Eat the Problem: A sumptuous ode to the beauty of books

On a recent trip to MONA in Hobart, we picked up a copy of ‘Eat the Problem’ – a book that is in fact a decadent artwork by Kirsha Kaechele. Here’s our book review…

Invasive species like swamp rats, foxes and feral cats are wreaking havoc on our environment, so why not turn them into a resource… by eating them? Created by artist Kirsha Kaechele, Eat the Problem is a book that suggests ways to put invasive species to good use. Think fur coats made from feral rats, or degustation menus featuring seared brumbies and snake jerky.

She calls this “the practice of turning shit into gold”. Instead of complaining about a plague of cane toads, why not fry them up for dinner?

It’s a provocative idea – but what we really love about Eat the Problem is its sumptuous editorial design.

This surrealist cookbook is based on a colour wheel of invasive species. Each species is assigned its own chapter, and each chapter its own hue. Rabbits are the softest of pinks; aliens a deep sky blue. Some colours are definitely more palatable than others.

From the white velvet cover to the textural paper, gold inks and exquisite food styling, Eat the Problem is an epic tomb made up of recipes, illustrations, poems and essays – an ode to the beauty of books. Long live print!

A monochrome palette

To create this book, Kaechele invited famous chefs, artists and authors to produce a dish that turns a pest into something delish – and the dish must be monochrome. Tetsuya Wakuda provides the recipe for venison tataki. Peter Gilmore shares a recipe for sea urchin with rice. Water buffalo tongue looks especially inedible, as does starfish on a stick.

But if the recipes don’t whet your appetite, the food photography will. It is minimalist, sparse, elegant, and features other-worldly edible creations adorned with bespoke tableware and gold cutlery designed by Kaechele and Natalie Holtsbaum. The cutlery alone is incredible, inspired by the geometries of nature. Each element is positioned precisely on porcelain – this is food as art.

Book review – our verdict

Designed by graphic designer Matthew Walker, Eat the Problem is a beautiful addition to our library. As The Design Files observes, the design is a “minimalist and materialistic contradiction”. It combines a psychedelic rainbow of colours with refined and sparse layouts – although at 544 pages, it’s far from restrained.

As for the idea of eating the problem… Well, it has merit. It’s true that humans are squeamish about eating snakes, cats and rats, but have no trouble chomping down a cow burger. Meanwhile, nearly 10% of the world’s species on the brink of extinction could be saved by killing invasive animals, so this idea of solving multiple problems through systems-based thinking is intriguing.

In an interview with SMH, Kaechele admits the book is “an aesthetic object, it’s a total indulgence … it has a moral message, presented in a fun way.”

Which is exactly why we love it.

* Eat the Problem is published by Mono Publications. Proceeds from the book will help fund the 24 Carrot Garden Project, which is setting up kitchen gardens in primary schools around Hobart. The Eat the Problem exhibition is now running at MONA until 2nd September.