Food designer Marije Vogelzang creates recipes, plated presentations, and even molecular gastronomic buffets, turning the dining experience into a full-sensory immersion that makes us think not only about what we’re eating, but why and how.
The new book Eat Love highlights the Dutch designer’s work from her university days at the Design Academy Eindhoven where she created a “Funeral Dinner” of white (the color of mourning in many cultures) foods on white dishes to her more recent works such as the “Photosynthesistree,” a wooden tree form on which, with the help of desk lamps, she baked dough leaves (which, when done, fall to the floor like autumn leaves).
The book is organized into eight chapters that ask questions of the reader. The first is Psychology, with a chapter cover page that asks “Do you remember your first ice cream?” and “Why do we reward our children with sweets?” The image and description of Vogelzang’s 2001 project “Cupcakes with a Lack of Attention” look at the psychological effect of written messages. In this project, otherwise identical cupcakes compete for the eater’s attention by screaming frosted phrases from “Eat me” to “”You can’t resist me&rdquo. "I noticed the psychological effect of people who decidedly choose certain messages over the others, while being aware that all cupcakes tasted exactly the same,” Vogelzang writes.
The chapter about psychology is followed by one about Culture (“Can food bring people together?”, “Can food create world peace?”), which includes the “Funeral Dinner”, and another about Senses (“Does food taste different when it has a different temperature?”, “Is an unglazed mug comfortable to drink from?”).
The fourth and fifth sections, Nature (“Where do ingredients come from?”, “Why do children think milk comes from a factory and the forest smells of shampoo?”) and Action (“In how many ways can you share food?”, “Did the ancient Romans have a good reason for lying down when eating?”), feature my favorite of Vogelzang’s works: “Roots” and “Sharing Dinner.”
“Roots” has its origins in Vogelzang’s rediscovery of clay cooking, when food and even entire animals were wrapped in clay and cooked over hot coals after which the clay was smashed and the meat eaten. In her rendition, Vogelzang cooked root vegetables in clay and presented the problem to a table of hungry eaters: To smash the sculpture and enjoy the food or forgo to veggies to save the clay creation? (Spoiler; Hammers were provided and food consumed.)
“Sharing Dinner” was a commissioned project for Droog in which Vogelzang was asked to design its Christmas 2005 dinner. She deduced the meaning of Christmas dinner to “sharing and togetherness” and proceeded by hanging tablecloths like drapes along all four sides of a long table and cutting vertical slits into them for the guests’ heads and hands. To place the emphasis on sharing, Vogelzang sawed the plates in half and served dishes in parts: gravy to one guest and potatoes to his neighbor, for example. By the end of the meal, the guests “escaped” from the cloth stocks with the aid of scissors laid out in the place settings next to the knives.
The beautifully designed book, which balances text, photos, and playful sketches, finishes with the chapters Science (“How was mayonnaise discovered?”, “What do vitamins look like?”, which includes the "Photosynthesistree"), Technique (“Did you ever: Knit spaghetti? Drill holes in cheese?”), and Society (“What's wrong/right with mass production?” “How far does my pineapple travel?”). By the last pages, your creative and physical appetites are sure to be whetted—and you’re guaranteed to look at your next meal in a new light.
Eat Love was published in the Netherlands in December 2008 by BIS Publishers, became available throughout Europe earlier this month, and will be available worldwide in April (though you can purchase it on the BIS Publisher’s website or from sellers on Amazon.com). For more information, visit Vogelzang’s website.