Trophic Cascade: eat your way into the ecosystem

Trophic Cascade can be seen as part of the “locavore” trend in Slow Coast culinary culture, seeing themselves as participants in (rather than users of) of ecosystems.

To observe that vital ecosystems have been disturbed by human activity is by this point banal: we get it, you know? But there’s a question left hanging: given our presence on ecosystems is inevitable, are there not ways in which we could be more active and purposeful participants, turning our own patterns of consumption to the tasks of restoration and equalization, rather than degradation and exploitation? 

Two of your five a day! | ProjectManhattan, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One answer to this question, very much in the positive, takes the form of Trophic Cascade, the latest rising star on the Slow Coast food scene. Located in Simrishamn harbor, its seafood selection is determined in response the current makeup of the ecosystem. Jellyfish swarms scaring people away from the beaches? Then you can count on finding Japanese-style jellyfish soup on the menu! Novel disease decimating the cod stocks? Expect seaweed dishes, as the sealotters ramp up production to help the cod recover. But don’t panic, you’ll get a balanced meal: the main protein will come from seal, cormorant, herring or cod, depending on how the relative stocks of these species are looking.

Broadly speaking, Trophic Cascade can be seen as part of the “locavore” trend in Slow Coast culinary culture, seeing themselves as participants in (rather than users of) of ecosystems; a few years ago, a Stockholm journalist went so far as to claim dietary interventionism as “the avant-garde in human-nature relations”.  Perhaps inevitably, however, some researchers and influencers have critiqued Trophic Cascade in particular, arguing that the restaurant’s menu planners fail to understand the true complexity of marine life. Say you pick a vast amount of sea urchins: the algae population of that area will then change, paving the way for an invasion of crabs that prefer the new plantlife; reintroducing urchins is now impossible, as the crabs will eat them too. In other words, menu decisions can have unforeseen consequences, no matter how well intended.

Apparently it tastes better if you close your eyes. | Image by Achim Raschka

Some have countered that Trophic Cascade is not operating at a scale sufficient to seriously perturb the local ecosystemic balance—which gets them off the hook, but also rather undermines the premise of their business. Others argue that human foodways having some sort of impact on broader ecosystems is not only inevitable but necessary, resulting in the arch-carnivores behind Helsingborg’s Köttbåt coming out in public support of Trophic Cascade—an unlikely alliance, perhaps, but such are the times we live in!

With all that said, you are not obliged to have a position on any question other than “does it taste good?” And on that front, the difficulties of securing a table booking at Trophic Cascade—let alone the prices, which can be pretty eye-watering—strongly suggest that people are turning up for reasons other than ideology. Recommended for committed gastronomic adventurers with deep pockets!

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