«TODO LO QUE ME GUSTA ES ILEGAL, INMORAL O ENGORDA.»
«EVERYTHING I LIKE IS ILLEGAL, IMMORAL OR FATTENING.»
When Ariadna Rodríguez, her partner Iñaki Alvarez and their one-year old daughter moved to Poble Nou in 2012, they started looking for alternative sources of income almost immediately. “Opportunities in our creative fields had diminished, so we wrote a list of transferrable skills we could use. Very quickly, we agreed on cooking. it’s one of our passions,” Ariadna says. “We created a fewplatos as part of a set menu and put them online for guests to choose. Within weeks we realized that food was only an excuse, a pretext, to open dialogue with others.”
Text by Natasha Drewnicki
Photography by Stefan Jermann
The couple’s natural leaning towards “biological, zero-kilometre living wherever possible” and artistic exploration combined with modest, anti-crisis prices (a two-course menu is only €7,50) soon attracted a dedicated following. While a weekly lunch is the main dish, Espai nyamnyam (“yumyum Space”) has evolved into a multidisciplinary cultural association, reflecting Ariadna’s diverse creative background in dance, visual arts and classical violin. “Over the last several years, our separate interests have merged. I call it ‘nuevas dramaturgias’. Bringing it all together is a natural progression of our creative world, and Nyamnyam grows organically according to the synergies that surround us – we don’t have a plan,” she tells me while preparing a Roobois tea. “It goes with Iñaki’s philosophy of ‘first do, then think’!”
Participants and artists perpetuate the project through month-long residencies, childrens’ workshops and theatrical performances, as well as an occasional printed fanzine. Ariadna and Iñaki source produce from Aurora del camp less than 20km away, reflecting the couple’s enthusiasm for sustainability and local networking.
It’s Wednesday and the kitchen island is marooned in a forest of over 80kg of beans, brassicas and blushing beetroot. A steady stream of neighbors and socios arrive to collect their vegetable boxes and tomorrow Iñaki will cook nyamnyam’s weekly lunch with whatever is left. “One week they had harvested an abundance of basil, so we made several recipes – pesto, green risotto and calamares with pesto mayo - created a booklet and called it ‘Green day’. Someone took the photographs, another person wrote the text, and a friend printed it.”
Each month, the resident artist chooses how to structure nyamnyam’s leitmotif, “Todo lo que me gusta es …., …. o engorda.” ("Everything I like is …., …. or is fattening"). When I visit, Job Ramos is in the second week of his stay. “From the first meal, people were hoping for some sort of performance or video, but I wanted to see if we could control the dynamics at the table. Diners have become the subjects and most of them don’t know it. Last week, two girls sat next to each other, so this week we made sure two different girls sat in the same place. Other times, things recur that we don’t expect. Is it possible to control and repeat social situations? We’ll layer coincidences each week until the experiment reaches its natural conclusion.”
Another artist, Aimar Pérez Galí, explored micro and macro scales through the phenomena of fermentation and its associated organisms, later repackaging the idea into a cosmic-themed workshop for kids. One might imagine that these theoretical ideas would be complex for children to grasp, but Aimar transported them into a world where rice, fish and algae became stars, planets and satellites of the solar system, creating their own sushi and then eating it. “It’s a wonderful way to get kids involved with food,” says Ariadna as she feeds her daughter a plump green bean.
But why Poble Nou as opposed to, say, the northern Gracia district, where ecological fare and healthy living are already a standard part of the community’s fabric?
“Actually, it’s a great place to bring up children here, too,” she smiles. “You get a lot more space for your money here. And of course there are economical matters to consider.” Simply put, it’s cheaper. “It comes back to the idea of comunitas. There are no rules in Poble Nou yet – we’re creating our own opportunities and communities here. People come into this space and food is a democratizing element, a conversation starter. We’ve created the structure through nyamnyam, but it’s the people that give it content.”
While other parts of Spain continue to suffer the brunt of financial instability, gastronomic explorers Ariadna and Iñaki are the stars of their own entrepreneurial imagination. nyamnyam feeds the urge to connect with others while maintaining creative dialogue in the face of rapidly dissolving opportunity.