food diplomacy through the story of a meal

Archive for Designing Culture blog

DIY culture post surgery

Being creative in developing new recipes that both satisfy and nourishes is an ongoing challenge that I continue to tinker with.  Thinking about food choices and recipes are one thing, trying to eat them with a modified stomach and digestive track is anther thing.  Eggs provide a blank canvas with many options to spice it up from proteins, vegetables, and sea salt.  But after some 2-months of eggs, I am really quite bored with the outcomes.

It is strange, food that I have never considered eating seem to be what works well.  But I can’t get beyond, “I don’t eat that.”  Now, we are not talking gastronomic fare, but crappy, processed, and yucky food that was not part of my usual repertoire.

This is forcing me to be innovative and a bit DIY in the kitchen.  How to cook a vegetable without turning on a pan?  Acid.  How do I get enough protein that can be easily digested without puree?  Tofu.  How to enjoy the summer bounty of fruits with skins that are hard to break-down?  Grill them.  I am excited about he challenge to transform food (myself) into something else with my imagination and culinary chops.

Re-purposing ready-made food is now even more part of what I do to make food.  Scholar, Anne Balsamo’s new book, “Designing Culture: The Technological Imagination at Work talks about taking culture seriously in the design and development of innovation technologies.  She asserts that the fountain of technological innovation is the technological imagination. To check out the book, click here.

I need to harness my own form of technological imagination in creating food that will work with my permanent gastro changes.  Anne shares some important points to consider that overlap the technological imagination and the gastro-imagination.  Those that cross pollinate to my area are:

  • Innovation is a process, not a product
  • The future begins in the imagination; designers hack the present to create our futures
  • Working with other people to make things is important for the construction of shared knowledge
  • Collaboration across differences is the key to innovation
  • Designing culture is, therefore, an ethical project

As I struggle, I found come up with a raw salad with three ingredients that rocked my world this week-end.  Mushrooms, hard cheese, and vinaigrette created a beautiful meal that I had over and over again.  I do think that I may never tire of this.  The title of “mushroom” carpaccio is a play on thinly sliced beef carpaccio.  Re-purposed, re-imagined, and absolutely delicious.

Mushroom Carpaccio

The salad of shaved raw porcini mushrooms that are served throughout Italy are the inspiration here. A simple vinaigrette and shaved goat cheese (Capra Sarda) rounds it out.  You can add some baby arugula for a spicy note, or just scatter celery leaves on top. The thinly sliced mushrooms break down with the vinaigrette and the creamy, nutty, flavor of the cheese adds some nice flavor.


  • 1/2 pound large white mushrooms, sliced paper think
  • 1/2 pound Capra Sarda (firm goat cheese like Pecorino Toscano or Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup celery or baby arugula leaves
  • salt and pepper for the vinaigrette

Slice mushrooms paper-thin and lay on a plate/platter so not to overlap.

Mix together vinegar or lemon juice, salt, pepper, and olive oil in a separate bowl so they are completely combined.

Sprinkle celery leaves or arugula over mushrooms.

Using a vegetable peeler, add 10-12 slices of hard cheese on top.

Add 2-3 tablespoons of vinaigrette on top of salad.