Lichens for dinner? Pine bark petit fours? Fireweed shoots and fiddlehead ferns? These appeared on the menu from Faviken Magasinet, as reported by FoodSnob blog, but could have been foraged from my backyard woods in the heart of Anchorage, Alaska which lies at nearly the same latitude as Jarpen, Sweden. Although no restaurant in Anchorage routinely serves lichens or fireweed shoots, many serve sourdough bread, also found at Magnus Nilsson’s “superlocavore” Faviken Magasinet.
The degree of focus on terroir — “the sum of the effects that the local environment has had” on the taste and qualities of a food, and attention to preparation of food found at Farviken Magasinet might seem limiting to most Alaskans, even those who work with the same principles of eating local foods. Kirsten Dixon, one of the state’s better known chefs (she recently appeared on the Today show) and cookbook authors creates with foods found in Alaska, but happily combines raw seaweed pulled from the Tutka Bay beach with flax seed, sun-dried tomatoes, lemon juice and cayenne pepper into sea crackers that have their roots in half a dozen different climates.
From her perspective, Alaskan cuisine is based in the many cultures that have left their mark on Alaska — the Alaskan Native peoples, the Russians, Asians, and the gold miners. She sees sourdough as representative of “hearty and determined pioneers.” Swedish cuisine as re-imagined by Mr. Nilsson with his innovations at Farviken Magasinet draws on local ingredients and techniques that have been used for generations within that one country, including his grandmother’s sourdough. And thus the sourdough bread that links the two cuisines is just as at home in the Alaskan repetoire as it is in Jarpen.