The Landscape We Eat

“A recipe is more than the food it is made of: the geography of our dinner spills off of the plate.”

“The Landscape We Eat” seeks to explore the relationship between food systems and their geomorphology, climate, infrastructure, time and culture.

During the 20th century, the transformation of global food production and its processes have homogenized most of the Earth’s productive landscapes, diminishing their complexity and impoverishing their ecosystems. This transformation has been so thorough and pervasive that it is increasingly difficult to imagine how things could be any other way.

In order to think more creatively about this problem, we will focus our attention on La Camargue, an agricultural region of Southern France. In La Camargue, a complex system of canals moves fresh water from the delta to the Mediterranean Sea, which mediates between the conflicting requirements of the regions primary products, such as poultry, asparagus, rice, and salt. By ‘thinking through drawing,’ this seminar will explore the metabolic relations that construct both landscapes of production and landscapes of consumption in order to better understand the parameters of the problem that global food production confronts us with.

The course will be structured in five parts. In the first exploration, Landscapes of production for selected ingredients will be drawn through geomorphology, climate, and soil, in order to situate ingredients in their non-human milieu. In the second part, we will expand this lens to include the technical milieu of tools and infrastructure that constructs specific landscape relations in La Comargue. In the third ‘zoom,’ we will test our insights in relation to time, thinking historically about the economic and cultural forces that have shaped the territory, and that connect it to the globe. If in the third zoom we have moved outward, the fourth zoom will move radically inward, considering the genetics, chemistry, and microscopic configurations of specific ingredients in order to, again, rethink the time and space of food production. Finally, each student will choose a recipe that distills and reveals their research over the course of the semester. Each recipe will be a heuristic device we will use to teach each other what we have learned, to see what is on the plate in a new way, and to better understand the geographies that overflow.