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Finding Our Roots Back to Good Food

Hello Roots Radicals Community!

I’m Gabriela Aquije, a Peruvian Architect and Design Researcher with a special appetite for Food, critical design, and systems. I will be your host/writer in this space called Blogging [from] the Roots, where the preposition (from, with, within, towards, between) in the title will depend on the relationship with the roots of food we wish to explore. As such, I would set the table for a different month-topic, and serve weekly food for thought around one question. Like any good “meal” this is a two-way exchange, both joyful and conscious, so I encourage you to join the conversation!

Even before joining the team, I already shared the same table with the Roots Radicals project: we were linked by our common interest in food and sustainable consumption. Due to my design research thesis, I immerse myself in the Food Systems network of Dessau and Berlin, to understand the complementary activities that happened around food in the German context. Then around June 2020, a Tomato Peel seasoning post on Roots Radicals Instagram made evident what lays underneath the flavor: community engagement, ecological awareness, and agricultural activism. In short, this food project mission is “reconnecting people to good food”.

“Simplify your life” by Luis Pilares

But why reconnecting? When did we even lose the connection to food? What do we mean by “good” food? Whereas I can’t promise to give you definite answers to these questions, I can–and will–share resources,  introduce voices, and suggest flavors that can lead to finding your connecting root back to food. Because one thing is for sure, according to the writer Michael Pollan –and my grandmother–most of us who live in cities don’t know the before-and-after of the food on our plates. 

We go to the supermarket and we get the food that we want among an always abundant and available variety of products, having a blurry idea of a remote place called the ‘countryside’. I won’t judge, we are urban eaters, and the way we consume food today in cities like Berlin or Lima–as contrasting as they may be–reflects years of evolution and pollution of the global food industries. We need to detach from what Pollan calls The Omnivore’s Dilemma and reconnect back to the joy of knowing our food and what makes it good, which in the author’s words is what links us to “[…] the fertility of the earth and the energy of the sun.”

Take for example the potato, which is a product that is historically and culturally transversal to Peru and Germany. Underneath its humble earthy skin, is one of the crops with a higher demand around the globe, as well as the key ingredient in multiple traditional dishes from both of these countries. The potato is also a means of collectivity from production to consumption, as we can see in this loyal portrait from Luis Pilares of potato harvest in Puno, Peru. 

“Simplify your life” by Luis Pilares

Good Food is a powerful root, and when sustainable and mindful actions lead, it can be a radical one. That’s quite a challenge because it means to link an immense constellation of traditional values, cooking geographies, and food production methods. But fellow Peruvians Monica, Nicolas, and the Roots Radicals team have the upcycling drive and the gastronomic creativity for this caring task within Berlin’s communities. This authentic, handcrafted, and Zero Waste food company transforms food’s nutritional material into a cultural one. They put in each of their products, its cooking process, and flavors, the heritage of food knowledge that comes from local or diaspora communities, and brings them together.

As a first attempt to reconnect us back to a forgotten knowledge, which was also an Instagram #quarantinecooking trend during last year’s lockdowns, we’ll serve for our first topic of the month: FOOD CONSERVATION & PRESERVATION. To trigger the conversation, we’ll take upon Roots Radicals food preserves as a starting point to answer questions like what’s a good bacteria? When, where, and how did we start putting food in jars and cans? What is pantry cooking? Let me know what opens your curious appetite around these topics.

I’m really excited to welcome you to this blogging-space, and together find our roots back to good food!

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