The past two years have been amazing for Food Studio. We have tried out a lot of different ways of working, and we have become a large group of people who share the same interest and are keen on doing something together. It’s been amazing to see it grow, but this winter we spent time reflecting over what we find most important: to share the stories of people who love good and honest food, to figure out how we can enjoy food in a sustainable way, and to share this knowledge with others by teaching them by doing – showing them first hand how to enjoy food in this way.
The getaway series are an attempt to do just this. 4 times a year, we will head out together to learn about how to use our surroundings and prepare and share a meal togheter. We try to stay within an hour out of the city centre, using public transportation to get around and use local and ecological/biodynamical produce only. We are also expanding the Food Studio family around the world, with the first getaway in Paris this summer.
On this getaway in Oslo we asked people to pack their backpacks, as the journey already starts at home when you start preparing and pack the things you need for your trip. All of the guests met on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Oslo to take the bus to a small peninsula about an hour outside of Oslo, where we spent the rest of the day and evening harvesting food and enjoying a three course meal together.
Seafood – such as mussels, cockles, oysters, seafood, all kinds of fish, snails and limpets, to name a few, can be found in abundance in the Oslo fjord if you only know where to look. During low tide, when we were out looking for our dinner, you could simply pick them up from the ocean floor. We concentrated on picking mussels, but found a lot of other shells too.
It’s often said that it is not safe to eat sea shells, but this is not the case. In the Oslo fjord there are different areas where the quality of the seawater and the sea shells are tested every Friday, the closest one in Vollen in Asker. You can check the status by calling the “mussel phone” aka Blåskjelltelefonen at +47 820 33 333 or by downloading their app from Mattilsynet.
The finest delicacy of all, cockles, you find along the beaches in the Oslo fjord. When you have found one, you’re sure to have found many. They live a couple of centimeters down in the sand, or you can find them washed up on shore. Cockles can be picked all year round, and are not affected by algal toxins like mussels.
The oysters that are most common in the Oslo fjord are actually not supposed to be there. They originate from the Pacific Ocean, brought here for aquaculture and by ballast water. The Pacific oyster is bigger than the Norwegian one, which is rare to find these days and should be left alone. The Pacific oysters are taking over the local biodiversity because they cover large stone areas where you would normally find other, more local shells. The best thing to do is to eat as many of them as possible. In this way you limit the spread of the Pacific oysters in Norway. Eat them steamed, fried or raw – like we did, with small pieces of fresh rhubarb and apple vinegar.
Periwinkels are small and very easy to find: anywhere where land and sea meet. They look like ordinary snails, and are delicious steamed briefly in salt water. You take them out of their shell with a needle, cut out the intestines and eat them with bread and butter or in a soup.
We also found a lot of sea urchins, of which the roe is delicious. Gently open the sea urchins from the bottom with a sharp knife and pick the roe out with your knife or a small spoon. When you’ve had the taste of it, you are likely to want more!
All the fish you catch in the sea can be eaten and they on their own. Catch them with the rod in line or use nets or traps if you have them. They are best enjoyed fresh. Be sure to handle the meat with care.
You can also find crabs and shrimps in the Oslo fjord, such as beach crabs, king crabs, limpets, crayfish, beach shrimps and even lobsters! Some of them are easy to find, such as the beach crab. The ones that taste the best you find right on the beach. Enjoy them by boiling them briefly in salt water, and eat them with the shell on but without the head, with chopped wild garlic and a splash of wine. Once you had them this way, you won’t be able to go back. When you catch a lobster, you are going to fell like the luckiest person in the world. Be sure to make it into a party – cook, roast or eat the lobster raw. And go out to find another one!
After picking the shells, mostly mussels, we all cleaned them together. You take off all the impurities with a small knife or brush you find around, and check if they are closed. If they are open or chipped, broken or damaged in any way you should discard them.Then it’s up to you – you can cook, steam or grill the shells.
On the small area we stayed in (500m2), there was a lot more to be found than just seafood. Since the spring started so early this year, there was already an abundance of edible green plants around such as ground elder, nettles, wild garlic, juniper (which you can use as a herb), the roots of the polypody, which taste a bit like anise and early flowers such as violets. They are best to eat at this time – when they are young and fresh, but nettles you can cut down all summer long and new plants will grow. We were even too late to collect birch sap – as you should not tap when the tree has gotten leaves. Then it needs the nutrition the most.
We tried to bring as little as we could on this getaway, to challange ourselves to use as much of our surroundings as possible. Phuc Tan Nguyen, an industrial designer, has been out hiking a lot and learned to be creative with what you find around to build a camp. This time he created the dinner table, tools for washing dishes and he kept the fire going all evening. The table was made out of pallets we found lying around and stones stacked together to level the tabletop. The tools you need are an axe to chop minor timber for the seating elements and for the fire, as well as a good knife and lots of nylon rope. Using these tools, no hammer or screwdriver, you don’t damage anything and you can leave everything behind just like you found it.
We had asked everyone to pack the tools they needed for the getaway: to harvest seafood, forage plants, prepare food and finally – enjoy a good meal together. After picking the shells and cleaning them, it was time for the guests to sit down and relax, open the bottle of wine they had brought with them, with wine suggestions from Non Dos and take their plates and cutlery to the table.
Ole Jørgen Iversen, an industrial designer and cook, created a wonderful dinner from the things we foraged. We make it a point to cook with food that is in season, as local as possible and preferably organic or biodynamic. We were lucky to get hold of rhubarb and eggs from Kjartan’s garden and harvested the seafood in the Oslo fjord. If you are planning to cook outdoors, some of the tools you need are a cutting board and a good kitchen knife, as well as a pestel and mortar and in our case, a whisk. You need some big pots and bowls to prepare the food.
Illustrations by Eva De Moor
Photographs by Svein G. Kjøde
Text by Alisa Larsen, Eva De Moor and Kjartan Fonstelien