Talkin' dirty [food] with Frank Lindner

Jason Retz

The trendwatcher and Food Editor of Holland’s Food Inspiration visited Peru for the first time last month, and Living in Peru played host for an afternoon.

Talkin' dirty [food] with Frank Lindner

(Photo: Living in Peru/ AmaraPhotos.com)

So I got the chance to interview Frank Lindner from Food Inspiration.

Food Inspiration is a multi-platform media outlet that focuses on our relationship with food in a social manner, along with innovations of food science and trends. Food Inspiration is available in four languages and has magazines across Europe and the USA. Frank Lindner is the senior editor and a trendwatcher for them.

I caught him after the convention APEGA held to debate the future of our gastronomic “boom”, where he was invited as a guest speaker. He moved the audience with perhaps one of the best presentations there, talking about Food Inspiration and a little about what he does. I wanted to pick his brain about what he thought about Peruvian food, socially speaking.

First I asked him about food trends: Was there anything in Peru that caught his eye? Anything we could perhaps start doing? He commented on our Hyper Local food trend (whereby we focus on using food grown not too far from where we are geographically) with envy. He talked about the amount of imported and packaged food they get in Europe, while in Peru it’s just easier to get the food from nearby. Although, he also managed to open my eyes as to how much we take things for granted:

“You see, in Europe we love asparagus but it only grows once a year. We have to learn we shouldn’t ask for it because in the end we’re making you [Peru] deplete your water sources. I mean, look at where you grow the asparagus,” he explained, referring to Ica. “Think of all that water that you’re wasting, in a desert of all places.”

Frank, playing with his food (Photo: Living in Peru/ AmaraPhotos.com)

We continued to discuss the social differences between our cultures when it comes to food. Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is Peru is ‘dirty’. I mean, who can deny it? Street vendors don’t use hand sanitizer, and they don’t refrigerate their meats. Most huarikes (hole-in-the-walls) have dirty kitchens we dare not look at, meanwhile the owners of said businesses don’t have easy access to sanitary or maintenance information, nor the impulse to really search for it.

We also touched on the topic of food waste. Peruvians have the innate ability to reuse and reuse and reuse; but this was for purely economic reasons. When we realize how much food is being wasted and then reflect on the fact that extreme malnutrition is one of the four biggest nutritional problems of the country, we’ll act upon it with an even stronger fervor.

Something else that sparked my interest was his recognition of a fear that is instilled in Peruvians, a fear of the ‘new’.

“You guys don’t really have any foreign foods. If you do then it’s always fused with Peruvian food, like chifa or nikkei.”

Here in metropolitan Lima, Peru’s capital city, we only have two Thai restaurants, two Indian restaurants, about four Korean restaurants and one Mexican restaurant.

“Also, if you want to keep up with the international food trends, you have to start thinking healthier. Like, what if someone tried to make a lomo saltado out of tofu?” To which I immediately responded with a death stare coupled with a hypocritical grin, laughingly stating, “No.” He shrugged as if to say, “You see what I mean,” and we had to have a moment of silence as I processed what was presented before me. I thought about the culinary techniques that would have to be used to make this thing edible, but after pondering it I realized that it could actually be very good. Not just taste-wise but also for your health, and for the world.

When I snapped back to reality I was baffled by Frank’s arm waving, “Yay for veggies! I believe that vegetables are the future. There’s a scientist who has made vegan meat processing a kind a ‘blood’ extracted from plants. Vertical farming can help us to take advantage of the space we have so that we don’t have to use up so much land for farming. We can’t all be eating burgers with up to 9 billion people by 2050.”

With all these dangers, decisions, ultimatums, and the future within the hands of the consumer, it can be frustrating for a consumer. So finally I asked him, when does someone know that they can be really, truly happy with their food?

“When they feel good knowing about the food that they eat, be it a salad, a burger, or something you make. My mom would tell me stories about her grandparents’ farm and how they would just take things from the garden and kill a duck from the barn if they wanted to eat. I, along with a ton of other people, don’t have these experiences. My grandparents’ never owned a farm; I don’t know the value of what I’m eating. How much time this lettuce took to grow or how did that duck grow up, or how it was ultimately killed. *If I’m already separated from this feeling, what about the next generation, or the one following?*”

Frank Lindner is an inspiring man, who has enthused me to want to share more of my knowledge with those around me instead of, “keeping within our little foodie circles,” as he put it. I’m really glad I had the opportunity to have such an insightful conversation with him where both of us could learn something from each other. One thing I was really delighted to hear him say though was that, “*In Peru, it seems impossible to have a bad meal*.”

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