GASTRONOMIC STRIDES: A FUTURE OF FOOD-CENTRIC DESIGN Published in Medium, 2017
In the last two decades, conscious eating has come to dominate the culinary landscape. The locavore movement has escalated to the point that local ingredients have become the norm, rather than the exception, and the idea of sustainability has grown beyond eco-friendly supply chains to include far-reaching demands for balanced living in nearly every aspect of our lives.
The following is a look at how some restaurants have embraced design concepts that emphasize our increasingly dynamic and sophisticated relationship with food and eating.
Sustainable Restaurant Group
Chris Lofgren's Sustainable Restaurant Group, based in Portland, Oregon, started with Bamboo Sushi back in 2008, which became the first certified-sustainable sushi restaurant in the world. They have since expanded with new locations in the Portland and Denver areas, and continue to break new ground with other projects like QuickFish Poke Bar, which opened last year in central Portland. Though poke is a Hawaiian tradition, QuickFish serves what their Creative Director, Cory Schisler, calls “sushi in a bowl,” using sushi rice or their signature “medicine rice” (black rice, buckwheat, foxtail millet, amaranth and over 10 other grains) to create recipes from the bottom of the bowl up. The results are simple but fulfilling dishes that are affordable, served in good time and highly unique.
Bamboo Sushi completely revolutionized the sushi paradigm. Taking on a cuisine that is unmatched in flavor palate and presentation, but with a history of high carbon footprints, Lofgren and Executive Chef Jin Soo Yang had to find a network of suppliers that met their very specific needs. And they didn’t stop with the supply chain. SRG embraces sustainable practices that are inculcated into every business decision, from staffing to sourcing to interior design. For example, their new location, opening in Seattle, will use tabletops made of recycled paper products and menu covers made of highly renewable cork. The building design maximizes natural lighting with ample window space, and every dish and utensil is a local and sustainable product. What's more, according to Chef Yang, each location is run by a team of chefs who make decisions collaboratively, an organizational structure that not only encourages solidarity, but embraces their founding principles of balanced living and social responsibility.
Examples of sustainable sushi include everything from localized versions of traditional staples like Oregon albacore sashimi or marinated sablefish (in place of eel) to the ever-evolving chefs' plates, often including both freshwater and Pacific seafood selections, house-smoked charcuterie and, if you’re lucky, an ivory salmon rose.
The Farm Outside
The next step in local and sustainable pursuits is the merging of source and service into single operations, and though there are countless farm-to-table examples throughout the states, some more recent additions to that legacy have taken further steps to create a sense of place that extends well beyond the confines of a food service establishment. Restaurants like Arbor in Chicago, which opened in 2015, have become gathering places for communities united in common values.
Located in the Green Exchange building in Logan Square, Arbor is part of a rehabilitated LEED-certified communal working center, which its managers describe as “a center for innovation and inspiration in the green economy.” The Green Exchange is the country’s largest sustainable business community, and Arbor’s place in its vast, eco-friendly layout includes a small grouping of narrow wooden tables set off by glass partitions, a backyard garden and a rooftop apiary.
Though Arbor has a standard menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the real magic of Arbor happens on their “Midwestern Omakase” nights. During these events, chef-owners Leonard Hollander and Chad Little make all ordering decisions for their guests, giving diners a singular experience in culinary creation at its most inspired and humanizing moments, and within a microcosm of ecotopian stewardship.
In addition to regional farms and freshwaters, a large amount of the Arbor ingredients are foraged from area woodlands, accentuating dishes with edible wildflowers, roots and other foliage that dazzles the eyes and surprises the tastebuds. But with over 60 vegetables, fruits and herbs in their backyard, the Arbor chefs do not have to forage far for sources of inspiration.
Food as Education
When restaurants achieve recognition, people all over the world begin to hear about their food, yet may never have the chance to sample their award-winning recipes. In Situ has an answer to that dilemma. Housed in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, In Situ features dishes first originated by master chefs all over the world. Chefs are invited to the In Situ kitchen to teach their culinary team how to perfect chosen dishes, which then enter the menu in a seasonal rotation.
As much educational as it is a dining experience, In Situ offers dishes that stand out in the history of the culinary arts. And their interior, developed by James Beard winner Aidlin Darling Design, actually highlights the experience of the senses with resonant acoustics, open space and naturally circulated air. One section of the dining room is always left open to walk-ins, which helps to maintain the vibrant, community center atmosphere.
In Situ’s Three-Michelin-starred Executive Chef, Corey Lee, has reimagined the restaurant experience, embracing eclecticism in a way that in other venues may not have been so easily accepted. Here, amid the walls of the museum, you can sit in the shadow of commissioned artwork and sample Chef Thomas Keller's French Laundry salads, Wylie Dufresne’s Southern Shrimp Grits or Rene Redzepi’s Danish Wood Sorrel and Sheep’s Milk Yogurt. They have even managed to source locally where equivalent ingredients will suffice, but only when the chef approves.
These four restaurants can tell us a lot about what's in store for the future of the industry. All of them display an unbreakable desire for timeless and intelligent food choices, as well as a move away from the wastes and reductive thinking of the convenience gospel. Conscious, communal and even educational eating now defines our 21st-century life and culture, and food-centric design provides the door to a more fully-realized version of those innovations. Behind that door, the future of cooking is already in progress. All we have to do is open it. Or call for reservations first.
A.D.H.D. AND PRIVATE TUTORING: TAILOR-MADE STRATEGIES
You’re a professional tutor and there never seems to be enough time during the sessions. Even in the small space of the meeting room it is often difficult to maintain your student’s attention. If the parents allow a phone, it is always out, and even when turned off it seems to have an enticing presence. If the parents do not allow a phone, the student reaches for yours, or looks out the window, or draws pictures on the notebooks or plays with pens, tears up paper, and bounces an erasure on the table. And if he or she is working on the computer, there always seems to be a reason to open a new tab or perform another Google search.
Does this scenario sound familiar? ADHD is a neurological disorder, but it is also a disorder that is affected by the environment in which a person lives. We have created a society that is full of sense stimuli, convenience, and ubiquitous advertisements promising all manner of immediate gratifications. And despite all the conveniences of modern technology, no one seems to have any time. The world we live in, full of self-service and push-button routines, is beginning to look and sound like a giant pinball machine. And we wonder why our children have trouble sitting still or listening for hours at a time.
In a New York Times column published in 2014, Richard Friedman, Professor of Clinical Psychology at Weill Cornell Medical College, outlines a method of educational planning aimed at creating benefits out of the perceived limitations of ADHD. Friedman emphasizes a need for fast-paced teaching in a fast-paced world, which can provide benefits for all students involved, but particularly for those who are hardwired for rapid responses to new and novel stimuli.
“Novelty-seeking,” as Professor Friedman describes it, is a common inclination that, for those with ADHD, becomes highly accentuated. “Compared with the rest of us,” Friedman writes, “they have sluggish and underfed brain reward circuits.” To compensate for this, those living with the disorder become desperate for exceptions to the mundane status quo that governs modern life. And for young people, education represents that status quo, both in its institutions and its activities. The school system becomes an often difficult and regimented structure in which they are forced to integrate.
This is where the role of the private tutor can provide critical guidance, and even inspiration. The tutor should work with the school curriculum, but at the same time offer fresh alternatives and keep the options open. The advantage of regular one-on-one sessions with students is something that is for the most part absent from the classroom setting, especially the large classroom setting. And for the ADHD child, this difference is crucial, as the private setting is much more conducive to their needs. It's a lost opportunity when tutoring becomes simply another routine in the life of a child already bored from long days of school work and classroom lectures. This is not to say that tutors, or teachers for that matter, are doing anything wrong. There’s nothing particularly boring about common teaching practices, but as Friedman points out, if you're having these attention-deficit responses to your environment, the problem is that most of what you experience on a day-to-day basis feels “not very interesting.”
The difference begins with your approach. Professor Friedman’s point about things not being interesting to a child with ADHD is a generalization. Obviously, if you have any experience at all with ADHD diagnosed children, you know they have interests. In fact they are exuberant about many things much of the time, even appearing “hyperfocused” at times. It’s a tutor’s job to draw in that energy and make use of it in the best possible way. You can either be limited by the deficit, or you can recognize that the deficit is as much a result of an overactive mind and a complex external environment as it is a matter of internal focus. As writer and parenting specialist Denise Foley points out in her article “Growing Up With ADHD,” “we learn how to give instructions to a child whose short-term memory is impaired and who finds it tougher than normal to keep distractions at bay.”
Foley goes on to describe an ADHD paradox, which baffles parents as children with the disorder can seem driven at times with obsession over a particular activity, yet fail to accomplish dozens of relatively simple goals throughout the week. For tutors, this paradox is something they learn to deal with on a daily basis, repeating their instructions and pleading with students to focus. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Even the most scattered and disruptive ADHD student can be reined in when there’s something genuinely interesting at hand.
So what’s interesting? This depends on the student, of course. But if one can generalize at all in this regard, making a game of things is a great place to start. If a subject is challenging for a student, boost them up with review activities then tackle the new challenge as a puzzle, piece by piece, one item at a time. Tutor by numbers, but let the student make jokes, ask random questions (because they will), or take breaks. Let them take out their frustrations. Let them change the subject (because they will), or even opt for a different subject, so long as they return to what they were doing by the session’s end. And most importantly, repeat the lessons. Repeat the work. Repeat everything. Your students will thrive given the chance for concentration, and for a child with ADHD, concentration means repetition. Structure is important, but structure can also accommodate a student's curiosities, and make allowances for moments of lost interest.
ADHD is not going away. Its rates are increasing by the year. But for children diagnosed with the disorder, their education does not have to be compromised. And given the chance for private tutoring, the educational experience can not only be tailored to their specific needs, but can also be impactful, individualized, and modeled for longstanding academic achievement. With an adaptable teaching style that incorporates a student's interests into the lessons, you can achieve what you may not have considered possible, because a more tailored approach speaks to their nature, and to their psychology. To pique one's interest is to inspire, and where one is inspired, whatever the nature of their limitations, they will remember, and they will learn.
REDEVELOPING IDENTITY IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD: OOLIGAN PRESS AND NEW CROATIA
After decades of war and economic depression, the new century has brought a new literature to the surface of the Balkan Peninsula. With the fall of former Yugoslavia, writers previously kept imprisoned, in exile or in hiding have slowly reemerged to the point of international recognition. In the years following the Croatian War of Independence, these voices have been instrumental in the establishment of a new national identity, and Portland's own Ooligan Press has been a part of it, publishing three Croatian translations and marketing them for over a decade.
It was ten years ago this summer that Ooligan Press at Portland State University published its first Croatian translation in partnership with the Croatian Ministry of Culture, and the press has since revised and edited three novels from the country that continue to provide a strong link between the Publishing Program at Portland State, and the literary community of the capital city of Zagreb. While these works have already been recognized and renowned throughout Eastern and Middle Europe, Ooligan Press translated them into English for the first time in their entirety. Each work is unique in format and style, but all share a common motif in symbolic representations of the post-war experience.
The first installment, The Survival League , by Gordan Nuhanovic, is a series of short stories depicting diverse, often humorous social situations in which a host of characters struggle with new challenges in the confusion of a shell-shocked and uncertain populace. Nuhanovic’s history in punk and new-wave music in the ‘80s, and journalism in the war-torn ‘90s, allows for clear and trenchant details to compliment his more humorous or overtly political reflections. Although some common themes run through the collection, each story has its own unique approach to the unpredictable nature of the post-war period.
Following The Survival League was the publication of Zagreb, Exit South by Edo Popovic, a novel made up of numerous day-in-the-life characterizations against a tumultuous backdrop of post-war depression. Popovic draws on his own experiences in addressing the tensions between new freedoms and new problems in a postmodern, globalized society. The book specifically examines the often absurd and contradictory nature of a new, primarily proletarian class of artists and writers (sound familiar?).
The final book in the series, American Scream/Palindrome Apocalypse by Dubravka Oraic Tolic, consists of two epic poems drawing on war themes and the politics of war throughout history. Both poems are densely layered with comparative imagery and historical references as well as the symbolic play on words. While the palindromic elements of the second poem do not translate directly into English, the Croatian version was published by its side for visual effect.
Rarely do epic poems receive international recognition and attention among today’s readers, but American Scream/Palindrome Apocalypse is a controversial attack on the dangerous repercussions of a global pop-culture out of touch with its history. For Croatia in particular, the postmodern sensibility is emphasized by its post-war and post-communist implications. For the most part, new structures have risen from the destruction of the old paradigms, yet in some sectors an absence of structure remains, and that sense of dissolution is translated into art and literature as a new, universally significant aesthetic.
For some of Popovic’s characters, the new government and new world mean nothing more than a change of company ownership, represented in one scene by the disappearance of a popular brand of domestic beer. For others, “democracy” and globalization amount to westernization, for better or worse. While it is clear that there are uncertainties in the choices and directions of a new Croatia, the expression of those uncertainties is no longer obstructed by any war or regime. Whatever becomes of their country, Croatians will have a voice with which to address it, and that voice is spreading well beyond their borders.
This partnership between Ooligan, which is a student-run trade press, and the Croatian Ministry of Culture, tasked with promoting the country’s art and culture in international markets, has been a success for over a decade, and it continues to provide a model for small press startups interested in English translations of popular titles throughout the world. These authors, having written themselves into the history books of their homeland, were able to reach new readers through a small academic nonprofit with big dreams. And it was because of this relationship that Ooligan was able to grow as quickly as it did, becoming the thriving hub of academic and literary achievement it is today. Pick up a new edition of one of these great novels and join us in celebrating over ten years of success since their publication, giving students and Portlanders a first-hand opportunity in experiencing the unique nature of contemporary Croatian literature.
Update: In addition to the original Croatian translations series, Ooligan has also published Do Angels Cry: Tales of the War by Matko Marusic, a short story collection that focuses on the Croatian War of Independence.