The past, present and future of the terroir of flemish belgium

The Eatelier performed an in-depth research on the terroir of the Flemish part of Belgium. The research focuses on the local food products and the culinary heritage, while looking at the past, present and possible future of the region. The project is in collaboration with Eatomsphere from Brussels and FoodLab Proef from Ghent.

This on-going project will produce product innovation from wastestreams and ignite a discussion around the flavors of the Flemish terroir, as well as create a dialogue and a consciousness around this terroir, its producers and the new shorter production chain they are working on. This will be showcased through diner events with a focus on local products, workshops and an exhibition.

Past:

What food used to grow and be produced in Belgium? What were the local specialities? How were these prepared in the average household?

By taking a specific moment in time, we can look at the state of things back then and later on compare it the current state and the anticipated future. We picked the year 1958, in which the World Expo was held in Belgium. It is a perfect moment after the Second World War but before the big globalization. This means that local produce was widely available but more exotic products were still a luxury for the lucky few, if available at all. Looking at the full scope, from the available products to the preparation methods, we created an overview of the local foods. We organized the produce according to their scientific classification, mapping them out to see underlying connections between ingredients, for example plant-families and animal breeds, which are native to the terroir of Flemish Belgium. This resulted in a map of the scientific classification of over 200 individual ingredients, which can be used as a tool for local chefs to work with. By connecting each ingredient to their natural harvest season, it became easy to see which products are available simultaneously and could be used together in a menu.
This map will now continue as a visual communication tool for food-professionals and consumers, but is also able to grow in the future when there are more producers and products joining the Terroir-project.

Present:

Who are the current producers of the local products? What are their stories, their hopes and dreams and their struggles? What are their production processes and wastestreams?

By visiting and interviewing the producers that currently are producing these Belgian products, we got an insight into their future goals and the issues they have to deal with. We realized that many producers aim for a new, or actually a rather old-fashioned way of producing, which is very appealing to them; small scale, focusing on quality over quantity, and cutting out the middle man and therefore moving into a shorter chain, being closer to the consumer. Through this approach they can charge fair prices and make a better quality product, but they produce far less. Therefore, their products become a luxury good instead of everyday food for the masses.
By interviewing them and giving the producer a voice and a face, we try to connect the farmer to the consumer, in order to stimulate local economy and the shorter production chain. Since they produce on a small scale they have significantly less waste then the bigger producers, and if they do, there is a large variety in these waste products.

Future:

Which product innovation can we initiate from theĀ  wastestreams of the producers? How can we bring the short chain and local produce into the future and create sustainable businessmodels?

In collaboration with Proef FoodLab from Ghent and University of Wageningen, department Food Technology, we are experimenting and developing ways to process the waste from the producers. We are developing new, innovative products in order to expand the product range for the producers to give them more economic stability, as well as expanding the possibilities of the Flemish terroir, creating more visibility and a strong identity for the project.