Food Play

Sunday Well Spent

I must be the most boring person ever. For me, a good Sunday would be early breakfast, morning walks, chilly breezes (on occasions), church, recipe testing, and the library or book store. Always by myself, always at the library or book store. There is something so comforting and relaxing about browsing through shelves of books, gleaning for inspirational ideas, words of self-help, delving into the minds of other creative geniuses. Last weekend I was at Kinokuniya and took up my usual spot at the graphic design section. I had not been there for some weeks, probably months, and an eye-catching book with a neon pink, whimsical cover grabbed my attention: Eat Love. I should probably admit that anything that has got to do with the word, picture or idea of food or eating would hold my attention.

Marije Vogelzang is an eating designer based in Netherlands. Although trained as an industrial product designer, she has made food her art canvas. In her book Eat Love, she shares her ideas and philosophy on eating design. It was truly eye-opening!

Given my turbulent history and relationship with food, I wonder from time-to-time whether it is okay to be so passionate and obsessed about food and to even see/navigate the world through food. Vogelzang has reassured me that it is totally acceptable; why not? She has even made a remarkable career as an eating/food designer! An awesome job if you ask me.

I found her preface excellently written; it succinctly and objectively captures what food is. I think it is really helpful to those recovering from a rocky relationship with food, as it was for me. I have patiently typed out Vogelzang’s words in her preface so that you need not squint your eyes. Without further ado:

Marije Vogelzang

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 innermost 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 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 and 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 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 its full potential.

I couldn’t agree more with the last two sentences. With all the fad diets nowadays, can’t we accept food for what it really is? Food is more than just mere sustenance; food can be a passion, an entertaining and delicious escape, a comfort, or an obsession. Food is vital to our lives and is certainly at the heart of every celebration. Food is the subject of endless books, news reports, scientific studies, social media posts, and conversations. We are deeply interested in its sustainability, production, processing, distribution, scarcity, quantity, quality, composition, and price. At the end of the day, whatever someone’s diet is, I just hope he or she is happy with their choices. For me, being a high raw pescetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free works best for my mind and body. Maybe I can inspire meat eaters to eat more veggies or have a healthy smoothie for breakfast. No matter what diet we choose to eat, we should respect food and eat for peace, health and happiness.

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