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Cooking the conference#3 - Anne Jorunn Frøyen

This month we put food in a social and historical context with Anne Jorunn Frøyen, Project Manager at the Jaermuseet in Naerbø, Norway. This is our third interview in the “cooking the conference” series - monthly portraits giving readers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of preparation work for the 2015 Ecsite Annual Conference (11-13 June, Trento, Italy).

Anne, you will be speaking in Trento about your museum’s programme “engaging audiences with the ethics and politics of industrial farming through live demonstrations of animal slaughter.” That sounds like a rather unusual activity for a science centre…

You need to hear a little about our local context. Jaermuseet is based in South-Western Norway, a region with a long agricultural tradition. We act as a regional museum with several sites across seven municipalities. In Nærbø we run Vitengarden (the “Science Farm”) that combines a farm with livestock and agricultural activities and a science centre-type facility with a strong link between exhibitions and farming activities. Our goal as a museum is to document and inform about the recent history of the region, and as a science centre we want to stimulate the interest for science and mathematics. Activities in Vitengarden often focus on food and food production. We welcome about 50,000 visitors per year, of which approximately 12,000 are school children. We run the farm as locals would have in the 1950s – at the time farmers often slaughtered their animals themselves. We offer two types of animal slaughter demonstrations: one for schools in which we show students how chicken are slaughtered; and one for families when we slaughter a sheep once a year. We do this seriously. It’s not about sensationalist entertainment – we want visitors/consumers to think about the meat on their plates and how it got there. For school children, the activity ties in with the biology curriculum which includes a chicken dissection and lessons on animal breeding and farming.

What kind of reactions do you get from your visitors?

We do not force anyone to attend - in the case of school visits, parents are warned in advance. We have been publicly slaughtering animals for quite a few years now and generally speaking, reactions have been positive. Of course we don’t just kill a sheep and walk away: we use this opportunity to engage in dialogue with the audience about the ethics, economics and politics of food production. I grew up on a small farm: I remember that slaughtering sheep was a sad but necessary part of our activities. The smell stayed with me until this day – a smell alien to most 21st century children. We welcome many visitors (including farmers) who feel very far-removed from the food they are eating. Most of them are eager to find out more. Food is an ideal topic to link local and global issues: starting with the sausage on your plate, we can discuss globalization, climate change, food safety, waste management…

The presentation you’ll deliver in Trento is part of a session showing how one can use food and cooking to engage audiences with the history of science. How do you combine history and science in your own professional practice?

This is one of my obsessions. I have a double background as a chemist and a historian and I’m convinced that science is part of culture. Science makes much more sense and is immensely more engaging if you explain it in its historical and social context. It’s the same with history: it’s fascinating to see how technology has changed our daily lives in the past 50 or 60 years! At Vitengarden we sometimes have older farmers running demonstrations at weekends – the stories they tell are not about lab coat science, they are about local experiences and know-how and very naturally combine history and science. I’m working on a tractors exhibition right now. Of course we’ll be showing technological evolutions, but we’ll also explain how these affected everyday farming practices and people’s lives.

Putting science in a social context must sometimes come with challenges…

Of course! Especially when we cover topical issues – even more so when they are locally relevant. A few years back we had a potato parasite epidemic and as a preventive measure we weren’t allowed to grow potatoes for a while on the farm. When hearing that we were preparing an exhibition about it, local politicians got quite agitated: they wanted to avoid publicity at all costs! We did run the exhibition in the end and it went well. My advice to anyone engaging in a similar approach: take the time to build strong ties with your local community. Work on your storylines and on the articulation of science and technology in the local context. And… use your imagination!

Will it be your first Ecsite conference? What are you looking forward to?

I’ve been to three or four Ecsite conferences in the past. I love it when I come out of a session with practical take-away ideas or when I’m forced to re-think my own practice in the light of discussions I’ve had at the conference. I’m also looking forward to meeting my peers… and having what I hope will be a nice time in Italy!

What does the “Food for curious minds” conference theme mean to you?

When I heard about the conference theme I instantaneously thought: “Count me in, I’m bringing the food stories!” And then I read further: “food for curious minds”. And it made even more sense: of course brains need both literal and metaphorical food.

And finally … could you share your favourite recipe with us?

This is a traditional Norwegian recipe called “potetkake” (literally: “potato cake”). We eat of lot of boiled potatoes – this is a no-waste recipe making use of leftovers.


  • Leftover boiled potatoes
  • A little flour
  • Filling: butter and sugar or savoury variations


Remove the potatoes’ skin and mash them. Add a little flour and knot into a dough. The least flour you use, the better it will taste. Spread flour on a work surface, take a small ball of dough and flatten as thin as you can – you can use a backing roll. Heat a frying pan and cook each potetkake on both sides until it gets small brown dots – no need to use any fat. There are many ways of eating potetkakes: you can have them as a desert with butter and sugar, or use them as a savoury wrap, for instance with smoked fish, meat or vegetables.

Tried at the Ecsite Office – prepared by Audrey Korczynska, Project Manager.

Read previous "Cooking the conference" interviews with Mikko Myllykoski and Antonia Caola.


2015 Ecsite Conference

The 2015 Ecsite Conference took place in Trento, Italy, on 11-13 June. It gathered 1,101 participants from 52 different countries, breaking an attendance record. Look back on the appetizing “Food for curious minds” edition cooked up by conference host MUSE.