Team of artists have captured the air of India and created a “toxic dessert”
“Sandy, with notes of burnt charcoal mixed with the metallic smell of gasoline and a hint of chemicals – a taste so toxic it chokes your throat and makes you want to rinse your mouth several times.” This is how the flavor ofair pollution in the capital of IndiaNew Delhi, if you could try it.
Earlier this month, the air quality index (AQI) of the city of New Delhi, India dramatically rose to dangerous limits of more than 900, making it the the world’s most polluted capital for the third consecutive year.
The AQI in many cities in India, China, Pakistan and other countries fluctuates in the range from bad to severe throughout the year. However, it is only when thepollution it becomes denser at dangerous levels and we can visibly see it, smell it and start being choked by it, that people start talking about it.
L’intangibility of air pollution it has a lot to do with this discourse – or lack of it. That’s what Portland-led study center, Center for Genomic Gastronomy, wants to rectify with its ongoing creative investigation called Smog Tasting. “By transforming the largely unconscious process of breathing into the conscious act of eating, the project creates a visceral and stimulating interaction with the air around us,” said co-founder Zack Denfeld.
The goal is to give the taste buds a taste of what the lungs experience.
An out of the ordinary study
In 2011, Denfeld and Cathrine Kramer came up with the idea of creating jolts of pollution during a seminar in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru. While reading Harold McGee’s guide to culinary chemistry, On Food and Cooking, they came across a phrase that said, “Thanks to egg whites, we can collect air and make it an integral part of sighs.”
The poetic phrase “gather the air” inspired the two to think about how to collect and savor the pollution of Bengaluru that surrounded them every day.
Together with the workshop participants they took to the streets of the city with bowls, blenders and egg whites, sighing in several places and returning to the workshop kitchen to roast them. “The volunteers tried these sighs and were able to identify a spicy or spicy element. Many noted that the taste of pollution sighs in Yelahanka (a wooded suburb) was comparatively better than those in Mekhri Circle (busy urban hub), ”Denfeld said.
With this culinary and polluting collision, the Smog Tasting project with the intention of using egg whites to collect, taste and compare theair pollution of different locations around the world.
Since then, the project has grown to include a variety of methods for feeling, analyzing and evaluating the unique flavor of a place’s atmosphere. This includes guided tasting and smelling experiences, pollution meditations, and a new pollution synthesizer that works as an experimental food cart to generate the smell and taste of air pollution from various places and times.
In the years following its inception, Smog Tasting traveled around the world and served pollution sighs to health ministers at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, as well as during the COP-21 conference in Paris in 2015.
In 2017, an international network of human pollution collectors was created as part of the first Smog Tasting: Take Out session at the Fuller Symposium in Washington DC, organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
Participants were invited to prepare sighs in London, Perth, Beijing, Barcelona, Washington DC, Porto and Mumbai. The samples were mailed to the Symposium, where they were tasted and compared.
Photo by Laurentiu Morariu on Unsplash