EU grants 2 million to research food preservation

Marieke Hendriksen, senior researcher at the Huygens Institute and NL-Lab, has been awarded a 2 million ERC Consolidator Grant for her research project PRESERVARE. Among other things, this innovative research maps the everyday, unwritten knowledge of food preservation through a unique combination of digital techniques, archaeological finds and historical reconstructions.

In the period between 1600 and 1800, food preservation techniques such as fermentation, smoking, and pickling were crucial for the globalisation of trade and ensuring food supply. Food preservation thus played an important role in the economic and demographic growth of European trading centres. Yet we still know very little about how knowledge of food preservation came about.

The project ‘PRESERVARE: Large-scale conservation of perishable foodstuffs in the Low Countries, 1600-1800’ analyses how not only scientific knowledge but also practical, everyday knowledge, as developed in households and businesses, played a role in the development of food conservation techniques. As this knowledge was often not formally recorded, research is challenging. Through an innovative combination of historical data analysis of diverse sources, reconstruction of historical techniques and analyses of archaeological finds, this project maps these undescribed processes for the first time.

Particular attention is paid to the diverse groups of people who played a role in the development of conservation techniques. The project thus aims to show how embodied, unconscious knowledge developed not separately from, but in conjunction with more formal, written knowledge. PRESERVARE thus makes an important contribution to both research on food preservation and the development of research on historical knowledge practices in general.

The project will start in September 2024 and last for five years. The ERC grant will enable the appointment of a team of two PhD students, a postdoc, a data manager and a number of practice experts.

Marieke Hendriksen is co-head of the Department of Knowledge and Art Practices at the Huygens Institute and interim head of research of NL-Lab. She specialises in the role of material culture and sensory perception in knowledge production in the early modern period (1600-1800). Hendriksen has published on anatomical preparations and models, medicine chests, taxidermy, reconstructions, and the role of taste in early modern science, among other topics. In early 2024, she will publish Het Grote Dropboek, on the history of liquorice in the Netherlands.

About the grant and the European Research Council (ERC)

The ERC Consolidator Grant is a fellowship awarded by the European Research Council (ERC), Europe’s leading funding organisation for excellent frontier research. The ERC funds creative researchers of all nationalities and ages for projects across Europe. The ERC Consolidator Grant is intended for top researchers who received their PhDs up to 12 years ago, and allows them to develop their own line of research.