My Fancy pants

When I heard that our class was going to be receiving a free dinner from our DIS program, I was excited. I did not know we were going to be attending a fancy restaurant like Høst. My first thoughts when arriving to this magnificent place was that it had a cool scenery and the employees had a uniform that made them look like a they were part chefs. The place had a sense of classy and fancy. The location of our reservations was underground and since we were 12 guests, they gave us the employee table. As I was getting my seat I observed that the dining table had bread, butter, water, sparkling water, and napkins that were pretty thick. Within a couple of meets we received our first meal of the 3-course meal. I did not know what to expect because it was my first time ever in a fancy restaurant.

When the first meal arrived, it was a type of salad with salmon and different veggies, but the strange thing was that the server put a type of horse relish type of sauce. In the new Nordic cuisine, it states, “cold-water fish have taken the gourmet restaurants of France by storm. in just a few short years, Le skrei – the spawning cod of early winter – have taken on a special status. these fish migrate from the Barents sea to the norwegian coast, and are flown to Paris within 24 hours of being caught. this is a special product and the large, easily flaked fillet is an indicator of freshness.” This made since that our first meal had a type of sea food within. For the second meal we had a taco shape meal but turns out it was pancake formed of a taco with seafood inside as well. The third meal we got was a round shape fish with asparagus on the side. After that we got a creative dessert. The best part of this was that we received two different desserts. The first one was a type of frosty with a pinecone in the middle. Finally, the last meal we got was a fancy ice cream with a sugar flower shaped thing on top to decorate it.

The overall, atmosphere was purity, countryside, simplicity and classic. For example, our server would share each dish at a time really describing the dish piece by piece while connecting it to the Danish culture. I felt like I got a vibe of peaceful and happy. People were dressed both fancy and casual which in my opinion is rare because a fancy restaurant usually has people with dress clothes and dresses. I was in shocked when having all the food because I am used to either Mexican food or fast food in the United States. I have never eaten food that comes in a sense of art or masterpiece. While in enjoying the art food I told myself that I am really missing out on foods out of my comfort. Jonatan Leer states, “From a Bourdieusian perspective, this new generation may be seen as a ‘‘natural’’ reaction to the New Nordic Cuisine, because just as the New Nordic chefs needed to challenge French and Mediterranean cuisine to establish their own distinctive positions in the culinary field, Puglisi depended on a refusal of the New Nordic Cuisine to claim originality.” This means that the new Nordic culture is hard to please people. Overall, for trying something new in my life I can say it was an amazing experience. I thank DIS for a nice dinner I got to enjoy with my classmates. This experience changed me by being more patient with food. First thing when arriving to the states is that I am going to play around in the Kitchen to see if I can pull off a New Nordic dish.

Nordic Conclusion

We arrived at Høst, a modest restaurant front, at 6 pm. The first detail I noticed was the clean and simple tan uniform that the employees wore. The restaurant had a hipster-minimalistic feel. Our table was located under the restaurant. Water, sparkling water, glasses, bread, and lap napkins were set on the table. Fifteen minutes into our dinner we were served our first dish. I expected small portions and the first dish seemed to prove my point. The bread and the first dish were served on natural inedible materials such as grass and rocks. I am not sure if those materials were solely for decoration.

Rather than listing every dish that I had, I will share the ones that I was most intrigued by. Firstly, the small white strawberry. It was a Danish strawberry. It was clever to take a traditional food such as the Danish strawberry and dip it in a Danish classic such as mayo. The seventh statement in the New Nordic Manifesto is as follows, “To develop new possible applications of traditional Nordic food products.” I felt that the strawberry and mayo combo exemplified that statement.

Another dish that got me going was the creamy grains with peas and marigolds. As a child, I could only dream of eating flowers. The dainty purple flowers looked almost too delicate to eat but eating the fried marigold felt so natural. I’ve always felt that no matter what the food, if fried, it will taste good. The marigold was proof for me. The peas and grains were covered in a rather sweet dressing which complemented the flowers well.

The first dessert I experienced was more obscure than the ice cream. It was described as a liquid nitrogen cream and was topped with a tiny pinecone. The tiny pinecone packed a huge punch. I ate the pinecone first, as instructed, and the flavor lasted with every bite of the porridge like dessert. The taste of the cream was sweet yet subtle. I tasted the purity of the dish. In the presentation entitled New Nordic Cuisine, purity is described as such, “Achieving harmony with the environment is important – it reflects the image we have of Nordic society.” I feel like there was a harmony between the strong taste of the pinecone and the subtle taste of the cream. The use of a natural ingredient, the pinecone, gives off the sense of harmony.

The atmosphere of Høst reflected the qualities of New Nordic cuisine- simplicity, purity, and harmony with nature. Our server calmly and proudly described each dish as they reflected the culture of the country where she lived. The mood of the event was laid back. While many people in the restaurant were dressed semi-formally, they seemed to be social and easy-going. The restaurant was what I imagined it to be- minimalist and for well off customers. The food surprised me. While some dishes were minuscule and the plates looked like works of art, the food was of outstanding quality. The dishes all embodied the New Nordic Manifesto. I didn’t expect the food to be as flavorful as they were. While eating New Nordic cuisine, I related to Jared Demick when he wrote, “Senses dilled, you are eating memories, splinters of a landscape tattooed on your tongue.” The New Nordic dinner was more than a meal, it was an experience of the Nordic landscape. I am grateful that I ended the trip with a New Nordic dinner. Nordic cultures, especially the Danes, value time spent together so it was only natural that we ate dinner as a class.

My Single Story for New Nordic Cuisine

Prior to entering the New Nordic dinner, my expectations were very low. I fully intended the dinner to be somewhat of a pleasantry, because I do not believe in a system designed to tell us the hierarchy of restaurants and I did not think this meal would make me full. Additionally, I came in with my own single story which is reflective of dinners I had seen popularized in media. In Always Be My Maybe, for example, there is a dinner between the two main characters (Sasha and Marcus) and their partners at a restaurant that resembles New Nordic in American Gastronomy. The parody shows, Marcus who is not from the high brow culinary world being baffled by each course which is seemingly more bizarre than the next. The theme is playing with time, and the main course involves a sound track which allows the diner the option to listen to the cow prior to slaughter. It was with these preconceived notions, that created my very low bar for the New Nordic dinner at Høst. 

The sustainable salmon that reminded me of poke

Fortunately, I was wrong, and this meal was executed very well! For our first taster, we had a radish, pickled strawberry and shrimp cup. Our first actual course was sustainable salmon from Hirtshals with green tomatoes and horseradish. Then we had our second taster which was a crabcake inside of a crepe taco. Our main course was baked hake with green asparagus and fish fumé. The first dessert was a nitrogen meringue with a pinecone on top. The final course was Danish strawberries with yoghurt sorbet and rhubarb. Each dish had a uniquely earthy taste, but all dishes had their own distinct tastes as Jared Demick would say in his poem, Tasting a Landscape: On the New Nordic Cuisine, “tattooed on your tongue.” (Demick) For example, each dish did have their own sets of greens on the plates. On the shrimp cup dish, there was a dill sprig, whereas on the final course there were fennels. These different greens gave each dish a little kick of spice, and set each apart from one another, making each dish have a unique set of earthy tastes that I would say danced on your tongue at different times. 

The atmosphere was very rustic and minimalistic. For example, there were pizza cutting boards on the wall, whereas other walls were barren. The floors were concrete and the table and chairs looked to be reused (old door for the table, mismatched chairs). At the table, there were only two candles, both held information about the food being served that night. The mood of the event was very inviting, everyone was talking and having a family style type of conversation at the table, it was very warm and “hyggeligt.” 

The food was not what I expected of the New Nordic Movement at all. Since we have learned that the New Nordic Movement promotes “the manifesto promotes a cuisine based on purity, simplicity and freshness, one that reflects the changing seasons […] menus were to be inspired by traditional dishes and the use of ingredients that benefit from the nordic region’s climate, water and soil,” I did not expect to have very many options. (New Nordic Food Program, 6). I expected this limitation because of the different seasons the movement adheres to that helps with the reproduction of animal and plant life. Although all of our dishes were pescentarian, I still was wholeheartedly impressed by the uniqueness of each dish. I thought the salmon dish reminded me of poke, and the main course reminded me of sea bass. I am glad it exceeded my expectations and that it left me feeling satisfied in the end. I would not say I was full, I would say each dish left me very satisfied. Although I am sad I originally had such a single story about New Nordic Cuisine, I am happy to have given this meal a chance by trying every dish and holding an open mind throughout the night. Overall, this was a lovely way to conclude the program because we were all able to be together one last time and share an experience.

the dessert! YUM!!

Strengthening the Community while Eliminating Food Waste

When I first heard volunteering was part of this study abroad program, I was excited to immerse myself in a whole new culture while giving back to the community. I have always enjoyed volunteering back home because of the bonds that are created, so I was looking forward to doing the same abroad. I knew the general layout of the program and a little bit of what I would be doing, since Professor Lane talked about FoodSharing Copenhagen in one of our meetings. Handing out food seemed pretty straightforward.     

The first day volunteering I remember feeling a tinge of nervousness, because this was a new experience with strangers and I did not know everything I would be doing. However, when I walked up to the Karens Minde Kulturhus and saw everyone standing outside conversing with one another, the nerves disappeared. The atmosphere was welcoming, and I could tell every volunteer was there for a purpose; to reduce food waste while building bonds with the community. While waiting for the food trucks to arrive, the main leader called over the people from the afternoon shift and gave us a pep talk. As a group, we took some deep breaths to clear our heads. During the talk, one of the volunteers jumped in declaring how grateful he was and how we are all doing such a good thing for the environment and public. In that moment, I had never felt so included and appreciated by a group of strangers. I felt like an insider, even though I knew I was not one because I had never volunteered with the organization before.  

When the food trucks arrived, a sense of urgency presented itself. Everyone rushed to make themselves busy, finding a spot in the unloading chain. I was not given a job or told what to do so I randomly picked a spot and started passing along boxes of food. I was surprised to be thrown into the chain without any instruction. The lack of structure in that matter, shocked me because the times I have volunteered in America, I was given a full rundown prior to starting my job. I was sure of what was expected of me. At FoodSharing, I was expected to take initiative from the get go instead. Personally, finding something for me to do was one of the most difficult things because I am so used to being directed. At times I found myself wandering around, searching for a job, although this did get easier the second time volunteering.        

As I walked through the door after unloading all of the food, I could not believe how many fruit and vegetables were being given away. The CNN video, “The Danish Recipe to Cut Food Waste,” expresses that “about one-third of the world’s produced food is either lost or wasted,” enough to feed three billion people. Physically seeing all of the food in the room put into perspective how much edible produce goes to waste on a daily basis. If one billion people are starving, you would think that an effort would be made worldwide to provide for those people through organizations like FoodSharing.   

A great success and surprise for me while volunteering was interacting with the diverse group of people who came to get food. Walking through Copenhagen I am not as exposed to a variety of different cultures frequently, so passing out food was a way for me to connect with people from various backgrounds. I was able to talk to others while they navigated through line, answering any questions they had. The free food was not only for low-income people, it was available to anyone who desired to contribute to the goal of reducing food waste. FoodSharing has accomplished uniting all sorts of people with differing stories under one roof, strengthening the community. 

Educating people about food justice and food waste is the first step in solving the worldwide issue. Simply letting people know about the amount of food that gets wasted every week will stir conversation. Conversation can then lead to action and a possible solution can be implemented. In America, people “have not had to think very hard about where their food comes from, or what it is doing to the planet, their bodies, and their society” (Pollan). The effort of the food movement has prompted people to question where their food comes from and be more conscience of their footprint, particularly in America. I see a shift already occurring in the U.S. with the existence of companies like Imperfect Produce. Imperfect Produce sells fruit and vegetables that grocery stores have deemed as undesirable, delivering boxes of food to people’s front doors. This company and FoodSharing both aspire to eliminate food waste. FoodSharing is more progressive in that they do not charge people for food, but Copenhagen is not money oriented as America. This organization constantly makes the effort to improve the environment while simultaneously improving community connections. I know I can take the knowledge I have gained from this experience home and educate my family and friends about the benefits of eliminating food waste. A conversation has the power to incite change. With conversation and action, hopefully food insecurity can be reduced. Without a doubt, FoodSharing Copenhagen has paved the way for a healthier and happier world.      

FoodSharing Copenhagen

Image result for food sharing copenhagen

Being able to study abroad has been an experience that I never would have thought I could of ever be part of. While studying abroad in Copenhagen, I was able to volunteer some of my time to a great cause, which raised awareness of food waste. Food Sharing Copenhagen takes produce from local vendors that were not able to unload, and instead of sending it to the garbage disposal, it is given to the community.

Image result for karens minde kulturhus

When I first found out that I would be volunteering, I was excited and prepared. I have volunteered a lot before, so it was not like I was going to my first rodeo. I was expecting to work hard, build a bond with the establishment. Fully understand how they run their program so I could efficiently help them and be an excellent asset to the team. Many of my volunteering has to do with STEAM-related topics, so this would be a bit different. I really wanted to see how people would react to taking free food, and what kind of people would show up to receive food for free.

When I first got to the establishment, I had to take just one bus from my dormitory. I arrived at Karens Minde Culture House; it was a charming little farmhouse attached to a library that the community could use. It was something I notice back in the United States. So it started off by having a quick introduction on what the goal of FoodShairng Copenhagen was and how they help out the community. After that, we were ready to work and have everything set up by 01:00 when everyone is allowed to get free food. I was astonished by how many foreigners were there to help, I met people from France, the Czech Republic, and many more places in Europe. They have a massive following, so I was not surprised by how much the community is involved. We began by cleaning down the tables and basket where all the fruit and vegetable will be held. Then once the food vans arrived, we created an assembly line to unload all the food and start sorting through it. After everything was prepped, the volunteer had first dips on whatever they wanted to take home. Then the general public was allowed to come in, I was surprised by how many college students came in to get food.

Image result for karens minde kulturhus food sharing

Something I was educated on is how resourceful the teams were. They tried there hardest to keep waste to a minimum, it could be by using the bags that the food came in as trash bags or even the cases as a food handler. Then with anything else, they broke it down and sent it to be recycled at the local recycling plant by using an electric bike to carry it. As an outsider, I was able to give my input on how to dispose of the Styrofoam. Just set it in a bag on the bike and cutting it up inside. A quick but efficient manner without getting it all over the grass. Like how the Food Movement is Rising article spoke about Food Politics being a tricky subject. When the price of food drops drastically, it can hurt farmers, but with a program like this, we can help both sides. Farmers do not have to create excess crop’s to be able to turn a profit. Whatever the market does not purchase is then donated to communities in need. Creating a sustainable process that can limit our food waste because they don’t have to worry about the price is fluctuating.

With so many free choices to fruits and vegetables, it even can lead to new creativity. As we have read in the New Nordic Cuisine, they take into consideration only foods that are in season. Taking into account what is sustainable to the environment. A program like this allows many students to be able to experiment with new vegetables/fruits that they could never afford. With this new option at their disposal, creativity is allowed to flourish. Creating a laboratory in their home to and be able to get away from fast food culture. This mindset is laking in America, like how it explained in what American can learn from other food culture. We are so tied up to using specific products, no matter what effect they might have on our environment. It should be fine to replace tomatoes on a hamburger if they are not in season. This mindset is why the United States is on the top list of food waste. We don’t want to experiment with produce that is in the season. This type of mindset in America will lead us to create more environmental problems. We all could take a couple pages from FoodSharing Copenhagen, I know once I get home ill try to implement those practice much more.

Food Waste in Copenhagen

Never before this program had I ever been part of a foodsharing experience. Besides the short video on some of the people involved with foodshare Copenhagen I truly had no idea what I was getting in to. The concept sounded simple enough, leftover food somehow needed to be shared amongst the people of Copenhagen, but the execution of this plan was what surprised me the most. Our first day of volunteering we were not in the nicest area being that the jazz fest was going on and the outdoor area was taken, and we were able to set up in the community center upstairs. My fist impressions differed from what the video led me to believe definitely. What I almost immediately began to notice was that this was not as well run, and efficient as the video made me believe it would be. With no real chain of command and a lack of leadership the volunteers including the students like myself often needed to take the initiative with the cleaning of tables, setting up of trash bags, cleaning of food boxes, etc. Usually the “veteran” volunteers had to guide us with specifics on what to do.

I thought it was a shame initially that such a good idea that really benefited the community had such poor execution. But then I considered how these people that are running the program are learning as they go much as we were. On our first day volunteering actually one of the new obstacles they were facing was getting certified to be able to continue what they are doing. I think before I had began helping with the program I had anticipated it would have been much more streamlined, and it was surprising that even after their weeks and weeks of doing this they still had much to learn. One of the best things I think I was able to get out of working with this program was not only the vast amount of produce to bring back to our kitchen, but to see the good that foodsharing could do for people back home. Denmark like the US has a variety of food it produces, and also wastes, and to see their own efforts to cut back on waste is inspiring, and definitely something we could learn from. Seeing from the article The Danish Recipe to Cut Food Waste that they were able to cut food waste by 25 percent is honestly astonishing. Granted Denmark is a much smaller country than the United States and making that big of an improvement in food waste would be much harder. However the message proposed in the video by Selina Juul could definitely apply.

When I was able to bring home produce without having to use money of my own to get it I felt like this allowed me much more freedom to experiment in the kitchen. Like my interviewee Emil said, Americans are not very affluent at cooking at home, and even on this trip alone I have expanded greatly on the type of food I am capable of cooking at home. Part of the issue with college students and their cooking skills is that when they leave the home they are abruptly placed in situations where they either do not have a kitchen in their living situation, usually dorms, or they are not familiar with how to actually shop for their own food because their parents had done that their entire lives before they left the house. On top of this with “meal plans” that colleges provide for their variety of fast food companies that they house on campus usually, students are not inclined to cook for themselves when they can swipe their cards and be handed Panda Express almost instantaneously. The article The Food Movement, Rising goes into detail on why Americans have been relying on fast food, and it does no good for the student in my opinion to be so reliant on fast food caterers for their meals while at school.

Truthfully I think the foodshare program would be perfect to implement into college life. While students may be busy during the week with school, I think they could greatly benefit from the sense of community you get from helping others with their food, while also being able to save some money and get food for themselves. As I said earlier when there is food readily available literally for free, you feel more inclined to try to experiment, and learn how to cook with it. If students could spend maybe a couple of hours on Saturday helping their other students while also getting some free food the benefits would be huge. Shane from foodsharing on our first day explained that even with the massive amount of food they collect with their vans, they only save about 10 percent of all food that is being thrown out. That number to me was amazing simply because we had filled this one room to the brim with fruits, vegetables, bread, etc. everything that could make our own grocery store. If I have the time when I return home I would want to look in to how this foodsharing could be implemented in partnership through the school. For one in California we have such a variety of food found at our supermarkets that I am sure a massive amount of it never comes to the table. Secondly, with a partnership with the school the facilities that go unused on campus could easily be used for hosting the food events.

My New Perspective to Agricultural Biology

Resolving food insecurity in the United States is an issue I feel strongly about and is a career path I hope to pursue after graduation. I chose to study botany at CSUF with the intent to research methods to increase the affordability, sustainability, and accessibility of whole, unprocessed foods, although after my experience with FoodSharing Copenhagen, I found myself wondering if food insecurity was not so much an issue of inadequate food production, but an issue of poor food management and distribution.

Informational signage outside of the distribution site at Karens Minde Hulturhus.

From the small promo video shown in our classroom for FoodSharing Copenhagen to the CNN segment of “The Danish recipe to cut food waste,” one third of all the food produced globally is either lost or wasted, based on a publishing from the United Nations in 2011. Not only is food waste a huge economical and environmental problem, but is almost a ridiculously scenario to even perpetuate when considering the vast millions of people worldwide who spend days and nights literally starving—sometimes to death. There are few things that are absolutely essential to human survival, and with food as one of them, it is quite disheartening to know that so much of the world’s production is going to waste.

Midway through the food delivery during our second week volunteering.

I did not expect FoodSharing Copenhagen—a non-profit organization which distributes free food from grocery stores to people that would have otherwise been discarded—to be as large as it was. I wish I took photos of the sheer amount of food from our first week of volunteering. As I passed food along our human chain from the vans to the tables, I kept asking myself, “This really was going to be thrown away?” to the hundreds of pounds of edible food. I realized then that much of the world’s and the United State’s issues of food insecurity was indeed far from a productivity problem.

I was surprised by how casual and relaxed the full-time volunteers were, emanating a “youthful, carefree, hippy vibe.” I was also surprised by how mixed the backgrounds of the volunteers were. Most were young people either traveling, interning, or visiting friends over the summer and lived in completely different countries—very few permanently lived in Denmark. In a way, they were visitors like us, so I did not feel like an outsider amongst the volunteers or the diverse backgrounds of the attendees.

My haul from the first week. Each volunteer gets to put together a free bag of groceries as well.

As basic as it is, the most satisfying part of my service-learning experience was seeing all that previously dumpster-bound food going to new homes where they would feed hungry people. There is a belief in the United States that free meals/food should exclusively be given to the needy, but I was happy to see zero judgement towards neediness at FoodSharing. The organization’s mission was to simply prevent perfectly good food from going to waste. A disappointment or difficult part of the FoodSharing Copenhagen experience would be the lack of organization during the set-up process. I feel that with a little more direction for the volunteers, our time and efforts could have been utilized more efficiently.

After FoodSharing Copenhagen, I have been motivated and inspired to bring a service like this to the United States, or at the very least, to our home campus. I was fortunate to be elected this year as the Treasurer/Secretary for Associated Students Inc. (ASI), and one of the Board’s unanimous goals (a very rare occurrence) is to reduce food insecurity among our students. We were able to implement a pilot food pantry program last academic year but are determined to allocate the space and resources to a more permanent aid for those who are in need. While the United States no doubt has many restrictions in place around food distribution which hampers the development for programs like FoodSharing, I am curious to explore how these rules apply to a campus community, and what ASI and I can do to develop a version of FoodSharing on campus, perhaps by expanding the Titan Bites program or by collaborating with our Titan Student Union’s Food Court. I’ve already added this to my list of 2019-2020 goals not only as a personal passion, interested, and advocacy project, but as an obligation to the needs of the students I serve. Perhaps you’ll see FoodSharing CSUF in the next year or two!