SLICES OF OSLO – Part 1. “Semi-arrival”

Between Oslo…

Picture of a tram in Oslo and a sketched girl arriving.

… And Bordeaux

Girl lying in bed.

A modest example of how the Covid impacts our lives.

Bad luck! Sarah is stuck in her bed few days before flying to Oslo. The nasty SARS-CoV-2 invited itself at her home. After spending time with her new friend “fever”, while Melanie visited some parts of the town and met their new colleagues at SIFO, she finally won against the virus and join Melanie to the Norge capital!

While this example is quite anecdotic, lets seize it to tell or to remind how wide were – and still are – the impacts of the Covid. For us as researchers of course, as it implied to rethink the way we could work, meet people, do fieldwork in time of “social distances” (read more about socially distanced fieldwork), but also and mostly, for people we’ve met during our research: precarised people in situation of migration (or with migratory background), social workers, committed people (read more about food aid in Bordeaux during the Covid 19 pandemic). Regarding food, the assessment if quite alarming. From garden fork to fork.

From the French fields in which immigrant were called in order to “save the French agriculture” while being reduced to mere bodies, to food aid where precarised people were waiting in line in public spaces to pick up a package made up of waste from the agri-food industry while others were called upon to “stay at home” and could enjoy “local food products”, unless they rushed to the supermarkets to stock up on pasta and toilet paper. And this, without mentioning reception centres where food access was all the more closely controlled (read more about meals at reception centers), and squats and camps, where the daily life was even more precarious.

SLICES OF OSLO – Part 1.2. “Food together in VIPPA: the first meal”

After a few days during which she could discover the city and make her mark in SIFO, Mélanie finally welcome Sarah in front of Oslo Sentralstasjon. Without any transition, they walk directly to VIPPA, where they enjoy the sunset by the water, drinking a local beer before tasting the meal of one of the numerous world restaurants that are around them. So far, there is no strong feeling of being abroad, time is dedicated to Mélanie’s debriefing Sarah about her first days in the Norwegian capital.

VIPPA is a food court facing the Oslo fjord. On Vippa’s website, they present themselves as a place where people can gather around food qualified as “sustainable” and “diverse”. Basically, by entering this converted warehouse, you will be able to find food from various countries of the world: Syrian, Moroccan, Chinese, Mexican… and others which are not stamped with a specific national origin. Some are described through the kind of foodstuff which is cooked (fish for example), and put the spotlight on the “quality” of and around food: “homemade”; “seasonal”; “sustainability”; “locally sourced”; “zero waste”. One of the restaurants also displays “sustainable and vegan dishes” by making soup, salads and curries.

Wandering there, you can get an idea about how food is at the intersection of ideologies, representations, exoticism, identities, belonging… and finally, how much food is not only related to a biological function but intrinsically cultural, social, hedonist, creative. Food is symbolic – and by eating a meal, you are obviously not only swallowing nutrients but also symbols. Food is a way of positioning oneself in society, of nurturing a feeling of belonging to a group, a country, a society… by saying, buying, cooking, eating in a certain way or – to follow Annie Hubert’s words – by identifying oneself on the contrary, by what one is not or what one does not want to be.

Finally, by going there, you can also understand the complexity of food considering how it can be thought, considered and tell as “typical” or “traditional” from a country, a region, or even a “culture” (quotation marks are here needed as this is a portmanteau word which deserves to be used with prudence), but at the same time, particularly when considering the way our societies are crossing by migrations/circulations (of people, but also ideas, materials, foodstuff…), how it is not (just) a question of permanency rather than a question of bricolages, adaptations, (re)inventions…  either they are conscious or not.

You just have to see the ravioli that Mélanie and Sarah devoured there to open and conclude their stay. “Traditional Polish ravioli”, spicy, with meat or vegetables…

 Borrowings from a Polish identification claimed by the cook, they seem to have as their vocation this delicious mixture of sharing a taste at the same time “from elsewhere” and “from here”. A taste like those humans whirling around. A taste tamed and transformed to the rhythm of our teeth, in the depths of our moving bodies.

… Food is probably one of the tastiest ways to awake our senses to the plurality of beings in the world …

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