“Another Small Fire” John Dunbar, 1973
October 2014. I was in London for a studio visit with the wonderful artist Lilian Lijn. We went together to the opening of “JOHN DUNBAR: Remember When Today Was Tomorrow” at Jane England’s Gallery. I didn’t know much about John Dunbar, but was immediately intrigued by his free-flowing creativity manifested in multiple artistic disciplines and that he acted in various professions, as an artist, a film maker and a galerist.
He is best known as co-founder of Indica, the avant-garde London gallery in the 1960s, defining the art and music counter-culture, togehter with Paul McCartney, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Mark Boyle, Liliane Lijn, Takis and others.
The exhibition featured Dunbar’s legendary notebooks, displayed for the first time, accompanied by other works and films he created during the last 50 years.
There was the match. It now hangs on the wall behind my desk and provides me with a daily simple message to “strike an idea”. I don’t think a light bulb, carrying a similar meaning, would have had the same effect on me. I find ‘striking a match’ much more active. There is the sound that goes along with it. An almost archaic swissshhh and sizzle, deeply connected to fire. The speed by which the flame is ignited, reminds me of the speedy moment in which a thought is produced.
To strike a match is most likely a conscious and careful act to create a controlled fire, like a fire in a furnace, in the wild, in the fire place, or to lighten a gas stove, a candle, a cigarette, or a firework. We all know that a fire, without supervision, can be very destructive. Connecting this to the association of producing a thought, let’s me think about a 'controlled' idea. Thoughts seem pervasive and from all the millions of thoughts we have, probably most are uncontrolled. A single idea however, that’s first ignited, thought through, defined, and carefully executed, can bring upon a similar satisfaction to our creative self, as a warming fire can do to the body.
I love that Dunbar scored the paper to depict the flame. It makes it interesting to look at and creates a surreal element. Any drawn, painted, sculpted or photographed single object easily calls for a search of symbolism. What does it mean? In our contemporary visual world however, overloaded with of millions of visuals of single objects used as symbols for marketing products, events, services, religious or cultural meanings, the very private meaning easily gets lost, overlooked, or may seem frivolous, or tacky, not worth thinking about.
It’s the delicacy with which Dunbar drew the match. It sits upright, perfectly placed on the lower 3/4 page, with the just right amount of scorched paper for the flame in a gentle amber color. But wait, maybe the scorching is not the flame, but the smoke that appears when you blow out the match?
'Another small fire' provides me with a gratitude for our creative thinking. And the title reassures me, that not all ideas have to be big and grand and successful. Some remain private and can carry on forward, igniting an ongoing process of forming an idea.
Goethe’s Green Sauce
I love (wild) herbs. I grow them on the balcony and forage them in wild gardens, parks and fields. Through a re-discovery of their usage in German cuisine, I have discovered many stories, some true, some false, some fiction or saga. Among them is the story, that Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was fond of the Frankfurt Green Sauce, a pesto like sauce that is made from spring until fall with at least seven herbs in the state of Hesse (and beyond). The story goes that his mother, nicknamed Aja, was the inventor of this delicacy and a master at preparing the recipe, and that Goethe repeatedly asked her to cook it for him and then even had it brought to Weimar by stagecoach. However, according to scholars, Goethe never mentioned any of this in his writings or correspondences. It is assumed, that the sauce came to the area from France through the Huguenots, who settled in the region at the end of the 17th century.
So here we are 400 years later with Google spitting out more than 1.460.000 results for the search of 'Frankfurt Green Sauce'. Fascinating to me is, how eating culture and history is often told through good stories. These of course are tied to the availability of resources, which have come to us by agricultural or technological advancement, or disappeared through natural or man-made, ecological catastrophes. The longer and the more colorful the stories are told – adorned with an array of repackaged products to be sold to locals, newcomers or tourists – the more it is believed that this story must be true.
In my research I discovered that there is a Frankfurt Green Sauce monument! The artist Olga Schulz, commissioned by Regionalpark RheinMain SouthWest, built seven small buildings on concrete foundations, modeled after greenhouses and placed in a row. Each of these greenhouses have transparent polycarbonate surfaces in different shades of green, representing the seven different herbs: borage, chervil, cress, parsley, burnet, sorrel and chives.
So last, but not least I share with you my recipe. I learned that I'm not allowed to call it 'Frankfurt Green Sauce', which is a certified and geographical bound protected name... another humorous prove, of how culinary obsessions can manifest itself.
KIT'S GREEN SAUCE - RECIPE
! it is important to achieve a balance of herbs; use even amounts, but use tarragon sparingly as it is very strong and can overwhelm the other flavors.
! do not use a food processor to blend the sauce: it will break the fibers and the sauce will separate into water and fiber
makes about 300 g
Recently I had 3 students, all men from New York. All of them love food and I could tell right away that they like meat. After giving a brief sum-up of my culinary biography and a short perspective on what makes modern German food German and modern, we decided to cook a seasonal summer stew with meat balls. Vegetables being the most important ingredients in my teaching and cooking, we browsed the Winterfeldtmarket for what’s in season, picking the most fresh and regional produce possible.
June/July is a time of abundance. Whereas in April and May vendors sell mostly fresh produce from Italy, France, Spain and Turkey, we now have all the local produce too: green string beans, yellow wax string beans, salad cucumbers and frying cucumber (yes, did you know? we fry big fat cucumbers and they are delicious!), tomatoes from Brandenburg, fava beans, peas, and devour the last white asparagus, and of course the carrots, beets, fennel, celeriac, potatoes, scallions, onions...
“I suggest boar or deer meat for our meat balls”, I said.
“Oh no, no deer, please”, was the quick reply by one student.
“Is it because of Bambi?” I asked.
“Yeah, I have to confess and no can’t do it.”
I have come across people with "the Bambi effect*" several times, leaving me amazed how Hollywood managed to brainwash our culinary preferences. A good friend of mine couldn’t eat duck for years because he carried Donald Duck in his heart. In the beginning I laughed, but realized quickly how serious this was. Once our brain carves such a strong neurological pathway, especially when connected to one of our senses, any chef can try all kind of miracles, but will remain unsuccessful breaking the pattern, unless we are tricked.
(*The Bambi effect is a term used primarily by hunters, mocking people with irrational emotional objections to the killing of "adorable, cute" animals, regardless of whether they eat animal meat otherwise or in consideration of environmental and economic realities. "Bambi" is an animated film by Walt Disney's from 1942, in which hunters kill the mother of the deer Bambi. The actual act of killing is off-screen, but the scene brutally and realistically portrays our bloody relationship with nature's animals.)
So, boar we agreed on. But what’s my point?
So many of us, it seems, have conflicts about eating meat. I hear people (me included) say: 'Yes, I eat meat, but very seldom, and only if its sustainably raised, organic meat from local farms or hunters.' I go through paranoid periods of ecoside, and I think I have to stop eating animal products entirely. As an omnivore loving food in general, these doubts remain. And how often have you thought, ‘oh no, not again, I can’t have this discussion again.’? (I have to confess, that I did call some hard-core preaching vegans fundamentalists before, and that's really not cool...sorry!)
Here is my point. Don't you think, staying engaged in the discussion is our responsibility? Realizing that there is no easy answer, shouldn't we keep on thinking, talking and learning about what’s on our plate and where it comes from, even if it’s wearisome?
Louise O. Fresco writes in Hamburgers in Paradise, a book I highly recommend:
In a stubborn form of cognitive dissonance, many people are concerned and express their outrage at the production methods of meat and dairy products, but at the same time they close their minds to the causes and take advantage of the low prices that result from those production methods. The willed blindness of consumers in rich countries makes it possible for the majority of the population to profit from the abundance of cheap animal products while not knowing the unpleasant details. We end up with a difficult balancing act, cherishing the romantic image the small farmer looking after farm animals as if they were beloved pets, as opposed to the horrors of the battery cages ad abattoirs used by the very same farmer. Both images are a distortion. (...)*
Bambi, after 80 years, is not forgotten and now a symbol of distortion, of how complicated food consumption in our modern world can be.
Let's stay engaged.
* HAMBURGERS IN PARADISE, Louise O. Fresco, Princeton University Press, 2021
Pan fried cod with sautéed carrot-beet vegetable medley
over carrot green pesto and garnished with baked red beet leaves
filet of cod
bunch of beets with leaves
salt and pepper
2-3 cloves of garlic
carrot green pesto
makes about 200 g
1 bunch organic carrot greens (usually the greens from 6 to 8 carrots)
150 g sunflower or pumpkin seeds
230 ml sunflower or olive oil
juice of1 lemon
salt and pepper
1 ice cube
carrot green pesto
Are you among those still tossing out their carrot greens or feeding them to pets, not knowing how yummy and nutritious they are? A pesto made of carrot greens has a tart, fresh flavor and can be eaten just like any other pesto. Carrot greens contain many nutrients like vitamins A and C, calcium and iron. This pesto is especially delicious with pumpkin or sunflower seeds. Use organic greens only.
1. remove greens from carrots, and leaves from stems
2. thoroughly wash greens, remove any brown leaves and cut leaves with scissors
into smaller bits, so they don’t wind themselves around the blade of the food processor
3. add all ingredients including the ice cube (which will keep the color bright green)
and blend until smooth
4. transfer to jar or bowl, add a dash of olive oil on top, preventing the surface from
5. keep cool until serving
Baked beet leaves
Beet leaves are delicious and can be eaten as well as the stem. Of course, as with the carrot greens, you only want organic or pesticide free leaves.
Carrot-beet vegetable medley
Assemble all on plate.
A few days after the lecture at the German-American Heritage Museum, I created an served an experience dinner at the residency of the German Ambassador, Dr. Emily Haber. Was very honored! A 8 course menu as a journey through modern culinary Germany, with an explorative course in spices and herbs in the past, present and future. I was not sure how this will be perceived, but everybody loved it and all food was eaten and enjoyed.
My passion about using food and art as cultural connectors for conversation and bringing together people from various sectors of our society remains and actually is in its necessity confirmed.
I was invited by the Consulate General of Germany in DC to hold a lecture about Modern German Food, based on the cookbook. It was held at the German-American Heritage Museum. Again, I was impressed of how many people are interested in the topic of food culture. I do see myself as a cultural explorer, rather than a chef. We made some yummy tastings, even though here they look a bit weird, as the juice ran all over the napkins.
Ingredients for 12 4 oz jars
- 1 kg fruit
- 1 sweet potato
- 3-4 cloves garlic
- 1 chili pepper *
- 1 large onion (red or white)
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 4-5 juniper berries
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp anise seeds
- 1 tbsp ground ginger (or minced fresh)
- 1 star anise
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp vinegar
- some vegetable oil
- 4 tbsp of sugar
* you determine the spiciness by removing/leaving the seeds.
In my experimental garden, I do have to make some room once in a while. I remove some weeds in between the plants. But other than that, we just watch what happens. While weeding, I accidentally pulled some mini carrots, green and red orache, some borage and was able to harvest cauliflower and kohlrabi. I picked some currants too.
Sautéed the veggies, including the kohlrabi leaves and topped them on a salad of orache leaves. Amazing lunch.
It was cucumber day! We made a cold cucumber herbal soup, because it was so hot in Berlin. A delicious red beet leave salad, with the leaves we got for free from Lazlo at the Winterfeldtmakret. (People never want the greens, but if they are organic and in good shape and fresh, they are most delicious!)
Yes, sautéed zucchini flowers!
Yes, Frankfurt green sauce!
Yes, carrot green pesto!
A great restart of the experience market tour + cooking class + lunch!