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23 responses to “NOMA: Time and Place and Meaning”

  1. Nicole

    I stopped in Omnivore Books last October looking for some Scandinavian cookbooks. I have taken a real interest in Scandinavian cooking since moving to the Arctic as our wild ingredients are very similar.
    The woman working in the shop that day handed me the NOMA book and I instantly fell in love when I found birch bark and syrup in the ingredients list. It was funny though because she said, “This book is totally inappropriate for anyone in this area, but it might work for you”. Good for you for making it work where you live.
    I have to admit though, even though I have access to many of the ingredients I have yet to cook anything from it. You may have inspired me.
    Oh, and if you ever need Birch syrup I would be happy to help you out. It is way cheaper than maple here.

  2. Susan

    That is one gorgeous plate! I never thought to use those types of flowers. They are a beautiful, seasonal touch.

  3. deana@lostpastremembered

    Brilliant insight, Hank… but then you would be the person to have it as you live from the land and sea more than most anyone out there. Take the idea and make it yours.. that is what inspiration is about… not slavish copying.

    I am dying to try elderflower vinegar after reading about ‘Dutch sauce’ using it and cream instead of the lemon and butter in hollandaise…

    Beautiful dish and ideas.

  4. ChuckEats

    glad to see someone getting it – as it’s clear many are just copying style over substance – as evidenced by the many noma-style platings out there & the “inappropriate book for your area” comment above. unfortunately, it’s being treated a a coffe table book instead of a source of inspiration. a meal at noma is magical not b/c it’s good (although it’s very very good) but b/c it expands the palette of ingredients substantially.

  5. Alex Botero-Lowry

    I had the chance to have lunch at Noma last year in early February. It had just been snowing, and I walked about a third of a mile through the snow to get to the restaurant from the metro station. It was a bit windy out, and cold, and you walk inside to this restaurant that seems just incredibly tranquil. You’re then served a meal that really makes you question the season itself. Not because anything you’re eating is not seasonal, but because it doesn’t evoke the characteristics of winter food to me at least. Pickling played a major role in this I think. One of the most amazing courses, was ribbons of pickled root vegetables with little pieces of bone marrow. [Page 149 in the bible. :)] There was just a crispness, and a freshness to everything, that now makes me angry when people spout the stereotype of what Scandinavian food is. Foraging plays a much greater role in this cuisine than many others I’ve eaten, or at least that fact is more evident.

    I think you’ve done a really amazing job of expressing my own thoughts about this cookbook and this restaurant, it’s not just food that can be prepared in this time and place, but it’s food that you _want_ to eat in this time and place.

  6. jamie carlson

    That is easily the most inspired and romantic posts I have read from you. I will be taking your challenge and finding something in the moment to cook here in minnesota.

  7. azelias kitchen

    Really enjoyed reading this.

  8. Sarah Commerford

    sublime – pure and simple; and deeply thoughtful.

  9. julochka

    what a lovely and poetic meditation on NOMA. they were recently disappointed not to get their 3rd michelin star. 🙁 there was also recently a marvelous documentary on søren wiuff, an organic farmer who supplies many of the vegetables to NOMA – absolutely fascinating and very touching as well (it was broadcast on Danish DR2 and you might be able to find it). they, and a number of other Danish chefs (Claus Meyer for one) have made great strides towards getting people, even people who wouldn’t be able to get a table, to think about seasonal eating.

  10. E. Nassar

    Yes! That’s what NOMA, the book, is about – inspiration to think of “Local” differently. It is so tough to put it down once you start flipping through it. What a gorgeous plate of food you made from it Hank. Since reading NOMA I cannot help but look at every wild plant in my corner of the world a little differently and wonder what can be done with it. I am planning on collecting some bulrushes as soon as they are available to give them a shot.
    So far I tried one recipe that’s as close to a NOMA replica as possible:
    I also made my own (if less attractive than yours) “inspired-by” recipe:

  11. Josh

    Hank, this is a great post! I’d heard an interview with Noma’s head chef-guy on NPR, and the interviewer sounded very out-of-touch with even the concept of local & wild. He did a wonderful job of explaining the concepts, and I was very impressed with his desire to connect with place. She couldn’t, and perhaps she needs to go on a hunt (game, mushroom, whatever) with you as part of your tour.

  12. Kevin

    Well this certainly makes me want to pick up the book. The seasonl/local eating challenge here in late winter/early spring has me digging for ideas. A book based in Denmark would help me more than most – 3-4′ of snow this year putting the vast majority of edibles in the non-fresh category. Can’t wait to read the book.

  13. Tamar@StarvingofftheLand

    I think you’ve hit on an important idea. We’re always being sold cookbooks that are “authentic,” but it seems to me that authenticity is just what people did in a particular time, in a particular place, with what they had at the time. “Authentic” cuisines are what happened to develop before the twin miracles of air travel and refrigeration transformed the way we eat.

    That’s why I think it’s a little silly to recreate someone else’s authentic in a different place, at a different. But to take the ideas behind someone else’s authentic, apply them to your place your time, now that’s a beautiful thing.

  14. Chris Brandow

    i have struggled with this exact question, especially living somewhere like los angeles where the challenges to defining “local” and “authentic are manifold. I am actually in Pasadena which simplifies the question a little bit with our proximity to the san gabriel mountains, but for LA, it’s tough. there is almost literally no natural features remaining, so it is hard to cue off of the natural cycles, there is only ~100 years of agricultural history to work from and most of that was orchards of citrus, and then prior to that was a native american culture that is obliterated. The closest thing that makes sense is the ocean, but with the exception of some unique runs of sand dabs and spiny lobsters, it is a relatively generic thing as well, again, having obliterated pismo clams and abalone…

    uggh, this sounds so negative and complaining, which wasn’t my intent, but LA is a tough place for a locavore who wants to make sense of it all.

  15. Chris Brandow

    and, by the way, you made a gorgeous plate of food.

  16. Nicole

    I don’t know where you would find Birch Syrup in California, but I would be happy to send you some from Alaska. Just e-mail me your address and I’ll send some your way. arcticgardenstudio AT gmail dot com

  17. Tino B

    Very nice Hank.
    Your recipes always show me that there is sooo much more that can be done with our local ingredients.
    Never thought about grilling those big hedgies. They can be delicate but oh so good. I like them better than porcini as well, but because they have no worms, ha ha.
    Eric will get a kick out of your post. A champion mushroom hunter compared to most but there is so much more to learn.
    Next up is the Lingcod and Abalone opener April 1st.

  18. trinichad

    I think I caught some reference to “apple balsamic” on a PBS episode a few weeks back – would “barrel aged apple cider vinegar” be more accurate? While there are no real legal issues since balsamic doesn’t really mean anything anymore – (white vinegar w/ caramel color and sugar can be sold as balsamic – truly sad)…anyway just a ?

  19. Angela

    Being a NorCal native, I totally agree with your point about it being like the garden of Eden. I live in Phoenix now and had a hard time adjusting to the huge contrast, but the plant life here is truly incredible, if not lush. Reading your post though, I realize I don’t know as much about eating wild foods here as I’d like, and am totally unsure what an edible snapshot of this moment would look like. We’re not quite to saguaro fruit or mesquite pods yet. Any field guides you might recommend? I’d love to know more.

  20. Catherine

    I want to thank you for publishing this in the Atlantic. Strangely enough, your blog and articles have been popping up all over my browser recently, and I’m never disappointed. Best of luck as spring continues to evolve and new sources of food replace nettles and hedgehog mushrooms!

  21. Stef

    Apologies for the comment on the old article but only found this on Google today. A really great post, nice to see someone taking inspiration from a cookbook and applying it to their circumstances rather than slavishly following it. One thing I’ll say about the Noma ethos though is that it really is stretching the meaning of the word local when you consider that some ingredients are sourced from 2500 miles away in Greenland, that’s four times further from Copenhagen than Paris.

  22. John Loydall

    Another, even later comment, I came across this post on a google image search for Noma.

    Well done with you dish – it looks nicely balanced in composition and colour (I can only imagine it tastes good as well).

    I’ve had the Noma cookbook for a few months now and I look through it in awe at the cooking and also the photography – so, it’s good to hear I’m not the only one a little bit daunted by the prospect of taking one of these dishes on.

    Good post – enjoyed reading it.

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