Noma 2.0

Earlier this month, I traveled to Copenhagen, a city built on canals that has retained its beauty and enterprise.

One highlight of Copenhagen was lunch at Noma 2.0. My friend who was showing me around Copenhagen made the reservation a full three months in advance. Her enthusiasm had been slowly growing on me. That and the anticipatory and artistic youtube videos.

Chef Rene Redzepi’s idea for Noma is to prepare meals around the seasons based on ingredients harvested from the Nordic region. Gathered may be a better descriptor. As in ‘hunted and gathered.’ We were lucky enough to catch the last week of Noma’s seafood menu (see list at the end of this blog). A fourteen course and three hour meal filled with flavors and textures I have never experienced before and likely never will again.

Due to all the exotic dishes I saw in the videos, I was nervous going into the meal that I would be unsure which utensils to use and what to eat and what not to! Thankfully, each dish was presented by the cook who prepared the meal, with instructions on how to enjoy it.

The space the Noma crew has created is truly breathtaking. It is open air; filled with natural light. Everything speaks closeness to nature.

Noma was a once in a lifetime gastronomic experience – the flavors, the textures, the variety and the unfamiliarity.

At the end of this journey, my friend (shout-out to Batzul) was forward enough to ask for a photo with Rene. Batzul was quick to point out we were from Mongolia. And Rene, in turn, was quick to acknowledge our unique cooking and eating traditions, including our multitude of dairy products and… bloodtapping! I did not know bloodtapping was a tradition in Mongolia. To be taught about my history by a Dane – that is truly something else. I am still gathering information on this, but apparently riders on long journeys (messengers, warriors, etc.) would tap into the artery of their horse and drink the blood for nutrition and energy. The horse probably suffered, but remained alive. I wonder if this is still practiced today, considering how many Mongolians still herd livestock? I wonder how Rene learned of this tradition? So many questions.

This goes to show there is always more to learn. And Rene definitely earned my respect as a chef for knowing more about Mongolian eating tradition than I. His passion as a chef really showed.

Thanks, Batzul, for the invitation and experience.

And here is the only photo I took at Noma – of plankton juice.

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Noma Seafood Menu

  • sea snail broth
  • razor clams
  • best of the mussel
  • dried fruits and shrimps
  • cured trout roe and eggs
  • jellyfish
  • seafood platter (scallop, mahogany clam, limfjords oyster, sea urchin, dried sea cucumber)
  • squid in seaweed butter
  • sea snails and roses
  • head of the cod
  • pear and roasted kelp ice cream
  • cloudberries and pine cones
  • sugar kelp tart
  • plankton cake

Juice pairing

  • green gooseberry
  • saffron and arctic thyme
  • cloudberry
  • pumpkin seed and plankton
  • smoked octopus and aronia
  • tomato and fig leaf

‘The Road to Wigan Pier’ by George Orwell

I highly recommend that everyone read this brilliant book!

Over the last year, I’ve been getting to know George Orwell and his works, as they relate to his time and ours. We all know the prophetic nature of Animal Farm and 1984. Similarly, there was a lot to take away from ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’, an earlier work written in the 1930s between The Great War and the beginning of WWII.

The goal of this book was for Orwell to experience and report on how the poorest working-class Englishmen and women, mostly coal miners, lived in the 1930s. He observed the physical, economic, and psychological hardships they live through day in, day out… A poor diet of tinned meat and sweet candies is one example; and a condition that can still be observed today among the poor. He also astutely observed ‘several million men in England will – unless another war breaks out – never have a real job this side of the grave.’ Saddening that an economic boom is seen as a positive outcome of war… is there such a thing as a ‘positive’ outcome of war? (I grant that defeating Nazis was a positive outcome, but just wish that it had never gotten to that.) Also saddening to realize the military industrial complex continues to lobby governments to keep war going for their profits.

I never imagined Orwell could be wrong in his prophecies. But in ‘Road to Wigan Pier’, he perceived the logical end state of Socialism to be a great, efficient machinery (though to his dislike) and that capitalism as an impediment to innovation. However, with history now unfolded, we know Mao and Pol Pot drove people from the cities and forced them to work fields with barely any tools; whereas the free market has driven innovation as ‘an efficient machinery’. Orwell’s idea of Socialism at this time differed from how it played out in reality. He seems to have realised this later on, leading to his famous novels ‘Animal Farm’ and ‘1984’. (He corrected his prophecy after all!)

Why he disliked the idea of an efficient machinery (regardless of whether it sprung from Socialism or Capitalism) is neatly summed up in these two passages: “…For a man is not, as the vulgarer hedonists seem to suppose, a kind of walking stomach; he has also got a hand, an eye and a brain. Cease to use your hands, and you have lopped off a huge chunk of your consciousness… Mechanise the world as fully as it might be mechanised, and whichever way you turn there will be some machine cutting you off from the chance of working – that is, of living.” Oh how true, even today!

‘Conservatism’ in the U.S.

Reflecting on a New Yorker article on Leonard Leo, Executive Vice President of the Federalist Society in the U.S., following the recent confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. Leo is the man behind Trump’s (in)famous list of candidates advertised during the last weeks of his campaign, while the Republican majority Senate was busy ignoring¬†the nomination of Merrick Garland’s. As the New Yorker article states: “Leonard Leo is now responsible for a third of the Supreme Court.” John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and now Neil Gorsuch.

You see the trend… Leo has successfully deployed three ‘conservative’ justices to the Supreme Court. Leo¬†is quoted asking, “What’s the best way to preserve the dignity and worth of the human person?”, and answering, “You assure all that freedom by establishing limitations on the power of the state.”

I want to ask Leo and all other conservatives who share his definition of “conservatism”, is freedom obtained by limiting the power of the state, only? What about the power of the church? Is freedom obtained by foregoing state-enforced laws and replacing them by church/society-enforced religious laws? Is that really freedom?

Humanities

Along with various career preparations for a life of doing and achieving, the humanities invite explorations in discovery and self, probing questions of being and meaning to season in that knowledge of oneself which is insight, in that awareness of one another which is understanding, in those graces of personality and strengths of character which belong to true education.

~Dr. Lawrence F. Small, Jr.

A Week on Concord and Merrimack Rivers

… The movements of the eyes express the perpetual and unconscious courtesy of the parties. It is said that a rogue does not look you in the face, neither does an honest man look at you as if he had his reputation to establish. I have seen some who did not know when to turn aside their eyes in meeting yours. A truly and magnanimous spirit is wiser than to contend for the mastery in such encounters. Serpents alone conquer by the steadiness of their gaze. My friend looks me in the face and sees me, that is all…

~Henry David Thoreau

A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

…You shall see rude and sturdy, experienced and wise men, keeping their castles, or teaming up their summer’s wood, or chopping alone in the woods, men fuller of talk and rare adventure in the sun and wind and rain, than a chestnut is of meat; who were out not only in 1775 and 1812, but have been out every day of their lives; greater men than Homer, or Chaucer, or Shakespeare, only they never got time to say so; they never took the way of writing. Look at their fields, and imagine what they might write, if ever they should put pen to paper. Or what they have not written on the face of the earth already, clearing, and burning, and scratching, and harrowing, and plowing, and subsoiling, in and in, and out and out, and over and over, again and again, erasing what they had already written for want of parchment…

~Henry David Thoreau