Reinventing the act of eating

Marije Vogelzang gives back to food its togetherness value

Condemning society’s current relationship with food and the way we connect to it and to each others, Dutch eating designer Marije Vogelzang claims that the world urgently needs a “food revolution”. [1]

“If you do it right you can find the key to a heart through food.”

Convinced that food is a powerful “material that links people together” - regardless of their cultural backgrounds - Vogelzang reflects on the humble action of eating and proposes a recipe that perfectly blends participation, engagement and enjoyment.

When asked why she started using food in her projects, Vogelzang replies with enthusiasm that “as a designer you can choose within a variation of materials, but there’s no material that is so emotional, personal, intimate, but also political and cultural as food. It is sensorial, it is linked with pleasure (mostly) and it is perfect for rituals to understand life.”

Giving a sense to our world and life through communal eating moments is of course not something new. Everyone has participated - at least once in his/her life and without the help of a ‘facilitator’ - to a family dinner, a picnic in the woods or an annual street party. So what makes the role of an eating designer so important?

One project of Vogelzang that turned the commonly assumed practices upside down and that expressed particularly well the importance of the designer as a connector (or facilitator) is Eat Love Budapest [2] - a nourishing performance that Vogelzang refers to as the most memorable of her works. [3]

Held in 2011 at the A38 - an old barge on the Danube’s bank of Budapest that was turned into a cultural hub -, the aim of Eat Love Budapest was to challenge prejudices towards women of the Romani community and encourage understanding and respect between Hungary’s largest minority and the city-dwellers.

The performance was quite simple. While a guest was invited to take a seat under one of the ten white tents arranged in the room, a Roma woman would sit outside of the tent in order to remain out of sight, yet close enough to interact with the person. The anonymous and carefully ritualised tête-à-tête could start: After watching her hands, the Romani woman started narrating her story.

Comfortably sitting, and enveloped by the white improvised cocoon of the tent - which was decorated with intimate photographs and objects - guests literally drank in - or rather ate in - every single word, as the women accompanied their memories with tasty food that related to their own past. While the feeding process with both eatable goods and words took place, a thread between the pairs slowly grew - like the bond between a child and his mother.

Eat Love Budapest, a video by Krisztina Arvai-Nagy, Milan Gajdos, Balazs Zajti, 2011

“We fed 400 people and 2 people left. I didn’t get the chance to ask them why. They might have been claustrophobic or so?”, suggests Vogelzang. “We had a guestbook that people could write in anonymously. Many needed a bit of time to reflect on what had just happened and some didn’t believe that it would actually change anything. And that might be true. But most people were very touched and happy.”

As the designer underlines, food is a “language we all understand and relate to in a kind of pre-verbal way”. It is thus the perfect material to question boundaries and raise awareness of togetherness among complete strangers.

[1] Marcus Fairs' interview with Marije Vogelzang, Dezeen, July 8th, 2014; [2] Eat Love Budapest, a video by Krisztina Arvai-Nagy, Milan Gajdos, Balazs Zajti, published on YouTube Nov. 9th, 2011, watched on Jan. 1st 2017; [3] An interview with Marije Vogelzang, Design Decode, Dec. 12, 2016;

1_Marije Vogelzang, The One Bite project, Sofia (Bulgaria), 2016 [Courtesy Marjie Vogelzang]; 2_Portrait of Marije Vogelzang by J. Jockel [Courtesy Marjie Vogelzang]; 3_Marije Vogelzang, The Feed Love project in St Petersburg - © Egor Rogalev [Courtesy Marjie Vogelzang]; 4_Marije Vogelzang, Sharing dinner, 2008 [Courtesy Marjie Vogelzang]; 5_Marije Vogelzang, The Bread & Salt dinner [Courtesy Marjie Vogelzang]; 

Published: 8 Mar. 2017

#WomenInDesign #WomenPower #FeedingTheFolk #Rituals #CommunalLife #EatingDesign #FoodRevolution #FoodDesign #Design #RelationalDesign #Romani #Storytelling #IWD2017 #WomensDay

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