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FFF Live: Dam good food

Never before had so many eyes been on him as he took his first bite. On Saturday evening Johannes van Dam reviewed the Food Film Festival Restaurant live. Author Carolyn Steel hopped on a bike and gave the audience plenty of food for thought.

FFF Live is an integral part of the FFF, deconstructing the festival in 90 minutes. Talk show host Samuel Levie paced across the stage. "This evening we are going to go on a journey of discovery, examine our programme and all in one and a half hours. Are you ready?”

The first guest of the evening was Johannes van Dam, Amsterdam’s most famous restaurant critic. He is feared and revered but few people know the man behind the reputation. "Don’t call me Mr Van Dam, or you’ll get a beating,” he joked. He pulled up a chair to review the Food Film Festival Restaurant live. To the question where his interest in food comes from, he admitted "gluttony. As a child the kitchen quickly aroused my interest, mainly because of the experiments you can conduct in it. Compare it to chemistry, but with results you can eat.”

To explain what’s on the menu at the FFF restaurant was chef Joris Bijdendijk, who said that "March had proved to be a very tricky month. At least if you want to use only seasonal ingredients.” Even before Johannes had taken his final bite, Samuel asked impatiently what he thought of the food. To which Johannes responded that you should never ask his opinion while he is eating. But after swallowing his final mouthful, he gave the restaurant a high 9-.

Johannes was followed by several fragments from the documentary EncarnaciĆ³n (incarnation) and Samuel spoke to a guest from the audience about eating animals and the human conflict of loving animals but still killing them for food. Journalist Hiske Versprille and author Carolyn Steel then joined Samuel on bicycles for a tour of Amsterdam. As the author of the bestselling Hungry City, Carolyn knows that cities have traditionally been inextricably linked to rivers. They provided energy, transport and irrigation for the land. Not that much has changed since the 17th century. Food still passes through the city. We cycled past the Dam, Rembrandtplein and Kalverstraat – all places that have left their food mark on the history of the city.

Time for music. While guitarist Elliot Muusses strummed, writer Emma Bruns told the audience about her dream supermarket, filled with forest trails and apple trees and businesswomen crushing grapes.

The talk show ended with a conversation with ‘Mr Urban Agriculture’ Jan Willem van der Schans and Susanne de Boer who works for Rabobank connecting city and food. She concluded that food in Amsterdam was perhaps too plentiful. "The region takes good care of the city, but the city does little for the region in the return.”

The connection between food and people was clear after Jan Willem’s story about the grapes he planted in his multicultural street in Rotterdam. "The whole neighbourhood got involved and suddenly there were grapes everywhere.” He admitted that urban agriculture won’t feed everyone, "but on any scale it’s about quality, about doing what you’re good at. Strawberries flourish in the city, but coffee still comes from the tropics.” Susanne also advocated connections. "Real change lies in the connection between farmer and consumer; a breakthrough in that relationship will make a big difference.” Plenty of food for thought. Not only during this festival, but for the rest of the year and beyond.

Text: Felicia Alberding and Lisa van der Klok

Photos: Saskia Lelieveld


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