Eating consists of two acts:
act one: to satisfy a human need or desire
act two: to communicate values
In two acts, eating is a sensory experience that enables us to communicate our innate needs and values. In a report about consumption patterns, the food environment and the eating environment operate simultaneously and influence our consumption patterns. For example, the feeling of satiety occurs due to a number of bodily signals that start off when food or drink is consumed. The feeling of satiety also influences how soon and how much you next eat. In the words of food psychologist Brian Wansink, “We are not designed to actually keep track of how much we’ve consumed. Most of us seem to rely on the size – the volume – of the food to tell us when we’re full." This unawareness toward eating can become a problem in both health and food waste.
By focusing on sensory engagements, Cradle is an eating habits project that change people’s perceptions of lunch into forms and gestures aimed to translate their consumption patterns into new value systems. In a 14-week journey, exploratory engagements between the hand and the meal was used to examine gestures and combinations of forms that can lead to engaged eating awareness. The process of this work led to a deeper understanding of Brian Wansink's research and imagines the food environment as an eating landscape where the relationship between the hand and the meal becomes an abstracted embrace. As a result, Cradle uses form and gesture to avert our myopic consumption patterns into gestures around care and attention to what we put inside ourselves, ultimately reinterpreting what it means to eat.
The investigation begins with 15 interviews of Bay Area creatives. The conversations revolved around their lunch habits, their preferences, and their desired lunch routine. The stories were synthesized into an infographic using Manfred Max Neef's Matrix of Human Needs. The key finding was that individuals don't pay attention to the food itself because eating from tupperware is not an elevated eating experience.
In order to elevate the eating experience around lunch, one of the strategies might include plating rituals. If Lunch Eaters have to plate their takeout meal or tupperware, then we expect a change in their consumption pattern. The two plating exercises below, encourages Lunch Eaters to serve their meal on a plate provided. Their participation inspired a series of form explorations that suggests new gestures for embracing a meal. One of the key insights from this qualitative research posits that eating on the go negates the nurturing aspects of food. How might we rethink urban plate-forms to elevate the eating experience?
Plating Ritual no.1
After the Lunch Eater purchases a hot meal from the store, they return to their office to consume the meal. When they arrive at their desk, they are greeted with a table setting that includes a plate, utensils, a container and instructions for enacting this new ritual. The Lunch Eater serves their takeout on a plate rather than eating straight from the packaging. The leftovers are placed in a small black container for them to reflect on their meal. Perhaps they will nibble on the leftovers.
Plating Ritual no. 2
Rather than eating straight from the tupperware, the Lunch Eater is tasked with a new plating ritual which includes different plate sizes to serve the meal.
Plating Ritual no. 1
“[The plate] is So much nicer to eat out of than the Whole Foods take-out cartons...”
Plating Ritual no. 2
“I would normally scarf all of this immediately. I’m actually feeling much more full. It feels more satisfying than eating straight out of the Tupperware. [This exercise] somehow managed to make the same things feel more special. I’m slowing down to eat. It makes [lunch] feel exciting."
Form and Material Studies
In addition to conducting interviews and testing various eating exercises, take-out packaging and tupperware were collected and studied in order to generate additional research about the "eating landscape" in which we consume our food on the go.
The mass models represents an intimate, unrealised relationship between the hand and the meal. How are we holding our food when we eat? What does the plate-form signify to the consumer? As a series, these volumes also become mnemonic devices, or traces of waste. What we are viewing here is a collection of a myopic vision of eating in the urban domain. How might we use design to disrupt our mindless eating patterns? The next step is a discovery and a poetic trajectory of eating.
Hand. Food Choreography no. 1-6
One of the turning points in this project occurred when documenting the combinations of stacked volumes. The relationship between the hand and the form transpire into a choreography: the gesture of eating becomes an abstracted embrace.
Using a vacuum former, the artifacts from Lunch Mass were used to test this notion of plate-forms as embraces.
The results revealed intimate gestures:
Plans + Section Drawings
The video and vacuum form exploration motioned the plate-forming to return to the consumer. Lunch Eaters were encouraged to stack their eating patterns, creating new volumes, cavities and pockets for where and how a meal could be plated. Using architectural tools to render and draw volumes, these drawings also inspired new plate-forming combinations which where then translated into clay-baked prototypes.
A total of eight Cradle plate-forms were created. Each plate-form was custom designed according to the needs of each interviewee and the activity of stacking various volumes to curate a specific gesture for handling each dish.
photo styling by Summon Design
This work was first exhibited at the Hooper Graduate Gallery along with the work of six other thesis students who demonstrated their own explorations in sustainability and product design. December 13-15, 2017.
Now on view
During the Commencement Exhibition (May, 2018) Lunch Mass was selected by Barry Katz and Kim Bennet for the Design Division. The work received the Curator's Award and is now on display at the California College of the Arts in the San Francisco campus from 2018-2019.
In addition, two plate-forms from this project are currently on display at Galeria de la Raza as artifacts of a series entitled, La Tierra de Comida, an exploration of gestures and rituals that cultivate an intimacy between the hand and the food.