Biotechnologies like synthetic biology can give detailed insight into our metabolic processes and introduce new interactions with our body.
Speculative designer Tuur van Balen’s “Cook Me: Black Bile” is a recipe that uses bespoke yeasts to measure chemicals in the blood and alter levels of serotonin accordingly, making one feel less or more melancholic.
To do so, a dish is cooked from a leech that has first fed itself on the body. A blood mousse is cooked from the parasite’s body, accompanied by oyster mushroom, a red currant sauce and blood sorrel.
The recipe is inspired by Hippocrates’s “Four Humours” theory that sees the body as an entity comprising four basic substances: yellow bile, blood, phlegm and black bile. This theory inspired the medical practice of bloodletting, aimed at restoring physical and mental health by bringing these bodily fluids back into balance. Each substance is linked to a specific temperament. Black bile, the fictional of these four fluids, evokes the humour of melancholy.
Van Balen says: “This work examines the space between ancient beliefs and future unknowns, between nonsense and science, the kitchen and the pharmacy.”