Cross-Species Cookbook

By Eric Wagner

If it’s nice outside, sometimes I’ll take my lunch to a nearby park. More often than not, a gaggle of geese is there too, dining on the knoll. While I enjoy my turkey sandwich, they eat grass. The culinary gap between our two lunches makes sense, given what at first seems to be a vast dissimilarity between our palates.

But are our tastes really that far apart? Natalie Jeremijenko doesn’t think so. Jeremijenko, an artist and professor at New York University, is writing a cross-species cookbook with recipes designed to appeal to appetites both goose and human. The cookbook is part of a larger effort to illustrate cohabitation: the fact that geese and humans depend on the same resources and make use of the same ecosystems.

“We draw lines, we set up our relationships with animals in distinct and often superficial ways,” she says. “I want this to rescript how we see our cohabitants and also our interactions with them. The goose meal is a visceral and direct way to explore how we monopolize nutrients.”

To keep things from becoming too visceral, the cookbook at times employs a little visual sleight of hand. Consider the soft white lumps smothered with cress emulsion in “Pasta di Larvae.” They may look a lot like grubs, but worry not, gentle gastronome—they’re actually just a kind of rice-flour dumpling.

For the most part, though, the dishes restrict themselves to the unthreatening hues of green and brown. “Vegetable Matter Underfoot,” for instance, is a tempting confection of vegetable carpaccio garnished with “aquatic insect powder, seeds, and seepage,” all piled on a large leaf. Good for you, good for the gander, yummy for both.

Even though geese may not be allowed at such functions, Jeremijenko sees her dishes on the hors d’oeuvres trays at cocktail parties or fundraisers. “I want people to interact richly with their cohabitants,” she says. “In this case, tongue first.”

Photo: ©Debra Solomon

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