Vertical: Good food lives next door

Relationship-based food with Lena Flaten

Words by Lena Flaten. Photo by Einar Aslaksen.

The thought of reinventing the wheel is a bit ambitious to think about. But to dig into how things were done before, can oftentimes be like creating something new – even if it was done 200 years ago.

What is it that intrigues us in this behaviour?

There is a big chunk of the population that doesn’t think this is exciting. What has been done can’t be repeated. You always strive for new flavors and combinations.

So how do you find these? Relationships are the answer!

You can ask yourself what you gain from having a relationship with the producers, suppliers and farmers. For me it is one of the most important tools I have in my kitchen. My great interest in animals, nature and people, creates a desire to pass it on. This is something I really want to share!

Why do I think this is so important?

We see a rising interest in the origin and identity of our food according to current trends – but what does it mean? If you ask the guest the answer is often that they want the animal to have lived a good life, because if so, it feels better to eat them.

During the pandemic, the Swedish Organization for Local Produce, Reko Ringar, saw sales of locally-produced products increase all over the country. But now, when the pandemic is almost over the sales have dropped, drastically. Can the answer be so simple, that we once again dare to visit our local supermarket? How can we make artisan food accessible in an easy and natural way?

How come we are comparing prices in the supermarket between meat from abroad and meat from your closest neighbour and producer? I would dare say that it is much harder to know the person behind the product and how well they treat their animals but still choose the lesser and cheaper alternative. You can never fight the large scale industry, but we can always walk beside them and offer something else. Because we can all do something! I often say that everyone can’t own a cow or farm their own vegetables, but there are other ways to contribute to a better world. Shop in stores and eat in restaurants that sell relationship-based food and you will be contributing to a more sustainable future!

How do we communicate this knowledge about what is good food for a more sustainable future?

I take great joy in sharing this responsibility that I feel we have towards each other. I do it with my full heart. This usually takes place within my restaurant, Flammans Skafferi. We are located in Storlien, a small mountain village with no more than 60 permanent residents. A village that also houses one of Sweden's largest border trade areas. It was in 2003 that I bought an old cabin from 1929. It used to be a local café, but has also been a disco and a daycare throughout the times. Through the years the restaurant evolved several times, as knowledge and learning has reached me. But the focus has, and always will be, viable food.

The relationships I made along the way with great partners has increased both mine and my guests’ knowledge about conserving the local flavours and producing from nearby. To make artisan food available for more people to experience is a journey we will continue traveling.

As a good friend of mine once said: if the cow is happy the world is healthy.

//Lena Flaten, Flammans Skafferi