Cassava Show

Szabó Eszter Ágnes X BÜRO imaginaire co-production
video ‘8 mins

Within the frameworks of the MENÜ imaginaire project, Eszter Ágnes Szabó helps the viewers to imagine the future of our one-pot meals, rethinking the traditional dishes of Hungarian cuisine and adapting them to a hotter climate. At the heart of her speculative cooking show is the cassava. Will we have to rewrite the recipes of our familiar and traditional potato dishes and replace potatoes with cassava?

According to the climate database of the Hungarian Meteorological Service (OMSZ), the mean yearly temperature in 2018 was 11.99 ° C on a national average, which is the highest value measured since 1901. The extent of warming in Hungary, which exceeds the global average, is also reducing crop yields, and the moderate yield is also reflected in the rise in food prices: in the second half of 2018, for example, potatoes became more expensive by 44%.

The analysis of the results of climate change research in agriculture show that a rise in temperature causes a shift in agro-ecological zones. The economical and sustainable cultivation of certain crops, such as potatoes in Hungary, is becoming more and more risky every year.

In a 2012 study published in the journal Tropical Plant Biology experts from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Colombia found that growing cassava would be the best choice available in areas where increasingly frequent droughts are rendering crop production increasingly difficult. The edible tuberous root of cassava (Manihot esculenta) is the world’s fourth most important source of calories after rice, sugar and corn. The cassava is native to Central and South America; at the beginning of the 21st century, the world produces about 200 million tons of it annually. The largest cassava producing countries are Nigeria, Brazil, Thailand and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Most cassava is consumed locally, with only a few countries producing for export: Thailand produces 88% of all cassava exported in the world. The main importers are China, the Netherlands, Spain and Belgium. While corn is known to be a water-demanding vegetable, cassava, on the other hand, can be grown in areas with lower rainfall. It thrives in the heat, and when the drought comes, it simply closes and waits for the rainy season. No other well-known plant shows such resilience.

The work is centered around the idea that cassava will soon spread in the Northern Hemisphere due to global warming and become a staple food similarly to (and replacing) the potato. According to Eszter Ágnes Szabó, the new climatic conditions will considerably alter our diet: certain ingredients, that are still widely available, will slowly wear out of gastronomy, and dishes that we currently consider ‘traditional’ (but in fact prepared from non-native vegetables), such as the Hungarian potato paprika, will be cooked from new ingredients. Climate change is also transforming production; we will perhaps be able to grow vegetables and fruits locally that are now still considered rare delicacies, grown in remote areas, while the defining ingredients of our current diet will become a delicacy consumed on special occasions.