I remember when I was a kid growing up in the Soviet Union, as a treat, I often got a sweet, chewy brown bar called Hematogen. It is a nutrition bar which has cow blood as its main ingredient. It had a medicinal purpose and was often used to prevent low blood levels of iron and vitamin B12. The sweet, toffee-like taste and its pleasant texture occurred a lot to me while working on a new flavour which we decided to call Red Velvet.
Red Velvet consists of pig blood, port wine sauce and dark chocolate. The tradition of using blood in cooking is rooted in many cultures across history. In western cultures blood is widely used in recipes with meat, such as blood sausage, black pudding and various types of meat soups. Interestingly, in some cuisines blood is used in sweet dishes and desserts. In Scandinavia for example, blood pancakes called blodplättar are part of the tradition in Sweden, in Finland it is veriohukainen, and Estonia it is veripannkoogid. In Italy, there is a dessert called sanguinaccio dolce, which is a pudding made from pig's blood with added milk, chocolate, pine nuts, raisins and sugar.
Blood consists predominantly of protein and water and is rich in nutritious elements such as iron and vitamins. It has coagulating properties just like another very important ingredient in traditional desserts, namely eggs. Eggs and blood show similar protein compositions, particularly with the albumin that gives both their coagulant properties. A great argument for blood as an egg-substitute is the increasing food allergies for egg proteins, nowadays the second-most prevalent food allergy in Europe mainly affecting children but also adults. In Germany, for example, 8% of children have temporary reactions to egg. Other sources estimate that 30-53% of children with food allergies in countries like Spain and France are allergic to ovalbumin .
Health benefits aside, my initial interest in making a dessert flavour with blood was triggered by the mystical and very primal feeling surrounding the consumption of blood. Even despite the fact that everyone who eats meat also eats blood, there is a difference between meat and blood in our minds. When I was a kid, I liked the taste, I didn’t care much about the fact that it was made of blood. My parents too were not concerned about it and only considered the health benefits. So why are we so afraid of it now?
By making this flavour I want to share the delicious taste, reflect on existing taboos and give people a chance to try it and reconsider or formulate their own opinion about it. It is a small provocation to open a discussion about our behaviours, traditions and our social environment. I believe food can trigger critical thinking and create a space not only for reflection upon our everyday habits, but also to change our routines and assumptions which I believe can only make our lives richer.
 Food Allergy Research and Education. Available at: http://www.food-allergens.de/symposium-vol1(1)/data/egg-white/eggwhite-data.htm