Thursday, May 13, 2010

House of Origin looks to the past to step into the future

This is a story of what happens when two design graduates from the Eindhoven Design Academy in the Netherlands join forces to start the food-design studio HOUSE OF ORIGIN in Eindhoven. Marriet Willens teamed with Simone Kroon to produce work for some memorable events in the past couple of years that begs the question  "where can we find real food?"

If you thought designers were all about flash chairs and uber-fashionable lamps think again. Popping up around the globe are bright minds focusing on some of the toughest questions and doing their very best in encouraging numbers to think smart and create smart... and to influence the rest of us to take stock if not buy in to their provocation ... to move forward by taking a leap in imagination if nothing else.

Consider this image here -  

                     formally dressed people at the dinner table 

Aha! but what is it they will be eating?

Go to kleurendiner : a special dinner created by Willens and Kroon. It seems that these designers became vitally concerned at the loss of old varieties of vegetables and food sources and the plethora of industrialised, low grade food options in their place. The more questions they asked the more concerned they became to expose people  to real food sources - so a series of fascinating food events were designed to do this very thing... using art and design elements to get people sitting up and taking notice. You can lecture people all day long about what's good for them and for the environment - but here there is a strong likelihood people will not be leaving these tables in a hurry... even if its mere curiosity that keeps them there.


These painterly items above look more like a ceramic instillation than colour cakes on first glance - see more here at their website.

This Food instillation below was shown at the Salone de Mobili in Milan this year and aims to get people to think about what food makes them feel and how it works on them - the instillation is called... Brainfood

Simone Kroon created 'Raapsteeltje', a food bible (above) from local Dutch produce. It is part cookbook/part directory for some of the forgotten ingredients in the Netherlands. Read more from an excellent review at Design NL 

By Jeanne Tan /asdf 16-10-2008
How do you tell the difference between a carrot and a parsnip?
Food isn't thought of so often as something that can become extinct. Animals, plants and ecosystems sadly can go down this path but surely not food which we all need to feed our bodies each day. However in this day and age with the scale of industrial agriculture, big supermarkets and globalisation, our eating habits have somewhat gone astray, our palettes are a probably a shadow of what they once used to be and everyday food has become sterile. Regional delicacies and traditional produce are disappearing gradually, where nowadays most people don't know a parsnip from a carrot and are likely to eat more food grown on the other side of the world than in their own backyard.

While studying at the Design Academy Eindhoven, Dutch designer Simone Kroon became fascinated with the origin of food, and with pure and honest ingredients. She poses the question: Where can we find real food? In her quest, she discovered many different kinds of food on her own doorstep many of which which she had never heard of and which she could not believe could become extinct. 'That's when I decided to tell this story in the form of a book. I wanted everybody to find their own local food again', Kroon says.

The result is the part Dutch cookbook, part culinary directory/guide entitled 'Raapsteeltje' (turnip leaves) which is Kroon's graduation project from the Design Academy Eindhoven, written in collaboration with Sandor Schiferli, a culinary journalist and Slow Food follower. The book takes the foodie on an 'adventure through true Dutch taste' via different types of local ingredients and the region which they originate from in The Netherlands. Background information and explanations are provided about each ingredient and there are two recipes for each, one traditional and one contemporary. Some of the ingredients include Groninger mustard, cockles, spelt bread, Texelse sheep cheese, ham from Valkenburg, Stellendamse prawns and 'forgotten' Dutch vegetables. At the back of the book, a list of the farms and producers is provided as well as open farms and farmers' markets to buy produce throughout the Netherlands. And if you can't physically make it to the farms to buy the produce, a handy list of culinary websites can help point you in the right direction to explore more local Dutch produce online. Hopefully with the renewed interest in local culinary delicacies and traditional food production methods, the gastronomic heritage of The Netherlands will be in safer hands.

below: from magazine LEAD

NB: click on text and images to enlarge for reading

Perhaps you feel skeptical about the designer's work in the sense you feel that minds will not be moved to consider the deeper agendas at the heart of the work. 

The reason I was so keen to post this story is because I think it does take people who think outside the box to nudge us along that bit more. 

We learn well when having fun, are amused or enthralled or fully engaged. We've had organics for decades now and talked of biodiversity loss for longer. Vegetarianism, alternative food supplies and ethnically diverse cuisines  are hardly new - but still most of us presently choose convenience from a couple of huge companies in Australia to get our food supplies... irrespective of costs.  We hand our hard-earned food money to people who cut the growers out at every turn, who want 'roll-backs' in place of quality and sustainability.

My own off preparation practices are more imaginative and nourishing when Im inspired to think and act more creatively and productively - I cut corners these days I never once would have! In our busy-ness and our society of 'too-muchness' (for those of us fortunate to be in that place) we glaze over and make the convenient choice for all kinds of reasons.

We are struggling with the idea of alternatives to industrialised food processes being necessary at an organisational level - Government and non-govt alike. The issue of Food security is now increasingly 
on the political agenda at many tiers of national organisation. School programs are making up for the 
lost years ... slowly, slowly. Home economics classes where instructions to buy packaged brands became  automatic and implied lessons in 'how to shop at the supermarket' became the norm are being slowly questioned by programs around kirtchen gardens - with lessons in the garden, students hands on, discovering the soil, worms, digging, seed saving and what it takes to produce food let alone make something nourishing and delicious - with serious permaculture  and life-cycle instruction.

Bring on the serious and thoughtful designers I say to help us reimagine the possible! If we are just a little more curious as a result and keen to forage harder for nourishing supplies, and with deeper understanding of why it is worth it to bother - then it can only be positive to have their inspiration!

Your thoughts are welcomed on this broad discussion... what do you imagine as you view that dinner table above?
What role can creativity play in all this?

*With thanks to the wonderful Irene at Bloesem blog for this inspired link!


Altoon Sultan said...

When I look at the photos of the dinner party, all I can think of is the aesthetic presentation; it is very original and beautiful, a completely new way of presenting food. I agree with their aims, of course, but it's the sense of design that is stunning.

sophie munns said...

I'm glad to hear that you found it so Altoon!
The visual impact has to make one look closer and consider it on some level.... so I am pleased to hear what you thought as one who both grows some of your own food, and lives in touch with rural life and communities whilst maintaining a long-standing art career.
I'm very curious to hear what people think on this!
So thank you!

Mlle Paradis said...

sophie, sophie. you slammed it right out of the park again with this one! too fabulous this colorful food and all the ingenuity and hard work behind it. i struggle just to persuade my cats to mind me! much less come up with such thoughtful ways to change the world.

sophie munns said...

MP... love your irreverance and funny, honest response!
Lots of colour, the surprise element - and LOADS of ingenuity certainly has a lot going for it as a way to push things forward.
Its a good find via Bloesem indeed!
Youv'e got a good eye for noticing things and appreciating MP! Especially vernacular architecture - how people live - I think you're taking that in more than most and passing on the value of the real - the authentic - in the way that's essential to you!
Changing the world seems to require a capacity for knowing what to hold on to that is of enormous value and what to shift with and jump on. Some of the best current changes at the moment come from stepping back to take something up in an entirely fresh way thats been around forever -- and then there are the ideas that represent a complete break with the past and a gigantic leap or maybe modest step forward!
Having the energy and interest to consider what's what is the thing.

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