Food Design: A New Eating Aesthetic

Design is not just furniture and objects of art, but also web pages, infrastructure, our bodies, and, now, even food.

It's all about the presentation! A dish from the 2007 Food Network Awards Party
It's all about the presentation! A dish from the 2007 Food Network Awards Party
Marco Belpoliti

Paola Antonelli sees a big future for design. "In the coming decades, design will become methodology and philosophy for those politicians, scientists and economists who want to adopt a human, holistic and constructive approach," writes the senior curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

One new place to look for this trend in our daily life is "food design." The visual presentation of food is changing. Now, food has a post-artificial shape. In the book "Food Mood," published by Electa, the authors Stefano Maffei and Barbara Parini give all the details of food's transformation. References abound to: Foodpeople, Foodexperience, and Foodproducts.

According to Michael Pollan, author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma," once the verbs related to food were cultivating, gathering, hunting, fishing, preserving, transforming, re-using the waste. Now, the verbs related to food are buying, preserving, eating.

Piero Camporesi has written about the pre-industrial and rural world, how Italian eating cycles and tradition changed abruptly in the 1950s, as industrialization triggered the globalization of the food chain.

Society, culture, economics, production and sexuality have changed along with food. Technology had an impact on the color, smell, consistency and finally shape of food. The aestheticization of other human activities had an impact on food too. Since the 1990s, art has become part of "food design." Chefs became designers of the eating experience. The leading food designer is the Catalan chef Ferran Adrià, owner of the Michelin 3-star restaurant, El Bulli, in Costa Brava.

"Cooking is a language through which all the following properties may be expressed: harmony, creativity, happiness, beauty, poetry, complexity, magic, humor, provocation and culture," Adrià writes in his decalogue "Synthesis of El Bulli cuisine." "The barriers between the sweet and savoury world are being broken down. Importance is being given to a new cold cuisine, particularly in the creation of the frozen savoury world," reads the most famous sentence of the decalogue.

Many other food designers have followed Adrià"s path. "Food Mood" reviews the work of Massimiliano Alajmo, Juan Mari Arzak, Alex Atala, Dan Barber, Heston Blumenthal, Massimo Bottura, and Carlo Cracco, among others.

These experimenters of food experience have overcome the link between eating and cooking, and have created a post-industrial cuisine. The chef Alajmo has created a series of "eatable perfumes' with the perfumer Lorenzo Dante Ferro. They extracted from the kitchen the smells of the ingredients and captured them in bottles of perfume. The essences can be sprayed on food to give them a special smell.

The trend is a new multi sensorial experience. In his restaurant, Arzak, in San Sebastian, the Basque chef Juan Mari Arzak has opened a Flavor Bank that contains more than 1,000 products and ingredients used for food investigations and new creations. These chefs are revolutionizing the rules of food as the Italian Alchimia group did in the 1970s for the design of objects.

Adrià has opened the school and gastronomic research center Fundacion Alicia. He's working with the scientist Pere Castells to create a new scientific and gastronomic vocabulary. Natural and artificial blend together, and food becomes an object.

Food design is also changing restaurants, shops, grocery stores, and packaging. According to Maffei and Parini, the new trend will move soon from the haute cuisine to the food distribution, production, culture and socialization connected with food.

Read the original article in Italian

Photo- Alex De Carvalho

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Iran-Saudi Arabia Rivalry May Be Set To Ease, Or Get Much Worse

The Saudis may be awaiting the outcome of Iran's nuclear talks with the West, to see whether Tehran will moderate its regional policies, or lash out like never before.

Military parade in Tehran, Iran, on Oct. 3


LONDON — The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier this month that Iranian and Saudi negotiators had so far had four rounds of "continuous" talks, though both sides had agreed to keep them private. The talks are to ease fraught relations between Iran's radical Shia regime and the Saudi kingdom, a key Western ally in the Middle East.

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that the talks were going in the right direction, while an Iranian trade official was recently hopeful these might even allow trade opportunities for Iranian businessmen in Saudi Arabia. As the broadcaster France 24 observed separately, it will take more than positive signals to heal a five-year-rift and decades of mutual suspicions.

Agence France-Presse news agency, meanwhile, has cited an unnamed French diplomat as saying that Saudi Arabia wants to end its costly discord with Tehran. The sides may already have agreed to reopen consular offices. For Saudi Arabia, the costs include its war on Iran-backed Houthis rebels fighting an UN-recognized government in next-door Yemen.

The role of the nuclear pact

Bilateral relations were severed in January 2016, after regime militiamen stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Amirabdollahian was then the deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs. In 2019, he told the website Iranian Diplomacy that Saudi Arabia had taken measures vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear pact with the world powers.

It's unlikely Ali Khamenei will tolerate the Saudi kingdom's rising power in the region.

He said "the Saudis' insane conduct toward [the pact] led them to conclude that they must prevent [its implementation] in a peaceful environment ... I think the Saudis are quite deluded, and their delusion consists in thinking that Trump is an opportunity for them to place themselves on the path of conflict with the Islamic Republic while relying on Trump." He meant the administration led by the U.S. President Donald J.Trump, which was hostile to Iran's regime. This, he said, "is not how we view Saudi Arabia. I think Yemen should have been a big lesson for the Saudis."

The minister was effectively admitting the Houthis were the Islamic Republic's tool for getting back at Saudi Arabia.

Yet in the past two years, both sides have taken steps to improve relations, without firm results as yet. Nor is the situation likely to change this time.

Photo of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

Riyadh's warming relations with Israel

Iran's former ambassador in Lebanon, Ahmad Dastmalchian, told the ILNA news agency in Tehran that Saudi Arabia is doing Israel's bidding in the region, and has "entrusted its national security, and life and death to Tel Aviv." Riyadh, he said, had been financing a good many "security and political projects in the region," or acting as a "logistical supplier."

The United States, said Dastmalchian, has "in turn tried to provide intelligence and security backing, while Israel has simply followed its own interests in all this."

Furthermore, it seems unlikely Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will tolerate, even in this weak period of his leadership, the kingdom's rising power in the region and beyond, and especially its financial clout. He is usually disparaging when he speaks of Riyadh's princely rulers. In 2017, he compared them to "dairy cows," saying, "the idiots think that by giving money and aid, they can attract the goodwill of Islam's enemies."

Iranian regime officials are hopeful of moving toward better diplomatic ties and a reopening of embassies. Yet the balance of power between the sides began to change in Riyadh's favor years ago. For the kingdom's power has shifted from relying mostly on arms, to economic and political clout. The countries might have had peaceful relations before in considerably quieter, and more equitable, conditions than today's acute clash of interests.

If nuclear talks break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive.

Beyond this, the Abraham Accord or reconciliation of Arab states and Israel has been possible thanks to the green light that the Saudis gave their regional partners, and it is a considerable political and ideological defeat for the Islamic Republic.

Assuming all Houthis follow Tehran's instructions — and they may not — improved ties may curb attacks on Saudi interests and aid its economy. Tehran will also benefit from no longer having to support them. Unlike Iran's regime, the Saudis are not pressed for cash or resources and could even offer the Houthis a better deal. Presently, they may consider it more convenient to keep the softer approach toward Tehran.

For if nuclear talks with the West break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive, and as experience has shown, tensions often prompt a renewal of missile or drone attacks on the Saudis, on tankers and on foreign shipping. Riyadh must have a way of keeping the Tehran regime quiet, in a distinctly unquiet time.

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