GDR innovation researcher Babette-Scarlett Schossau explores the latest food innovations at the V&A’s Food: Bigger than the Plate exhibition.
Food is one of my biggest passions so I was thrilled to get the opportunity to visit the FOOD: Bigger than the Plate exhibition at London’s V&A museum. The fascinating event explores current gastronomic experiments and innovations at every stage of the food system, from farming through to eating.
I had a fantastic day there and in this blog I want to share the examples that really stood out, and the debates that all consumer brands in the food and beverage category should know about.
Retain and remember
What the exhibition really brought to the fore is that we are consumers and producers at the same time. In today’s ‘flush and forget’ culture, we’ve become accustomed to treating waste as an undesirable by-product that can only be discarded. Various start-ups, however, have decided to harness the potential of waste and use it to create something new: Kaffeeform cups are made out of used coffee grounds collected from cafés in Berlin; while Wine Matters’ wine labels and bottle rests are made from grape skins and vine branches discarded in the grape harvest and wine-making process.
The Dutch Water Authorities are recovering raw materials from wastewater, including used toilet paper, which is turned into decorative bowls and other objects by Studio Nienke Hoogvliet. The hope is that using clean pulp to craft unique, handmade products will create a positive association with the material and demonstrate that something from the sewer can have great value again.
Connecting rural and urban
The V&A food exhibition also explores farming and specifically highlights the role of farmers. With poster-size CVs of two fictional farmers from Spain that borrow the language and formalisms associated with urban professions, artist Asunción Molinos Gordo challenges assumptions that culture and innovation originate only in cities.
Meanwhile, other companies focus on connecting the rural and the urban. Company Drinks is a community enterprise that brings people together to grow, pick, process, brand, bottle, trade, and reinvest their drinks. It combines local heritage with local resources, skills, and a local economy to collectivise knowledge and create a new culture around these processes.
Technology as an aid to preserve
Artist Jiwon Woo investigates a practice deemed culturally significant in South Korea, one that she believes forms part of its heritage and that should be passed down with the help of technology. Son-mat, literally ‘hand taste,’ is the principle in Korean cuisine that a cook’s hands (often a mother’s) renders a dish uniquely delicious. This is because the bacteria on their hands impacts the flavour of the food, forming part of their cultural identity. Woo has created a machine that is able to capture and reproduce this unique footprint, highlighting the power of technology to preserve the past.
In a tactile finish to the exhibition, LOCI Food Lab gives visitors the chance to taste their own food values, by allowing them to pick three from a list of 16 traits that they believe a great food system should include. It then creates a food taster to match. Choosing affordable, delicious, and nutritious over other options such as vegan, cutting-edge, and efficient, will get you a personalised snack consisting of revitalised relish made from tomatoes too ugly for local restaurants and supermarkets, cash crop mayo, and fried PTA-2684 – vat-grown mycoprotein derived from a mould discovered in the soil in the English town of Marlow.
The interactive snack creation invites everyone to process what they have just learnt, and to voice what really matters to them. Taking a wider concept that may take years to implement or change, and making it graspable for individuals in the simple form of food, allows for more discussion and exchange, and the feeling that each voice is heard. Perhaps next time, the exhibition organisers may let us eat our samples from Jinhyun Jeon’s sensory tableware, also on display, to stimulate an even deeper range of senses.
The exhibition is open until late October. Click here to find out more details.
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