Smog Harvest Hungary 2021

air-harvest documentation

Part of the ongoing project of Center for Genomic Gastronomy (2011 )

‘Thanks to Eggs we are able to harvest the air…at the ‘stiff peak’ stage…[egg] foam is approaching 90% air.’
/Harold McGee: On Food and Cooking/

Participants of the Smog Tasting capture air pollution in egg foam. Smog collected from various locations becomes possible to ‘taste’ and compare this way. The air, ‘harvested’ from locations with high pollution indicators is being made into egg foam meringues, making the air of the district, the city, the country sensible, tastable through the mouth.

Egg foam is up to 90% air, and whipping the eggs causes particulate matter to be trapped in the batter. This way, the meringues can also be regarded as archives of air quality.

The Center for Genomic Gastronomy has been presenting this project all over the world, in cities such as New York, Washington, Bengaluru, and Hong Kong, realising ‘harvests’ in Beijing, Barcelona, London, Perth, Porto, and Mumbai. In Hungary, the sampling was initiated by BÜRO imaginaire. It took place in Budapest close to the venue of the MENÜ imaginaire exhibition (at Blaha Lujza square), at a suburban forest (Normafa), and in the postindustrial town of Miskolc, at Búza square. The latter has outstandingly bad air quality indicators due to its geographical location and meteorological attributes. On the selected locations environmental NGO partners (Clean Air Action Group and Green Connection Association) assisted the work and performed air quality measurements.

The project makes the global phenomenon of air pollution perceptible in a comprehensible and striking form. The batter can be tested for heavy metals and VOCs, compared in a microscope, or baked and served as trojan horse sweets. Served for the right people, the meringues can be creative tools of political lobbying. The collective served them up for CEOs of big companies and other decision-makers in the hope that this unique type of sensorial encounter with the air we breathe would make them make responsible decisions.

The group introduced, deriving from terroir, the term ‘aeroir’. Terroir, mostly used in wine tasting sessions, means the specificity of a vineyard, landscape. It also refers to the characteristic taste and flavour imparted to a wine by the micro-climatic specificities and orientation of the environment in which it is produced. Aeroir is a set of odors and tastes of an environment, as well as the (partly harmful) particles that make it up.

Accompanying event related to the project:

Smog Tasting with the Center for Genomic Gastronomy and the partner NGOs
Saturday 24th April 2021, 8pm

Following presentations by the Center for Genomic Gastronomy and the Clean Air Action Group, the samples collected from the three Hungarian sites were tasted and analysed together with the participating volunteers, the audience, and the curators of BÜRO imaginaire in an interactive online event.