On Sunday evening, we were lucky enough to launch our new project to a brilliant community of artists, designers, chefs, scientists and creatives. The community was the Crossmodalists: a group that exists and works at the intersection of the senses and the merging of disciplines. We decided that the Future of Food will also need crossmodal thinking to nail down - it is a very complex problem which will take engaging in many different spheres, at different levels - and of course, with all of the senses! - to solve.
After presenting our ideas and vision, we opened up the floor to open call for collaboration, questions, ideas and explorations - with a very rich brainstorm of ideas and possible problems we may run into. The best thing about a community of such diverse-minded individuals is the multi-dimensional answers and ideas that are born :).
But not wanting to stick to just speaking, we also created a space for deeper interaction, and a flow of information both ways. We ran a series of three experiments to give our crowd a proper taste for what we are doing.
1. Tantalising textures: Participants compared a range of different meats from a whole scope of different sources. We mixed and blurred the lines between the meat of an animal and the meat that is has been constructed to be so... Without telling our crowd which was which. Surveys were taken around a whole spectrum of 'meat' qualities: 'bite'; 'chew'; 'juiciness'; 'taste'; 'visual allure' being some of them, and different senses were deprived during the tasting and sensing which allowed us to start dissect the question: What makes meat 'meaty'? What is our attraction and attachment to meat?
And can our confused guests tell any difference when brands, labels and context are subtracted?
2. Redefining the food plate: Here we engaged people in the discussion around what traditionally appears on their food plate, and why. What is a healthy food plate? What might our future food plate look like? Will there still be a plate at all? We also tried out our latest gadget - the Brix Refractometer. This essentially gives a measure of the sugar content of a vegetable or fruit, using the refraction of light. Sugar content and diversity in structure is directly linked to the health of the soil the veg was grown in, the amount of pesticides and immune system-attacking chemicals used, and basically, the health of the vegetable.
We dived straight into some investigations into the Brix value of veg from a range of food sources: from Tesco's, to Whole Foods, local markets and more...
3. The future of food: Lastly, we took the audience on a journey into the utopia and dystopia of our future food. A range of possible future food components were showcased, including both tasting and smelling algae, and exploring the power, for better or for worse, of genetic engineering. I often say that technology and solutions are more telling about the problems they are trying to solve rather than the solutions they bring. This was especially relevant when taste and thought-testing the all-in-one complete nutritional smoothie, Huel - which recently came to the UK.
If our future of food is contained in a vanilla-flavoured, beige, sandy smoothie, then what does that say about what we've come to now? Everybody contributed a couple of lines describing the images conjured by 'food utopia' and 'food dystopia' for them... And added to our UK-wide sample of the public's imagination and attitudes around where our food system is going.
Our aim is to be stimulating questions and to encourage and empower people to keep asking 'why', 'where from' and 'how'. To shed light and transparency on the food system. To re-connect parts of the food chain and bring conscious awareness to each level. To revitalise agriculture. And overall, empower change.
Food is the one thing that everybody has in common. Doesn't matter what you do, who you are, where you live, we all eat food that's been grown in the ground or come from living things. However, what is not equal, is what happens to the land, and to the food exiting the land, once it is harvested. Food holds politics. And food can be the greatest form of medicine, or the most dangerous form of poison.
We will be publishing our results in our first digest -- visit our website to stay tuned and please do drop us a line if you like or support what we are doing! And of course, if you have any questions :)
P.S. Thank you to Joe Sarah for the wonderful photos! Check out more of Joe's beautiful photography here.