Let Malibu Char

In the words of Mike Davis, “Make your home in Malibu…and you eventually will face the flames.” The Sayre Fire of 2008 may have not been the most destructive conflagration in Los Angeles history but with over 600 structures burnt to the ground and 11,262 acres scorched to a monochromatic black so close to the city, it was the first most visible fire that presented Angelenos with a glimpse into the reality of the 21st century. But what Davis’ essay only alludes to is that the appeal of Los Angeles, its identity as a city, is profoundly tied to the single-family residence, built into and along the surrounding (fire-prone) mountains. Riffing on the essay title Let Malibu Burn, by Mike Davis, Let Malibu Char looks at the Sayre fire as the canary in the climate-changing coal mine and asks what will a hillside ‘Dinner Party’ look like in 2050 Los Angeles, one likely to include more weather extremes? 

To investigate these culinary ‘coming times,’ we will rethink the Los Angeles Dinner Party in the very fire-prone hillside homes, an architectural identity featured in countless LA films, immortalized in the photographs of Julius Shulman and by all accounts, to be invited to one is a right of passage for a transplant to our city. But what will our hypothetical dinner host have at their disposal in 2050? Will the Anthropocene affect our appetites as more of us will have to become “invasivores,” eating a salad made completely of purslane with a topping of snakehead fish in an algae-rich dressing topped with protein-rich cricket croutons? Will we be eating strictly dishes brought to us by avant-garde food chemists who have created at home synthetic meat printers? Will this dinner host have a spice rack of synthesized flavors they sprinkle on agar-agar because of a full-scale edible extinction? Can jellyfish, a species projected to be much more prevalent in this future, be a delicacy in the hands of a good home chef? Will we all be fledgling neutrogenomists eating genetically modified meals to suit the specificities of our unique bodily needs?

Secondly, what does this hillside dwelling of the future look like? One that can both be host to a dinner party but is built for the seasonal bombardment of the brush fire? For Let Malibu Char, we will be utilizing the deceptively simple technology of CalEarth Institute’s SuperAdobe Structure, an elegant, antifragile, and shockingly sustainable solution. SuperAdobe uses ‘earthbag architecture developed by architect and CalEarth founder Nader Khalili.’ Khalili invented the technique that uses long sandbags (“SuperAdobe Bags”) filled with on-site dirt, barbed wire for fastening, and fire-cured limestone paint (you light the paint on fire for it to set). The sandbag dome design is also fairly impervious to landslides and provides almost complete fire-proofing.

For Let Malibu Char, join Los Angeles Eats Itself as we lean into the worst-case scenarios and attempt to keep the Los Angeles heritage of the dinner party alive because nothing is more dangerously disruptive to a dystopia than deliciousness.