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Posts by Walter Aprile

Food Design and Society 2011 is on the launchpad…

The course starts next week, but I can already tease your appetite with these delicious mici from Romania

 

 

(people who describe them as small skinless sausages don’t quite get the poetic value of a hot mic with bread, mustard and a cold beer) and one interesting new link for thinking about food.

It is Seasoned Advice, an online community where cooks and chefs discuss techniques. It is also interesting as a good model of a community website with understandable voting and reputation management.

See you next week!

–Walter and Annemiek

 

Guilt and Food

Just yesterday I was talking with a graduation student who has a head full of commonplaces and unfortunate journalistic pseudo-truths about the environment and sustainibility, with particular reference to food. Setting aside the specific topic of bullshit ideas (such as that in the past the food was healthier and people enjoyed, as a consequence, better eating: on this topic, you can get a light introduction in Shears, P. (2010). Food fraud–a current issue but an old problem. British Food Journal, 112(2), 198-213), I was struck once again by how frequent the association between food and guilt is.

 

 

 

You can check out Guilt for Dinner, a short, juicy blog post that focuses on the specific guilty feeling that is born when we realize that we are not cooking the way we think we should. In the more inspired words of Denise Gershbein, 

The research revealed to us an incredible pattern of guilt and
aspiration in how people eat—an embedded cycle of should/don’t/want.
Our research subjects believed there existed an ideal they had to live
up to, but none of them thought they could meet that standard, so they
felt guilty. And yet they continued to aspire to that goal.

I had the feeling that my student was laboring under the weight of strong feelings of guilt towards food. The same feelings that, it sounded like, pointed her towards vegetarianism, lately. The same feelings that make her think in mandatory terms of local production, without thinking for a second about the implications: or about how wonderful the international world of trade is and has always been historically.

 

 

 

But I digress: what I am driving at is that guilt, filthy guilt, is a very powerful emotional lever, and a food designer would be wise to investigate that guilt about

  • meat
  • calories
  • fat
  • being fat
  • not being a good mother/cook/homemaker
  • empty calories
  • animals
  • pork
  • cow
  • geese and their liver
  • poor unhappy cocoa farmers
  • horse
  • poor unhappy Alaskan crab fishermen
  • lobsters
  • poor unhappy whale fishermen (scratch that: they are not the target of guilty feelings)
  • eating GMOs
  • eating frozen food
  • dog
  • watching food/cooking shows and then eating only frozen food
  • chocolate
  • sugar
  • eggs laid by poor unhappy chicken

There is, if you think of it, a large choice of food-related guilts. More or less, for every taboo or contemporary ethical (or pseudoethical, let’s not be picky) injunction, we can find a related guilt and a designerly way to use it. We can build on the guilt, and make food products for vegetarians. We can encourage users to plunge into the guilt and turn it into sinful indulgence (really irritating choice of words here), and offer them chocolate. We can try to avert the gaze of the user, for example by packaging and trimming meat so that it looks as bloodless and unrelated to animals as possible.

Or we can frankly exploit the guilt parents feel towards children (am I doing enough?) and sell… nearly anything! As long as we claim that it is educational and/or healthy.

Someone more idealistic than me should comment about using guilt as a positive force for positive effects.

Video on rituals

take a look at this video on rituals (can’t embed Vimeo), courtesy of Froukje. Additionally, you could be interested in participating in this Electrolux competition (also courtesy of Froukje)

YouTube Preview Image

So-so video presentation, but the topic has many possibilities, perhaps too many!

Special issue of Slate on food / British Food Journal

The remarkable online magazine Slate has a new issue out, dedicated to food

 

 

 

of course the angle is relentlessly USA, but it is still good reading.

Another interesting fact: the TUDelft library subscribes to to the scholarly and delicious British Food Journal. Read it all online for free (if you are in the enchanted TUDelft crystal dome).

gelatin filtration

I followed the recipe for gelatine filtration given in Texture (a lot of excellent stuff in there) – you can also read about it in The Curious Cook. The source material was carrots: I run some particularly unexciting and fibrous carrots through my crappy HEMA blender until I was bored – which in normal time would be two to five minutes. The resulting orange slurry was additioned with gelatine dissolved in hot water to achieve a 0.5% solution.

If you did a 0.5% agar-agar solution, once solidified you could probably walk on it. With gelatine you get a very weak gel. Don’t despair, give it the time to set properly. A few hourse in the fridge did the trick for me.

Then I took the weak, disappointing gelatine and popped it in the freezer. Then I forgot about it for a few days. When I remembered about it, it had frozen to a solid block – excellent. I then placed it in a paper coffe filter adapted to a colander and placed it all inside a recycled yogurth container. Then I forgot about it for a couple of days. As you can tell, this procedure is a sort of low intensity really slow food activity. 

What I found in the container yesterday was expected but nonetheless really odd. An almost perfectly transparent essence of carrots. It tastes like carrots, but it looks exactly like water. No viscosity, no color, no suspended anything. I could place a picture of it here, but it is faster to ask you to imagine a glass of mineral water – there, you got it.

Instead, here is a picture of what was left in the filter

 

Pretty unappetizing, but if you look at it in detail, you can see that the spongy frozen gelatin structure is quite visible

 

 

 

 

The amount of transferred carrot taste was quite shocking. See, when you drink carrot-flavored things or eat carrot-flavored dishes like carrot cake the carrot taste is reduced to a certain, simplified carroty sweetness. In the essence you will find the complete carrot taste experience, from the first note to the carrot aftertaste. From a sensorial point of view, this is really disturbing, because it is the carrot without the carrot… 

Next time I will try the filtration with something more exciting than carrots: I have read that anything water soluble works really well, and also some fat-soluble things. 

The agar agar challenge

cocoa-raisin pyramid

Today students presented their initial ideas -some quite advanced- for innovative kitchen tools, and they were introduced to the agar agar challenge. Click on the image to download the PDF and take the challenge yourself. Unfortunately the PDF does not include any agar powder itself, but you can buy it online.

 

an ingredient nobody in the class was familiar from, introduced as the constituent of a light cocoa and raisin sweet. I wonder what we are going to see next time! 

 

 

 

Agar is most commonly associated with sweets, but this is by no means necessary. I have a plan bouncing in my head to use it to turn hummus into finger food…

 

Chocolate chantilly with marsala

one of the truly new and exciting recipes I have found out about recently is chocolate chantilly. It employs the physical properties of chocolate and a thermal cycle to form a stable cream or even a crumbly foam. The recipe (also here) is due to Hervè This, and it is really simple and delicious. Somewhere I had read a hint that you can do the chantilly with any liquid, so I decided to try with marsala, an Italian sweet wine from Sicily.

I also decided to do a little experiment with the amount of liquid. I had previously did the chantilly with the same amount of water and chocolate: so a 200 grams tablet of dark semisweet chocolate with 200 grams of water. I suspect that the cocoa in the chocolate is what does all the work in the recipe, and in fact when I tried it with milk chocolate (that always has much less cocoa) it did not work so readily. 

Boldly, I added 150 grams of marsala to 120 grams of dark chocolate (68% cocoa). I melted it in a steel bowl placed insde a pot of water, and as soon as the chocolate had started melting I boldly added all of the marsala (if you add it a little bit at a time the chocolate "seizes", which is something you don’t want) and whisked it all together. I had a nice liquid cream, very liquid, and then I transfered the bowl into another bowl full of ice and water (the very plain bowls IKEA sells work really well for this), and I started whisking. The mixture chilled, it started forming bubbles, but no matter how much I chilled it it would not thicken. Not enough cocoa!

The beautiful thing about chantilly is that it is rather forgiving: if this happens, you can just return the whole mess to the pot of hot water and add more chocolate. This I did: 40 more grams of chocolate. Melt, whisk together until smooth. I returned to the ice bowl, and it all came together very satisfying, just like theory says. I whipped it until it became crumbly, and used some of it to make chocolate truffles (melt chocolate, temper it, dip little balls of chantilly in it, wait, coat with cocoa), but most of it is being eaten right now.

What does it taste like? Delicious! 

more interesting links to explore

FoodUX, gastronomic inspirations for user interface designers.

the peculiar Meatpaper magazine, "a print magazine of art and ideas about meat".

Buddha shaped gelatin mold.

Bizarre English people that try to bring gelatin back into fashion.

Mr. Bompas said that the pleasure of the jelly is not necessarily in the eating. “It’s watching it wobble,” he said. Mr. Parr agreed: “You’ve got to have the wobble.

The amateur gourmet blog reports from the pop side of food.

The joy of silicone molds by Silikomart.

Fascinating orange-almond cake without flour. 

an international conference on food styling and photography.

Philips Design on food (trends?)

Unfortunate URL but interesting content: Culiblog.

Recipe formats

this could actually be a little paper of its own. Some notes:

On the usability of recipes. This is actually a very interesting topic, I have seen recently one remarkably clear recipe format in cookingforengineers.com – I am including here a little example, but this is actually a good theme for graphic designers and information designers.

Is this format entirely obvious to you? Is it convenient? I like it, but I am used to strange notations.

Hervè This in This, H. (2007). Modelling dishes and exploring culinary ‘precisions’: the two issues of molecular gastronomy. British Journal of Nutrition, 93(S1), 139-146. describes an interesting formal notation, but it looks more apt for describing food states rather than recipes.

Very interesting page of recipe formats at the microformats wiki. I should absorb it and criticize it one by one. Most interesting so far is David Mundie’s RxOL, that could be used as a guide to designing new formats and analyzing old ones.

Simply Recipes is remarkably clear.

Interview to Ferran Adrià, on food, science and research

One of the most famous cooks in the world gets interviewed. He sounds so reasonable! It is also very interesting that the interview is in the prestigious New Scientist magazine. There is also a summary of what you get at his restaurant, elBulli.

 

 

Brief 2: tell me a story (and two references for you)

 

 

In preparation for our next meeting, we would like you to read these two articles. The first one is more of a story, the second one is more analytical (but still full of stories!)

We have taken them from this collection: Korsmeyer, C. (Ed.). (2005). The taste culture reader: experiencing food and drink. New York: Berg. This article is readable only by members because we don’t have permission to distribute the articles.

The brief is:

tell us a story about food. Various techniques are possible: oral
narration, video, photo support). The story must fit within 5 minutes.
The emotional component of food, as a part of one’s personal memory of
places and people must be explored. The story must be adapted to the
receiving audience, which requires more exploration of each other’s
culture.

Global narrations of food: GMOs, Brillat-Savarin,
sustainability

(Annemiek + Walter)

© 2011 TU Delft