A new food truck has been posting up around the city, but it won’t satisfy lunchtime hunger. What GhostFood lacks in calories, however, it makes up for in experience. That’s right: It’s an art installation.
Miriam Simun and Miriam Songster’s “pre-nostalgic” project, which is making the rounds in Baltimore thanks to The Contemporary, is designed to explore foods that may disappear in the years to come. The three flavors on offer — cod, chocolate and peanut butter — are each threatened by climate change.
We know at least one of those potentially causes panic just upon reading, but GhostFood aims to bring other senses into the mix to demonstrate how these foods could be presented if they were no longer available in the environment.
The idea, Simun says, is to “provide a simulation of how you can continue to taste your favorite foods after they no longer exist on Earth.”
Cod happened to sound good, so here’s a sampling of how it works. At the white truck, we were provided with a 3D-printed plastic headset and an edible substance that was not cod. (It’s actually beer-battered vegetable protein and algae.) Then, we approached a server in a lab coat, who was one of a group of 18 Johns Hopkins students helping with the project as part of a museums practicum. She helped fit the contraption just under the nose, and instructed us to begin eating.
While the substance had a somewhat fishy texture, the device provided a smell that filled in the rest of the blanks. While it would definitely be strange to eat with friends at a table with this glasses-like contraption sticking a small scent pod into our nose, the project effectively makes its point.
In the future, the cod could actually be missing. Climate change has altered salinity levels in oceans, leading cod eggs to sink rather than float — literally drowning the young before they hatch. Being crops, chocolate and peanut butter face issues with drought, soil types and, in the case of chocolate, disease.
Rather than leading us to mourn the loss of some favorite foods early, Simun said the project aims to look at how innovation might be used to address extinction, and how humans can “remain active agents in wherever this journey of progress has taken us.”
Already facing rising peanut prices, scientists have considered breeding a new kind of peanut to help the crop survive.
With its ability to preserve the taste of peanut butter as it currently exists, the GhostFood device naturally leads us to consider whether whatever Frankenpeanut is created in the future is really the one we enjoy today. That’s already in question, since big food makers already put hydrogenated oil and other chemicals into some peanut butter. If we were to preserve something for the scent packet, would the Jif of childhood or the all-natural stuff from the organic aisle be most accurate?
For at least a moment, GhostFood allows us to picture whether the food really exists without the key ingredient being there at all.
GhostFood appears in Baltimore one final time on Wednesday, Nov. 4, at Light Up Lexington.
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