The unusual flavour pairing in this dish hints at witlof's origins. First cultivated accidentally from a replanted chicory root - a coffee substitute in times of war or supply-line rupture, also in US prisons - witlof's creamy leaf is grown by cutting the leaves from the growing chicory plant, then keeping the living stem and root in a dark place: underground or just sub-soil surface. The new bud which develops is white, lacking the bitterness of the sun-exposed foliage. The painstaking process of growing it evades mechanisation, yet produces an ingredient primed as international commodity - a star player, laid bare to the efficiency fantasies of the assembly-line chef. A signature item, the Genuine Belgian Endive stays fresh for weeks, guarantees one calorie per leaf, ensures versatility and adds superior value-perception to salads at minimum cost making endive the perfect profit sell. www.belgianendive.com
The Feral Trade coffee it is braised in, www.feraltrade.org, defies all guarantees, relating instead a particular supply line disaster- a human drama - and the entropy inherent in repeat trade activity. Traded in over social networks from farmers in El Salvador since 2003, this latest coffee shipment derailed briefly when request for GROUND coffee got lost in translation as GRAINS, causing misdelivery of 150 kg product too coarsely constituted for European coffee makers. Faced with the opportunity to regrind each bag to standard and suppress the international incident, the trader chose instead to pass the error on to buyers, as valued artefact of the raw trade coordinates the project deals in.
Feral Trade is a public experiment trading goods over social networks. Goods in circulation include the coffee from El Salvador, grappa from Croatia, electric ricecookers from Iran and sweets from the world's newest nation Montenegro. Products are sourced through social contacts and selected for their shelf-life, portability and potential to convey information. Feral Trade products are staple transnationals - coffee, tea, sugar - but run outside the global market, harnessing the surplus freight potential of recreational, curatorial, commuter and cultural travel for the social circulation of goods.
The role of the trader is to rework the codes of the product in order to supply its meaning. Feral Trade's interest in provenance extends past the producer into the broader ecology of supply - the chain of relations that brings the product to table. An online Courier Database tracks and archives every shipment, recording transit conditions, route information and the bounteous detail of adversity: the minute delays, seizures, banking hazards and failures in communication which present a persistent challenge to the assumed smooth transit of goods.
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Kate Rich is an Australian-born artist & trader. In the 1990s she moved to California to work as radio engineer with the Bureau of Inverse Technology (BIT), an information agency servicing the Information Age. Restless at the turn of the century, she headed East to take up the post of Bar Manager at the Cube Microplex (Bristol UK) and began importing and distributing coffee from El Salvador in order to test the potential of computer-formed social networks for their capacity to handle more susbstantial traffic. She is currently moving deeper into the infrastructure of cultural economy, developing protocols for hospitality, catering, sports and survival in the cultural realm.