• 02.14.12

Yum! Experimental Chefs Capture The Taste Of Smog

A reminder that you should always read a prix fixe menu very closely.

Yum! Experimental Chefs Capture The Taste Of Smog

Smog. Those of us in big cities breathe it every day. But chewing it? Tasting it? Digesting it? The thought makes my stomach churn. And I’m pretty sure that’s entirely the idea of this project by The Center for Genomic Gastronomy.


Through a combination of scientific study and conceptual art, Zackery Denfeld and Cathrine Kramer, along with seven students of the Center, whipped up delicious-looking egg foams across Bangalore. The catch, of course, is that egg foams are actually 90% air. So what they actually served up was a “trojan horse” taste of environmental air quality, along with a little bit of fat and protein to bind it together.

“We wondered if we could test for sick building syndrome or outdoor air quality by whipping egg whites and capturing some of the air, as well as the particulate matter,” explains Denfeld. “We looked at the samples under a microscope and have started asking if we can actually test for VOCs and/or particulate matter in the egg foams. But what we found was more effective was using these sweets as a sneaky way to get people to talk about their perceptions of air quality in different places.”

In other words, whether or not the foams actually captured accurate levels of pollution, that guttural reaction, that intrinsic disgust of tasting a tailpipe, got the point of air quality across in a more direct manner than any EPA report ever could. But I just couldn’t help but to ask: Did anyone really eat this stuff?

“Well, supposedly any street food we ate in Bangalore involved eating some amount of smog,” writes Denfeld. “We don’t have any quantifiable data yet, but if you have ever been to Bangalore, I think you would agree everyone has eaten some smog.”

I’m hoping that was a “no.” But I’m pretty sure it was a “yes.”

[Hat tip: CultureLab]

[Image: Bruno Ismael da Silva Alves/Shutterstock]

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.