This past week I started the brainstorming phase of my design thinking challenge for rethinking…* the eating experience. After visually laying out the topography of the eating environment, I wrote down memories and associations for each item as well as reflected on memorable eating experiences. I then spent some time trying to figure out how they all come together in various themes important to me as the intended user. The aim of establishing these themes is to better articulate HMWs to approach the challenge.
Rethinking the eating experience…*
CREATIVITY ~ How might I make the act of cooking feel more creatively fulfilling and productive? One of the themes that emerged is the creative tension, or lack thereof, that I feel whilst cooking. In my mind, the act of cooking takes two different but equally frustrating forms. The first is following a recipe word for word, which I hate, because it feels like working your way through someone else’s checklist– a chore more than anything. The second is to improvise and ‘create’ one’s own recipe, which could be fun if not for the fact that every single time I have tried to get ‘creative’ in the kitchen it has resulted in a catastrophic pile of undercooked or burnt and inedible chaos.
Potential Solution: I am very interested in exploring the idea of the kitchen as studio—a place of craft, raw materials, design and creativity. I spent October 6th, global day of play, working on making a mockup of my kitchen out of cardboard and other recycled materials lying around my apartment to use as a ‘set’ for a 2-minute long character arc video, which I will be completing next week.
OWNERSHIP ~ How might I find ways to feel more connected to the food I cook and consume? I am a perfectionist, to the point of handicap. If I decide to make a pie from “scratch” for example, in my ideal world, I would be the one raising the chickens to get the eggs for the pie. From that stance it is impossible for me to feel as though I have really ever “made” a meal. Obviously this is a two-part problem: first, I need to address my issues with perfectionism. Secondly, and this might be easier, I need to find ways to feel more authentically connected to my food than merely picking it up off the shelves of a grocery store and transporting it, sealed and packed, to my own fridge.
-Growing my own indoor herbs garden.
-Learning to make jams/canning/homemade wine and other such crafty kitchen endeavors.
WASTE ~ How might I waste and throwaway less food? I’m that person that will finish every last bite on her plate, no matter how full or nauseous for the simple reason that I cannot bear to waste food. Because of how terrible I have been at planning meals and following through on cooking the things I do buy, I usually do end up wasting a lot of food, which makes me feel terrible about myself and taints the whole eating/cooking/grocery shopping experience.
Potential Solution: Go grocery shopping more often and buy less; decide on recipes for the next three days and buy only what you need to make these recipes. One idea I had to make finding recipes and actually trying them out more fun and sustainable was to make a virtual ‘photo-album’ cookbook. Pinterest is a platform particularly well suited to the task. I can browse food blogs, and pin images of the recipes that fit my nutritional requirements (i.e. vegetarian, proper food combining, ingredients I like, etc.) Then I can set up a recurring planning/grocery shopping time, maybe twice a week, to browse the images in my Pinterest ‘cookbook’ board and select recipes–which I already know fit my nutritional requirements and tastes–based on color or ingredient by quickly getting a visual sense of the entire meal.
prototype of my Pinterest photo album cookbook idea on an iPad
TRADITION ~ How might I continue as well as start new positive and meaningful rituals around food and eating? When I was younger I would spend parts of every summer with my grandparents at their beach house on the French-Spanish border. Each morning, I would sneak into their bedroom and cuddle in the middle of their bed. At which point my grandfather would get up and come back 10 minutes later with a porcelain bowl filled with black coffee for my grandma and a tall glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice for me. Mamie and I would emerge slowly from our dream states, sitting next to each other in bed, the sun pouring in through the window, sipping our respective drinks. Eventually, we would move outside to the terrace for our breakfast of baguette slices, butter and my grandmother’s homemade jams. Now, when I think of the word breakfast I am flooded with precious memories of that time. I have several other “food’ traditions–Christmas feasts, my mother’s crepes for the Chandeleur, my father’s cacio e peppe at the first real chill of fall— but all come from my childhood and I haven’t experienced many of them in a long time. My grandmother has now passed away and I no longer live with my parents, it’s time for me to carry on and recreate these traditions that structured my childhood on my own.
Potential Solution: Start a dinner from around the world night. This is something I wanted to do as a kid, when I used to daydream about “grown-up me”. Each week pick a different country, find traditional recipes from that country and make a dinner around it. Matt and I could each do a little research on something intriguing from that country (artists, writers, cultural phenomena etc.) We could then share and discuss our findings with each other over the meal. (Nerdy and proud!)
HAPTIC ~ How might I make the eating/cooking experience more pleasant and stimulating to all of my senses? I spent quite a bit of time in the past two weeks reflecting on my favorite all time meals and then trying to identify what it was about those meals that made them so memorable. The meals that stood out have been the ones that came along with their own little worlds like my mother’s dinner parties where she crafts the meal, conversation, decor and ambiance to all organically reinforce one another and form a whole, much greater than its parts, that creates a magical moment outside of time and the ordinary.
Potential Solution: Make ‘sensory palettes’ around different meals and ingredients. In my “Tradition” theme heading, I described my morning breakfast ritual with my grandparents. This ritual was not just about the food we consumed, or the togetherness and bonding inherent to the situation. This tradition comes with its own ‘sensory palette’ of tastes, smells, sounds, etc. For example, when I think of breakfast I think of the wind in the branches on the terrace, the crispness of the sunlight pouring into my grandparent’s mauve bedroom, the birds chirping nearby hoping for crumbs, the white of my grandmother’s nightgown and porcelain bowl, the dust dancing in the sun… I think it would be interesting to create palettes of various sensory stimuli connected to different meals and ingredients. By creating these sensory palettes I would be able to make more of a conscious effort to play on memories and associations already formed and deeply engrained to optimize my eating experiences. I’ve noticed, for example, that drinking black coffee out of a white porcelain bowl is distinctly more satisfying, for me, than drinking it out of any other types and colors of receptacles.
Laying out the topography for this challenge has been a little different than the other. Because winter is a season and therefore so large in scope, I struggled a bit with defining objects, activities, users, environments and interactions so I decided to focus on the elements of winter that I liked and that were relevant to my life in all of these categories. I am still working on this list.