Jared on the history of seaweed

In the hospitality game the words ‘fashion’ and ‘trend’ are often confused.

Some people think they are interchangeable but they are not. In fact, when bloggers or sensationalistic food media say that, “The next big trend in food is…”[insert everything from meatballs, foraging, fried chicken, paeleo diet – it’s quite a list] They are talking about fashion. But what about the changes in the food we are eating every day, what about the changes in what we call “average” food? These changes are trends.

Trends become apparent when events observed over a period of time reveal repeating patterns in people’s habits and behaviours. So with that in mind, let me to tell you why I am so frigging turned on by the growing ‘trend’ of Australian seaweed consumption!

Bit of  back story first, though: eating seaweed is NOT new, it is in fact one of the earliest foods to be eaten by humans.  Studies of the stomach contents of prehistoric man have shown seaweed traces in the belly of people way before there was fire, table manners and cronuts, that’s for sure! The earliest time period it can be proved that it was clearly integrated into an established local cuisine was circa 500BC in Japan. But it is not just in Asia we find a long seaweed history.

From as early as 2500BC seaweed was eaten along the coast of Peru, and in central Africa a species of Spirulina was harvested from Lake Chad and used as a sauce.

What is relatively unknown is that seaweeds have also been commonly used as a food source in Europe for centuries. In fact, when cooking in London I was shown a traditional Welsh recipe that involved a species of sea lettuce cooked into a pulp then combined with mushrooms and bacon to make a type of sausage. This dish dated back to the early 18th century.

My excitement to work with seaweeds erupted when I had a chance encounter with marine biologist, Pia Wienberg. What is exciting about our collaboration is that we have been able to take the inspirational thinking at the fashionable edge of seaweeds and combine it with our understanding of a growing trend of eating these foods in Australia. And I am pretty sure seaweed is here to stay.

Eat Well!