#flowcellular is a collaborative project between TSM, Wellcome Connecting Science, the Wellcome Sanger Institute’s Cancer, Ageing and Somatic Mutations Programme and public participants.
This art and science collaboration began in February 2020 and as a result of the global pandemic took place in the shared space of our kitchens . TSM brought together scientists and public participants, some of whom have lived experience of cancer, to explore how our DNA changes over our lifetimes from scientific and personal perspectives. Participants got together over a period of a year via Zoom in their kitchens to explore culinary metaphors for scientific concepts, share family recipes and connect during this time of social distancing. Together we have published a recipe book. To see more info about the project please see www.genome.gallery or search the hashtag #flowcellular on instagram.
In the spirit of #flowcellular TSM approached this project in the form of a recipe. 2 artists, 2 kitchens/studios, 2 cities…
Ingredients: Coffee, whatever is to hand People, stamps and envelopes
Equipment: screens, telephones, bowls, wooden spoons and cutters
Method: Find a bowl and research it. Where does it come from? What’s its history? What might we make in it? Pour in the people and stir, gently starting creative conversations using what is at hand. Mix messily, play, experiment, listen, remain curious and ask questions. We don’t yet know what we are cooking. Document, photograph and make GIFs of the process, share them. Roll, edit out the sticky parts and cut into squares and rectangles. Bake and share with collaborators, friends and strangers. Thank you to everyone we have collaborated with on this project.
Please find below a recipe from each of the five groups we collaborated with.
Pistachio Cookies: Tim & Mike
Ingredients: 1 cup sugar, 1⁄3 cup brown sugar, 8 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 eggs, Vanilla extract, 22⁄3 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 3⁄4 teaspoon salt, 3⁄4 cup pistachios, 100g dark chocolate, 3⁄4 cup maraschino cherries
Equipment: Bowl, whisk, wooden spoon, baking tray, sieve
Method: Whisk the wet ingredients.Sift in the dry ingredients. Stir in cherries, pistachios and chocolate. Shape into dough balls. Press in chopped pistachios. Bake for 10-12 mins at 350°F /175°C
This is a family cookie recipe from Tim. These cookies can be made sifted finely or with rough cut un-sifted ingredients. Tim and Mike discussed how if the sieve represents the TP53 gene that makes the P53 protein, which protects the cookie from potentially harmful mutations, then the absence of the sieve leaves the cookie more prone to harmful mutations.
They also discussed the complexity and uniqueness of individuals; is a maraschino cherry really a cherry? What is the normal level of abnormality? And the challenges of statistics and fears around cancer and remission.
Fruit Animals: Alex & Melody
Ingredients: Assorted fruit (apples, oranges, blueberries, bananas) Vegetables (carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, olives) Smarties
Equipment: Chopping board, knife, cocktail sticks
Method: Chop up the fruit and vegetables to make three different animals. One big, one small and one fictional.
Suggestions include: A banana dog , a crab from apples, a mouse from carrots, a potato tortoise, an insect from blueberries and olives and a fictional sea creature from everything.
When you have made them put them in a line in order of their projected life spans.
This recipe was devised by Alex and Melody. They made elephants, mice, tortoises and two fictional creatures called a slugcumber and a charot. They explored ideas around learning through process, the life span of different creatures, why some animals live longer than others, how size can affect lifespan, that cells age at different rates, the variations in the number of mutations in a mouse vs an elephant and how to grapple with vast unknowingness.
Iced Biscuits: Ellie, Aless, Ana & Charli
Ingredients: Bourbon biscuits, custard creams, icing sugar, grapes, nuts, maltesers
Equipment: Chopping board, icing gun
Method: Line up a sequence of Bourbons and Custard Creams (DNA bases). Each biscuit has two layers (strands of DNA). They are correctly paired and in the right order – this is important as the order provides the information for your body to make proteins, the building blocks of cells. Take an icing gun and add nuts, grapes and Maltesers to the top of three of the biscuits. This is what can happen when unwanted substances can attach to your DNA – changing its shape.
To remove these, separate the two halves of the Bourbon or Custard Cream and replace with another normal half from the same type of biscuit. The sequence is restored to its original state and the pattern is complete. Alternatively, you can replace with another half of a different variety of biscuit or replace the whole section with a different biscuit entirely. Even small errors in the sequence can cause things to go awry.
Take a Bourbon and add a line of icing around the edge – the two halves are now fused together representing interstrand links caused by chemotherapy drugs. They can’t separate, causing breaks in the strands and leading to parts of the sequence being shuffled or deleted, stopping it from making sense.
In this experiment Ellie, Aless, Ana and Charli were exploring the different types of mutations that can occur to our genes and how chemotherapy drugs can cause changes to our DNA. They also discussed the future of food, their preconceptions about ageing, the importance of curiosity, organoids, the value of mistakes and when repair works and doesn’t work.
Iced Biscuits: Sarah & Lynne
Ingredients: 50g plain flour, 100g butter, 5 teaspoons ground ginger, 11⁄2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda, 175g light brown soft sugar, 1 medium egg, Raisins and cranberries, Icing sugar in 4 colours (blue, yellow, red, green)
Equipment: Bowl, rolling pin, people cutter
Method: Preheat the oven to 180 ̊C. Place the flour, butter, ginger, cinnamon, raisins, cranberries and bicarbonate of soda in a bowl. Mix it together. Add the sugar and egg and mix it until it forms a pastry mix. Using the rolling pin, roll out the pastry to about 5mm thick. Dust the surface with flour. Use the people cutters to cut out a crowd. Place the cut-out pastry on a non-stick baking tray. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes. Once cooled, cover each person in a mixture of multicoloured polka dots.
With a friend attempt to group them, decide on your classification parameters: colour, number of dots etc. Be aware that there are some dots made by the raisins that were part of the gingerbread before it was cooked.
This recipe was devised by Sarah and Lynne. Lynne added the cranberries and raisins into the dough, some hidden some visible as a metaphor to think about what is inherited and what is environmental. Whilst doing this experiment Sarah and Lynne discussed the challenges of classification, rough cut marmalade, the complexity of cancer, food as care, broth and how patients and researchers relate differently to research.
Flat Bread: Jannat, Mattie & Ken
Ingredients: 350g self-raising flour (plus extra for dusting), 1 teaspoon baking powder, 350g natural yoghurt,Food dye
Equipment: Chopping board, medium bowl, wooden spoon, teaspoon, frying pan, rolling pin
Method: Add all the flatbread ingredients to a mixing bowl, give it a little mix with a spoon, then go in with your hands to bring the dough (body) together. Add a small amount of food colouring (cells with mutation) knead gently and notice how the dye spreads. At first just a little bit of dough changes colour and the other regions are still plain. At this point if you wanted to remove the dyed areas you could, if you were careful (removing cancer cells with surgery). Continue mixing and the dye starts to spread everywhere. The dye is now ingrained in the dough. The more you try to do something to fix the situation the stickier and messier it becomes. Sadly, the dye is now everywhere (the cancer has spread throughout the body).
Dust a clean work surface and rolling pin with flour. Separate the dough into balls (cells) with your hands. Notice how the dye (mutation) enables cells to become very effective in reproducing themselves. Pat and flatten the dough, then use a rolling pin to roll each piece into 12cm rounds. Place the griddle pan on a high heat, then once hot, cook each one for 1 to 2 minutes on each side. See what shape your bread comes out.
In this experiment Jannat, Ken, and Mattie were exploring how harmful somatic mutations behave. They discussed how cancer gives cells an advantage and makes them very effective in reproducing themselves and how, without intervention, mutations can lead to more mutations.
They also reflected on the fact that in the time taken to do this experiment, mutations could be occurring in their bodies; that you can have a lot of mutations in your cells which don’t have any harmful effects, these are called neutral mutations; that all mutations that happen after fertilization are known as somatic mutations and that in this field of research there are a lot of unknowns.
Thank you to everyone we have collaborated with on this project:
“It has been an extraordinary experience for George and I to collaborate from our kitchens in Athens and London with such a wonderful group of people, most of whom have never met each other in person. I have been amazed by everyone’s warmth, humanity, commitment, creativity and especially for their capacity to play and experiment with the metaphor of food. We had a lot of fun, made a lot of mess and succeeded in generating more questions than we had when we started. It’s been a Zoom adventure, we hope this recipe book will live on to get stained, amended and inspire many more rich conversations.”