feel meaningful and enjoyable in your daily preparation and interaction with food.
In Norway, we say that many small springs make a river in the end. Try stopping on a farm next time you go home from holidays, visite a farmers market, grow a herb garden in your window, join a collective garden project, ask your waiter where the produce is from or just really honor the food you have on the plate in front of you and use all your senses to enjoy your meal.
What role does food play in terms of building a community and what role does community play in food?
Food is like social glue, binding us together, cracking the ice between strangers, launching conversations and starting friendships. Humans are also social eaters from an evolutionary perspective. For thousands of years, we’ve gathered around a shared meal. Last weekend we hosted a Getaway at our farm building, with heavy snowfall outside. I think the day would have felt a lot different if we hadn’t gathered around the table in the beginning and at the end of the day with such a nourishing and soul-warming meal.
The community mindset is now changing the food system by establishing alternative distribution systems and farming models that bring farmers and consumers closer together again. Community plays an important part as being the catalyst for change towards a more sustainable food system.
Do you remember the most important or significant meal you’ve had?
I think the biggest eye-opener to me was a meal I had during the early days of creating Food Studio where I found myself stepping in for Michelin Chef Esben Holmboe Bang at a biodynamic farm making an autumn-inspired meal for the locals. Genuinely intimidated, I got through it with guidance and help from friends who are true masters in sustainable cooking. We made a soup for 50 people, using all parts of the vegetable from seed, stem, leaves, and fruit, only seasoning with sea salt and herbs from the garden. Out of this experience came one of the most significant meals I can remember. Especially the humble troll potatoes, grown in the cold mountain climate and harsh soil. I never thought a potato could taste that good.
All images taken from Farmlife
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