Last summer I got in contact with Michael Cirino, the head of A Razor, A Shiny Knife (cf. luncheon on the L train, among other feats), via Jonny Cigar, the infamous figure at the helm of the traveling wine saloon The Noble Rot, and cooly implied that I would like to work for him. So he let me prep for his event on hydrocolloids and water scarcity at the Guggenheim Lab, an awesome pop-up incubator for cool ideas in the East Village.
His idea was twofold: to introduce the audience to the wild world of hydrocolloids, and to apply this knowledge to make an experiential infographic demonstrating water scarcity in different parts of the world.
Our job was to unpack and prep for service two-hundred servings of each of the five ‘statistics’: colloids of increasing viscosity as a metaphor for increasingly difficult access to potable water in different countries around the world.
Meanwhile, Michael preps for his presentation.
And the interview.
We started off with two different solutions of agar agar in water: a difference of even one-tenth of a percent concentration changed the texture dramatically – from a loose jelly to a tough, chewable (and highly unpalatable) substance.
Unfortunately I forget exactly which concentrations and hydrocolloids went with which countries, and their corresponding statistics. I wasn’t able to take notes, as I was busy serving. Very too bad. But the idea is what matters.
I was particularly psyched by our last infographic: a hollow sphere created by reacting sodium alginate with calcium lactate represented not just scarcity but disparity within one place – a hard, squishy sphere containing fresh liquid water, submerged in liquid water to conceal the shape. The audience member would go to drink the seemingly fluid water, only to have an invisible hydrocolloid – the brute fact of water scarcity – bump them in the nose when they tried to drink.
Incidentally, this is also the same technique pioneered by Adrià and now used the world over to achieve the ‘spherification’ or ‘caviar’ effect with all sorts of flavoured fluids; here, it’s appropriated into the intersectional space between performance, politics, and food. Cool stuff.
A great example of food that’s not delicious but fascinating and therefore worth consuming.