Making the Best of It: Jellyfish


Food, performance, props, slide show

In collaboration with Hank and Bean

Supported by Laboratory for Environmental Narrative Strategies (LENS) at the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IoES), UCLA, led by Allison Carruth

On the grounds of UCLA’s Westwood campus, in the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden, an elaborate dinner event for 35 people was staged, comprised of a movable feast and a sit-down meal. Through this 4 hour event, Hank and Bean and Zurkow explored and presented L

Making the Best of It (MtBoI) is a food-centric framework to think about and metabolize climate change. In each instance of MtBoI, a signal species or central “star” is chosen as a charismatic means to imagine change, adaptability, food opportunities, and complex systemic issues.

In the Los Angeles iteration of MtBoI, it was jellyfish—revered and feared for their grace and danger. We chose them because they are mesmerizing and central to a spate of disruptions in Pacific marine ecologies. Jellyfish bloom (appear suddenly in vast numbers) as a result of overfishing, nitrogen runoff, climatic changes, or they can be conveyed in ballast water. Primarily Asian cultures have consumed them for centuries. We served Moon jellyfish raw—as a crudo—accompanied by fried sage. Hank and Bean designed a menu composed of desert- and desert-friendly foods, including nopal, rabbit, and goat. We served cricket sourdough bread, accompanied by drought-wilted kale pesto.

Preceding the sit-down dinner, we led guests on an immersive tour of the botanical garden, sequencing a path that took us from prehistoric deep time of ferns and cycads to the Mediterranean collections that garden is known for, and into the desert, setting the tone for the meal ahead. Along the path, we made stops for food and performances, starting with a fuming broth (Panthalassa, the global ocean) served with a Pangea (the global landmass) cracker, which, when split apart and dropped into the broth, enacted the formation of the continents!