... in food

Flying dutchman

09 Dec 2012 | 417 words | capitalism food mexico travel business

On a recent trip to Mexico city (to attend a Creative Commons LatAm meeting) while we were waiting to be cleared for take-off, i overheard my neighbour in seat 21C (one of the best economy class seats on this type of plane, that is usually occupied by frequent flyers) talking on the phone to his family at home. Somewhat surprisingly he expressed astonishment about the size of the plane (‘there is a staircase next to me’) and curiosity about how he would handle a flight this long (12.5 hrs). While i usually avoid talking to seat neighbours like the pest, this tickled my curiosity and after we were on the way i found myself inquiring where he was headed and about the purpose of his trip.

Turns out my seat neighbour was in the tomato business (given the fact that Mexico and the Netherlands are the two biggest tomato exporting countries in the world, sitting next to someone in the tomato business on this flight should not really be a surprise).

More specifically, he mentioned, he used to run a family farm, growing tomatoes and other vegetables in a small number of green-houses but about five years ago he had to sell the business because he could not scale up to remain competitive. Nowadays, he told me he was working for one of the large tomato conglomerates as a quality inspector.

This company had been hit pretty hard by the EHEC crisis two years ago when pretty much their entire European market (read: Germany) had collapsed. This had led them to decide that they needed to diversify there and become active in other markets outside of Europe.

As a result the company started to explore the possibility of licensing the production of snack tomatoes to US companies that would operate greenhouses in Mexico producing snack tomatoes for the North American market. They has recently completed the first such deal and given that his manager who would usually oversee these kind of operations had just gotten a baby and prefers not to travel that far, here he finds himself in an aeroplane, the size of a greenhouse flying across an ocean for the first time in his life in order to spend a week in Mexican greenhouses to ensure that the Mexicans do not mess up the carefully controlled Dutch formula that is supposed to produce thousands of thousands of identical small red snack tomatoes. Makes me wonder what i will be doing in five years from now…

Fish(sticks) with(out) eyes | vis(sticks) met/zonder oogjes

29 Feb 2012 | 72 words | fish food

Recently a friend mentioned that his kids (who have the daycare mother as Y) observed that at Fatima’s (the daycare mother) they would get ‘vis met oogjes’ (‘fish with eyes’) as opposed to the vis(sticks) without eyes that they were served at home. For some reason i really love this observation/expression which is perfectly captured in this work by Stummerer, Hablesreiter & Hanslmaier from their book Food Design XL:

vis me/zonder oogjes

How to carry a shark through the streets of Mogadishu

01 Jan 2011 | 38 words | fish food mogadishu photos somalia war

Just found this picture in the ‘the year 2010 in 100 pictures’ issue of the NRC magazine.

Probably my favorite picture from 2010. the NRC magazine shows a tiny little version, click on the image above for high-res.

Successful [integration]

21 Dec 2008 | 74 words | migration food amsterdam

Warung Asje a Javanese Surinamese take-out restaurant on Jan Pieter Heije Straat in Amsterdam-west that i have been frequenting for more than 10 years has finally adapted to dutch customs! After more than 10 years of offering roti, nasi or bami dishes they now also offer patat on the side:

Sign reading ‘Nu ook alle gerechten met patat verkrijgbaar’ (‘New, all dishes can be served with french fries’) on the counter of Warung Asje.

Arabic m (م)

25 Nov 2008 | 135 words | amsterdam food popular culture

So the dutch have this tradition of giving each other big chocolate letters with their initials for for sinterklaas. both the celebration of sinterklaas and these chocolate letters are fairly important elements of dutch national identity. as i have mentioned here before last years el hema exhibition by mediamatic did a fairly good job at undermining/reinforcing that whole concept. one little part of that (the one willem was most proud of) were a couple of hand-made (and thus not for sale) arabic script chocolate letters.

Now – a little bit more than a year later – it seems that a commercial manufacturer has taken up the hint:

Arabic letter m (م) chocolate letter on sale at Marqt on Overtoom in Amsterdam

Makes me wonder if they ever realized that they put the م upside down…

Data retention (a.k.a Northwest thinks that i am a vegetarian)

11 May 2008 | 298 words | airtravel data food

So just before the meal service during yesterday’s flight to Boston i get a meal tray handed over by a flight attendant. Turns out they have me on the list for a special (vegetarian) meal. Now the strange thing is that i had not ordered such a meal (even cheked my reservation confirmation and it does say ‘no special requests‘ so Northwest’s reservation computer must have come to the conclusion that i am (still) a vegetarian all by itself. Probably based on the fact that i was a vegetarian when i flew NW for the last time (5 years or so ago). All of this would not have been all too unpleasant if Northwest would not have fucked up the definition of a strict vegetarian (VGML) meal. While the main dish had a VGML sticker on it it turned out to be pasta in three cheese sauce. Now everybody who knows me a little bit will know that this is about the worst thing i can imagine in terms of food. Just thinking about pasta in three cheese sauce makes me feel miserable.

Of course the flight attendants did not really care about the whole thing because (a) they simply refused to believe that i had not ordered a special meal (‘is that your name and your seat on that sticker, sir? – eh, yes… then it is your meal’) and (b) because they refused to acknowledge that three cheese sauce is not a a VGML dish (‘does it say VGML on that sticker? – eh, yes… – then it is a vegetarian meal’).

In the end my neighbor offered me his chicken dish (thanks!). now all i have to do is to figure out how to tell the reservation system that i am not a vegetarian anymore…

Iron man & roast duck

05 May 2008 | 142 words | copyright file sharing movies food piracy london

So Jamie more or less forced us to watch iron man on Thursday in some nondescript multiplex cinema in Swansea, Wales. Definitely not the worst film i have ever seen but for some reason these comic book adaptions fail to really excite me (except for film versions of comic books by enki bilal that is).

Out of curiosity i also bought a DVD version of some DVD hawker in the restaurant Hai Ha (they do make really nice special roast duck in that place) on Mare street in hackney on Friday. As one could have expected it turned out to be a really bad (as in having chairs and the ceiling in the picture for three quarters of the film) chinese cam version.

Still kind of amazing that they get DVDs out into london restaurants in a bit more than 24 hours…

Good news (2)

10 Apr 2008 | 122 words | food amsterdam netherlands advertisement

So one of the worst things about living in the Netherlands has been that there has been no proper supply with Gold Bears (Gummibärchen) which did reduce my quality of life quite substantially. The only way they have been selling Harbio Gummibärchen has been in those ridiculous 300g bags that contain 30 or so 10g bags that contain macrobiotic quantities of tiny gold bears [the other option was to buy properly sized gold bears from one of the kosher shops in Buitenveldert, that import them from the US but they charge you €4 per bag the last time i checked…].

Now this morning i cycled past this advertisement which reads ‘now also BIG Gold Bears’. Never been this happy about an advertisement…

These remind me of the WTC

05 Apr 2008 | 58 words | imagination food

Found this picture a while back on some russian design website but lost the url so i can’t link to it. these seem to be japanese tetra pack containers for banana juice. extremely beautiful/sweet if you ask me (not sure if they are for real or just a concept).

Update [11-05-08]:Apparently they are by product designer Naoto Fukasawa

Honest spicy food

24 Mar 2008 | 188 words | food china new york

Just back from a week in New York (taking benefit of the favorable dollar to euro exchange rate) which was amazing in a number of ways. One of the more interesting culinary discoveries was the Sichuan hot-pot. If you like honest spicy food than you should try one if you have the chance. It consists of a simmering metal pot of stock made from Sichuan Pepper (also known as ‘flower pepper’) that is placed at the center of the table. The broth is so spicy that the Chinese seem to refer to it as ‘Ma La‘ (‘numb and spicy’).

The hot-pot is used to cook vegetables, thinly sliced meats and seafood at the table (pretty much like fondue) which are then dipped in a dipping sauce (try the extra spicy dipping sauce for extra effect!) and eaten. Takes a while to get used to but then it is delicious!

Sichuan hot-pot @ Grand Sichuan

Apparently the best hot-pot in NYC is served at Grand Sichuan, a tiny little storefront restaurant on 125 Canal Street opposite of the Manhattan bridge on-ramp (at the intersection of Bowery and Canal street)…

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

Other things that i have made online: