We all eat. This is something that makes us all the same. All humans need to eat to survive. Food is our fuel and our healer. Besides that, food is our inner nourishment. It is social glue, a showcase of our identity that can comfort us, reveal memories of forgotten times and hidden places. Food can bring joy, status, sadness, conviviality and connection.
Food is so much more than just calories. The world is full of human beings who all need to eat, but the way we eat, what we eat and the rituals and etiquettes we have for eating are very different from place to place in the world. The way we regard food waste, the way we serve and receive food, the way we share food. Most of these methods are historically grown a certain way. Something can be a tradition and therefore undoubted, but a tradition was once invented as well. Cooking using fire is an invention. Growing food in farms is a design. Using a spoon to eat your soup with is a choice once made and nowadays considered the proper way to eat. But all these things, spoons, plates, cutlery and chopsticks, were once invented or designed by someone. Traditions might be old but it’s not as if they have always existed. As food is so much more than just physical nourishment, we can take food (or the act of eating) and apply design thinking onto it.
We can question why we do the things we do, why do we use fire to cook? Why do we use a table? The world is changing, so the way we consider food might change as well.
Our social lives are changing, and the way we divide work and leisure, the way families live together, all this is reflected in the way we eat.
We might need different tools, different rules and new traditions. Globalization brings us closer to all kinds of food and food cultures around the world. Technical processes are changing.
Food has never been easier to access, but at the same time it is further away from us due to all the processes the current food system takes our food through. There are a lot of things going on in the world of food. Issues are becoming more and more alarming. Food waste, the lack of biodiversity, food allergies and obesity just to name a few are issues that people are becoming more and more aware of.
We can ask if we still need to do the things the way we did them. Can we discuss the way we were? Can we find new ways and new rituals, and do we need them? My mother always told me not to play with my food, but I think she meant I had to respect it, and I think that is true. We need to respect food as never before since it seems the value of food is decreasing. But at the same time we should play and celebrate food! We should respect food and explore it’s full potential.
I started working with food as a design in 1999, when design and food were a seemingly impossible match. Funny, since designers always make things for humans– cars for humans to drive in, clothes to wear– but the very thing that humans really need more than anything else is food. This essential subject has been overlooked for many years. Now, after 17 years of experience, I see a vast and steady shift in both the design and food worlds. It seems that the two are slowly coming together and merging the best of both. As we see that there are more and more food issues to be solved and our lives and mentalities change, creative minds start to add valuable thoughts to this process. It makes me happy to see that designers are starting to work with food and consider it a serious material, since that’s what it is!
Personally I don’t call myself a food-designer since I feel food is already perfectly designed by nature. I like to work and be inspired by the verb of eating. Working with heritage, culture, social and psychological influences gives me the opportunity to explore the world in a very simple, emotional and close to the heart way.
Since I graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven in 2000 I have been exploring the possibilities of food and design. To me this relatively new field of design still holds many surprises and I feel we haven’t reached he full scope of possibilities yet. In my work I try to not necessarily create something new but I like to find new perspectives on things we already have around us. I believe we can benefit from understanding and feeling the real value of food.
As a curator I create exhibitions working from a meta vision on the act of eating and design or art. It is a great joy for me to tell a tangible story trough an interactive visitor’s experience. Developments in the food and design world go fast and reflect the time we live in. Making exhibitions is a tool for me to reflect on the field and to communicate beyond my own work.
I have been talking about my work and vision on many stages and it never bores me. I still am truly fascinated and surprised by the possibilities of food and design and I thoroughly enjoy including the audience in the wonders of the word of food and design. Next to the talks I do I work as a teacher and do creative sessions around food and design with design students and businesses. As head of the Food Non Food department at the Design Academy Eindhoven I am closely involved with the future of food and design.