Silence Silence Silence Silen…
Concerning the five senses proven to exist, some of them are more attached to the eating experience: smell and taste naturally, sight – of course, and touch, even if conformity made us surrender to using cutlery we do feel textures even before taste. Make one of this sense disappear and you would significantly damage the eating experience. But what about hearing? Is it that essential?
Well, try to consider hearing as a part of the experience: the sound of wine pouring into a wide glass or the whisper of beef cut meeting a heavy pan, and after the ear gets used to this sound it gets re-excited hearing a nice chunk of butter joining in. And for the veggies – the loud crispy sound of a healthy bite of an apple, carrot, celery and such. Having said that, most people would prefer their plates silent, especially if they not contain apples and carrots but something that made some noise in his pre-plate phase.
But what dishes are served and eaten in an environment whose identity based on silence? This is the only word you can hear in one of the video clips on the website of KOKS, the restaurant which is located in the Føroyar hotel at the islands' capital Tórshavn. It seems as if you took away the word and the music (which could fit in a top-quality Scandinavian detective series) it would run in a complete, well – silence. It looks like it's very quiet in Faroe Islands. The ocean that surrounds everything the huge mountains and the wide grassy hills presents an open-to-the-max area, but together with it a stuffed and powerful silent bubble which takes over all the sounds in it. It's not that bad if you're a fish, a crab or even a sheep, but it can be quite disturbing if you're a human being.
Horizons (KOKS clip and Faroe Islands' tourist bureau)
People want to speak, and even more want to be heard, but in such a quiet environment in front of mountains that have seen everything and the ocean that absorbs everything the notion is that there isn't much use of talking. In that kind of environment the words are aliens and people are aliens. Of course, there's not any sort of intention of saying that the Faroese have no right on the land but pointing out the differences between the sizes of man and the greatness of nature.
Nevertheless, humans are a rebellious kind of creatures and they try to rise up against nature in order to tame it, and this inner conflicts creates
A menu which is a shout.
It's a shout of a kitchen that wants to be heard (and doing well trying that – KOKS won the best Nordic restaurant prize for 2014) and to turn the volume up for the gatherers – in sea and inland, the fishermen, the farmers and cheese mongers – and of course pastry chefs – of the "Sheep Islands" (in the Faroese language) that lay between Scotland and Iceland.
The most exquisite dish as I see it – or hear it (of course, there are many others but this one appears on the video clip) – which demonstrates the idea the best is the pine smoked langoustine. Some stones are placed in a clay shell and above them is a langoustine is placed, naked from its shell and beside it rests a small pine branch. Then a powerful torch spit its fierce and accurate fire which catches the thin pine leaves and sets them on fire, and right after that the shell closes. The lack of oxygen doesn't leave the leaves any other option but to put out and raise dense and aromatic smoke which covers the langoustine inside the shell and gives him a new meaning. Just think of it: since when sea creatures meet fire and smoke? For the langoustines each dish is like a Neanderthals discovering fire!
Right after the shell is served, opens up in front of the client and revealing the wonder inside. The smoke that bursts out of it is the "Wow!" of the langoustine, together with the "Wow!" of the client, if not of the restaurant and the whole of Faroe Islands.
The taste of a shout
In March 2016 KOKS is moving for two months to Copenhagen, the capital of Nordic kitchen and its leader in battle against the naturally burning south European one. There's no doubt that it's going to be an interesting encounter that raises many questions. It's true that the islands are not that far from Copenhagen, but can the kitchen carry all of the aspects and the atmosphere of the islands into the mainland? How can one transfer the silence and peacefulness to the city with the most culinary hype in Scandinavia (or so it seems), which means with lots of noise?
Sitting next to the large windows at the restaurant in its original spot and looking outside the spectacular view completes the dishes. Each stone represents a mountain, each leaf is the essence of the forest and each drop concentrates within the ocean. It feels as if the Faroese chef Poul Andrias Ziska succeed confronting nature and taming it to the desirable sizes in order to put it on a plate.
Poul Andreas Ziska, the langoustine whisperer
What do you get when you change the atmosphere around you? What is the value of a shout in the middle of the city's clamor? That should be a following question to the reason for the shout:
If the shout comes out in the islands because you can do it since no one can hear you, then in the city everyone's shouting and making noise so there's no need for it, and if someone's shouting he will receive curious to angry looks,
But in case that the shout is bursting out because you need to in order to be heard inside the dense silent bubble, so you must shout even louder in the city if you want to be heard.
These abstract questions go hand in hand with the practical ones, and firstly the source of the products and the dishes. The task of using local products seems to be easier in the islands whose borders are well formed by the ocean, but those borders get blurry when travelling to the continent. Are the pine leaves for the langoustine dish will be flown from a Faroese forest next to the wooden piece itself which a whole langoustine is served on in another dish, or whether it will be collected from an urbane-planned park in Copenhagen? How all this will affect the dish and will the city dwellers will accept the free spirit that is carried by the islanders?
All this will be revealed when the restaurant will open its gates in the temporary location, and then everyone can see – and hear – the results of the struggle between the human voice and the silent of the Faroese nature.
(The main photo is from Jonny Blair's blog dontstopliving.net)