Tuesday 25 January 2011


Food labelling doesn't have to be obfuscatory!

Sunday 23 January 2011

Ginger Pig lamb shanks

Delicious, succulent, foil baked lamb shanks with a sage, thyme and garlic butter, leeks, carrots and half a glass of white wine.

The shanks are from The Ginger Pig at Greensmiths in Lower Marsh. Tom, the most amiable of butchers, is always happy to share recipes and suggestions and is particularly keen on forgotten cuts of meat that require slower methods of cooking. Slow food is a euphemistic term for food that is often associated with peasant/poor peoples food. Why does even writing this present itself as a faux pas? It is my cultural heritage and one of which I am proud. Whilst food writers eulogise over the merits of southern Mediterranean cookery, or a return to austerity cuisine the truth is that these food choices come from a mixture of necessity and tradition. 

Recipes are passed down and treasured from one generation to the next - the quality of the ingredients is the guiding principle. Food is undoubtedly a commodity but not one set at an impossible height as to be out of reach to mere mortals such as you or I. The mystique of food is its limitless potential for diversity. Real cooked food is rarely the same twice as ambient conditions, the mood of the cook and the food itself always differ. Its time to debunk the mystique around good tasty food being the preserve of the privileged few and start talking to people, sharing information, asking questions. The next time you are in the butchers ask them how to cook that strange yet beautiful cut of meat - don't shy away from bones and fat this is the missing ingredient that will make that meat beyond tender and all for a fraction of the price of that bloody piece of sirloin.

Tuesday 18 January 2011


6:38 The piercing alarm breaks a stone cold slumber. Your fumbling hand reaches for the clock to deactivate the tetchy digitised instruction to “GET UP”. Snooze – onomatopoeic respite, eight minutes of resumed oblivion, denial of the inevitable. A ritualistic call to arms, the regimented expectation to fulfil a role – partner, lover, carer, mother. Drawn from the weariness of a night characterised by the vagaries of sleep apnoea – coaxing death, lungs performing independently, denying your exhausted body and brain oxygen. Your brain, somehow, relishes this hyperbolic state and follows its own fantastical route through the reconstituted to the tangible anxieties of the hyper-real. The fabricated call to order once again issues its missive “GET UP!” But you have manipulated and outwitted time and time stands where it was.

January and nature has abandoned the suffocation of the overbearing darkness, with succorless seasonality all light and warmth are denied. Silence pervades – birds do not expend precious energy on heralding a sunless dawn. Finessing the finite is a predilection of the natural world, not an invention imposed by sustainable necessities. Electric lights provide little comfort just a blinding contrast to the ineffable darkness. The gas ring ignited, illuminated. Water drawn, kettle set, Assam and Earl Grey carefully combined to provide the perfect brew.

Once again you are ahead – a moments thought the previous evening, and a few minutes labour has secured a hearty, wholesome breakfast. Water, pinhead oats and heat. The gas extinguished, the residual heat locked in with a noisy lid. Water and oats and remaining heat conjoin whilst you rest fitfully. Morning sees the solidified mass broken by the softly turned baton that is your spurtle, more water, more stirring. As the mass becomes smooth and molten and bubbles quietly – the alchemy is complete the modest combination of oats and water and heat transforms a rough gruel to a creamy porridge. Breakfast is served.

Sunday 16 January 2011

Feeding the Eye: challenging orthodoxy

Visual Athletics Club: Tiger Bap

There is an ephemerality to food and much of the design associated with it: the wrappers and packaging, the advertising campaigns, the branding and marketing of novel products. However, this is an insidious ephemerality, for the effects of the production and consumption of food have far reaching repercussions – on our health, environment – ecologically and ethically. Food is not a mere frippery of consumption: it exists beyond the limits of the physiological and is inculcated into highly personalised relations. Feeding the Eye questions the impact that design has on our reception and attitudes towards food. Design does not influence food policy but it directs and informs our daily food choices. Design is about communication and information; it is neither benign nor neutral.  

There is accountability in the agency of design especially when connected to the basic fundamentals of human existence – food. Food as quotidian, rhopographic does not command the same cultural capital as more monumental design. The culture of defining people as “foodies” or “fuelies” renders food as synonymous with privilege and the profligacy of time. The free market economy model, that dictates UK food policy, panders to a culture of convenience and the subsequent further commodification of food. The commodification and convenience of food is a product of capitalism, not socialism. The massification of retail and the innovations of technology have expanded to produce panoply of food products. Convenience foods and emancipation from the kitchen allow people a freedom of choice but choices that are dependent upon informed decisions. 

Rationales of consumer choice and freedom of choice are dependent upon an understanding of what choices are available. Future food and the maintenance of future food security have far reaching implications beyond technological innovation and the manifestations of the enchantments of design. Food is not an exhaustible resource; the rise in global food prices and diversion of crops for biofuel consumption have sparked food riots. While one billion people worldwide do not have enough to eat, another billion are overweight. With the global population set to increase to 9 billion by 2050 current practices are unsustainable.

Food in the twenty first century is still symbolically and culturally highly determined by economic and social factors. Fashions and trends – the rejection of the global in favour of the local and seasonal, from “air miles” to “food miles” – food is constantly being reduced to the next perimeter of social conscience. Developments in bio and food technology have led to an abundance of food – the “paradox of plenty” has dealt the poorest the least benefits – calories from processed foods rich in sugar, salt and fat, are traded for health. If food packaging design was less spurious and more honest about the effects of the food being marketed on health and the environment, then societal benefits would follow. By actively seeking to subvert information through being typographically illegible or by an over abundance of confusing information, designers actively promote unhealthy eating practices.

Feeding the Eye questions orthodoxy. Food, politics and economics form an unholy menage à trois – a heady and seductive cocktail of appetite, power and greed. The government peddles information with a double handedness – the nannying voice of the healthy eating mantra but all the while allowing the most economically profitable – the food manufacturing industries to dictate and control our insatiable appetites. Until a more integrated social, environmental and health orientated model is adopted as opposed to the laissez faire attitudes of the free market economy – the inequities in resources and the growing global population will put unsustainable pressures upon food security. Future food security is at the fore of economic, political, environmental and ethical debates. Feeding the Eye is a clarion call to a new generation of designers to challenge orthodoxy and locate design within this polemic as a force for good, healthy, sustainable eating practices.