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When the geologist met the chef

Why not explore the European environment through the local cuisine? EuroGeoSurveys, a 33 member association of geological services in Europe proposes discovering our mineral treasures through gastronomy. There are indeed strong links between the land on which food is produced and the quality of our meals.  © EGS
Why not explore the European environment through the local cuisine? EuroGeoSurveys, a 33 member association of geological services in Europe proposes discovering our mineral treasures through gastronomy. There are indeed strong links between the land on which food is produced and the quality of our meals. © EGS

Our food is directly influenced by the ground on which we stand. A group of European geologists have put together their very own cookbook to show us why.

Whatever you might privately think of the Brussels Sprout – the little cabbage that put Belgium on the culinary map – there is no denying that the tastiest version of this vegetable once came from Brussels. It flourished in the city’s Saint-Gilles neighbourhood in the 17th century – and for good reason: the district’s marshy landscape afforded rich alluvial soils in which the Sprout thrived.

The ‘Kuulkappers’ (cabbage-cutters) of Saint-Gilles are no more, but you can find out more about the Brussels Sprout’s noble heritage and a novel way in which to cook the cabbage in a new cookbook released in March by the geological association EuroGeoSurveys (EGS), Geology at the table.

Among the pages of this handsomely produced, 115-page publication, eminent geologists from around Europe single out their favourite local dish, provide instructions on its preparation, and explain in brief why it is that the geological lie of their own particular land has shaped their nation’s culinary output.

‘We felt it would be entertaining to make the link between geology and that most important thing in all our lives – food’  

Claudia Delfini, Communication Officer, EuroGeoSurveys, Italy

Under ‘Belgium’, there’s a tantalising recipe for Brussels Sprouts Velouté on Abbey Ganache (an unorthodox mix of Belgian brown ale and chocolate), but under a further 24 country headings, you can discover another 26 recipes, including Widow’s Soup (Malta), Old Bohemian Mushroom Kuba (Czech Republic), and Shooting Star (Denmark).

A rocking good read

‘We came up with the idea of the cookbook because we felt it would be entertaining to make the link between geology and that most important thing in all our lives - food,’ says the cookbook’s coordinator, Claudia Delfini of EGS.

‘We enlisted the help of an Italian chef, Vito Pepe, to prepare all the recipes and a young photographer, Erwin Benfatto, to take pictures of the results. They did it for the fun of it – and out of a shared passion for the idea,’ says Delfini. Also included besides each recipe are a few handy notes on the nutritional aspect of each dish by Pietro Campanaro, an Italian food science specialist.

The 'Geology at the table' cookbook from EGS presents 27 recipes. © EGSThe 'Geology at the table' cookbook from EGS presents 27 recipes. © EGSThe collective expertise and enthusiasm of all involved shine through the pages. And while it might be useful to know your Paleoproterozoic Era from your Quaternary Period before you start, you will quickly find yourself engrossed in explanations about why the Falun sausage is associated with Sweden’s Falun Copper Mine, the mozzarella from the water buffaloes which graze Italy’s wetlands is the best, and the Greek white wines of Santorini have a ‘distinct aroma of citrus combined with hints of smoke and minerals’.

Get digging

Be prepared to get your hands dirty when making some of the recipes too: to make Finland’s contribution – Sheep Stealer’s Roast Mutton – you must first ‘find a sandy spot, preferably on top of an esker , and prepare a pit oven by digging a hole 50 cm deep’. Not one to make after a hard day’s work in the office, clearly.

More info

For more information on the vital work carried out by EuroGeoSurveys in collating geoscientific information from its 33 national members for the benefit of Europe’s economic growth and well-being, see:

Organisation: EuroGeoSurveys – The Geological Surveys of Europe

Geology at the table is available throughout Europe via each EGS country’s National Geological Survey. To obtain a copy, email info@eurogeosurveys.org