Eating Venice: Lagoon Legumes, Ceremony & Heritage
R: Do you forage?
Do you hunt?
What does gleaning mean to you?
A: What are your luxury ingredients? What ruins a meal?
Are fingers better than plastic cutlery?
K: Does climate change limit your choice of ingredients? Have you ever been close to dying from eating something? Have you ever been sick from not eating something?
R: Is there a wrong colour for food?
Do you think eating on a first date is a bad idea? Do you think labradors taste like chicken?
A: The practice of eating is inherently complex.
K: Social and cultural norms are both conveyed and violated through food.
K: 16th century Europeans believed that food shaped and maintained the superior colonial body. There was a fear that by consuming “inferior” Indigenous food, Spaniards (and Portuguese) would eventually become “like them”. Therefore only “right foods” would be able to protect colonizers from the challenges posed by the “new world” and its unfamiliar environments.
A: Are some foods off your menu? Why?
R: Do you have a dish or a special ingredient that tells a story?
K: Is cooking fun for you?
A: Are you fast at chopping?
R: 16th century Spanish and Portuguese “exclusive” foods were considered to be wheat, wine and meat. Barley, oats, rye, and vegetable stew were consumed by the poor. Vegetables were classified based on social status; root vegetables were not considered suitable for elite consumption because they grew underground. The elite preferred to consume food that came from trees, elevated from the filth of the common world.
A: What foods are only for special occasions?
K: Are you comfortable eating alone in public?
R: Does food taste better when someone else makes it?
A: Have you inherited foods?
K: Have you invented any dish before?
R: Have you offered? Do you practice ritual?
K: In the aforementioned colonial period, the Portuguese identified the palate as the entrance gate for Christian civilization often supporting ceremonies for the natives.
R: Sugar, salt, distilled drinks - all elements of social hierarchy.
A: For dessert we offer Mugunzá, Jambuzada de Suchetta, followed by a Thyme & Chocolate sorbet.
K: While looking up for Brazilian classic desserts I was reminded of my wife’s deceased grandmother Vó Lau. She served me Mungunzá when I met her in Recife, Brazil, for both the first and last time in 2015. I thought of making this dessert again to rediscover the taste, possibly bringing memories of that encounter. Written registers were found pointing mungunzá as a ritual dish served in funerals for the dead in Angola. From Kimbundo language mukunza means 'cooked corn’. Its origin has been vastly disputed: Portuguese, Indian, Indigenous, African? This white corn is traditionally cooked with water, sugar, coconut milk, cinammon and cloves. R: Do you eat ancient food? Do you learn new recipes? Have you ever sacrificed?
K: Brazilian cuisine is often remembered through feijoada, the black bean stew with meat leftovers, believed to be developed by slaves using French technique. A symbolic national dish of pacifying effect, partly erasing resistance narratives. While collectively gathering in domestic settings to celebrate their different gods, Afro-Brazilians started to remember and share ritual recipes also assimilating local sourced and domesticated ingredients. Further acknowledging this contribution, mugunzá should be added to the list.
A: Food choices are influenced and constrained by cultural values, and are an important part of the construction and maintenance of social identity. In that sense, food has never merely been about the simple act of pleasurable consumption—food is history, food is culturally transmitted, food is identity. Food is power.