In Memory of Einar Risvik, Taste Education PioneerFran
All of us at TastEd were so sad to hear the news that Einar Risvik died of cancer on Sunday 23rd May in Oslo. Einar was the person who introduced sensory education for children in Norway – the equivalent of TastEd. He was one of the creators of Norwegian taste week (Smakens uke) and food education, Norsk Smakskule. He was a huge inspiration and help to us in the founding of TastEd and was so generous with his time and advice when we were getting started. It was after a trip to Norway that head teacher Jason O’Rourke first decided to trial taste education at Washingborough Academy in Lincolnshire. Einar was someone with a real passion for food education who believed that every child had the right to what he called ‘matglede’: a Norwegian word which translates as ‘food happiness’.
As Stina Algotson wrote in her tribute for Sapere International, ‘Einar was very creative, full of energy and very caring for everyone. It is inconceivably sad he is not with us anymore’. His background was as a scientist for Nofima – the leading institute for food research in Norway. He combined his knowledge of science with a deeply practical appreciation of food. As he once said, ‘To change behaviour you have to exercise behaviour. You can’t learn to ski from a book, you have to put skis on. You have to put your hands in bread dough’. He believed that food was not something that could be taught through abstract knowledge. Children needed to be given direct sensory experiences. This was why he believed that taste education was an essential part of every child’s upbringing.
Anyone who heard Einar’s talk at the Sapere-TastEd Symposium in autumn 2019 would have been impressed by his combination of dry humour, deep intelligence and sense of social justice. Here are a few of the highlights from that talk about taste education in Norway:
“At the Smakskule, we want children to have 200 different tastes in 2 years.”
“In kindergarten, food is reocgnised as pedagogical tool and we would like to see that in higher schools too.”
“Our message is obesity is not an individual problem it’s a societal problem.”
“We can teach and understand sustainability through food… e.g. food wasted on the plate and using leftovers.”
“The senses can be used for teaching many different subjects including maths and natural sciences.”
“The French paradox is not actually what they eat but how they eat.”
“We want to bring the meal back as a social institution.”
“Food that is not eaten has no nutritional value.”
Einar will be missed terribly. Our thoughts are with his family in Norway and with everyone in the Sapere network who knew and loved him. May he rest in peace.