19 Black Caviar

In May 2020, spirulina was successfully trialled for wastewater filtration and biogas production at a treatment plant in Moscow. In North America and Scandinavia, kelp forms the main input for a range of speciality vegan-friendly caviar. The word skeuomorphism – from the Greek skeuos (container) and morphe (shape) – is the great hope for “plant-based” and cellular agriculture products that plan to dominate existing industries by mimesis. Yet fidelity to form is its own brand of conservatism. The disgraced architect Adolf Loos, in his essay Ornament and Crime, argues that materials announce their preferred form. Yet there exists an industrial/post-industrial divide beteem “whole foods” or “molecular” foods divorced from organic form.

Class distinctions influence the shape foods take. There are some which can only be assembled, presented, couched in a complex assemblies and ingested with care. Others take the form of bars, pills, sludge. Many of today’s global favorites emerged out of dire circumstances in which preserving, pickling, or currying guaranteed the safety of food and led to other dishes. Yet there has been an interplay between the development of delicacies and the desires of elites who wish to cultivate a diverse palette. Writing in Mold Magazine (Issue 4), Justinas Viltus argues against industrial skeuomorphs, symbolic of a “pure human will” that must make all foods graspable – like nuggets or drumsticks. What might we be losing along the way? “Meat flowers” that unfold in broth or bacon sweets that pop and ooze. Black caviar must be liberated to achieve its full potential.