"Food is a social act of connectivity and sharing."

Muddle, photo by Julia Sterre Schmitz

Efficiency, a Social Perspective and Food Dreams

Lotte Meeuwissen is a Dutch Food Designer based in Barcelona. She invents culinary interactions with a focus on the social nature of food. Lotte uses "play" as a tool to enable her audience to focus on means rather than ends, allowing people to try out new things, to revise, modify and explore. With her work she creates new social bonds, both with food as well as amongst people. We talked with Lotte about efficiency, a social perspective and food dreams.

How did you come to food and design and what intrigues you about it?

I love to observe people around me. I look at people’s movements, behavior, routines, intuitive actions, and understanding of the world. The past couple of years my mind has been consumed by the changes seen in (mainly Western) society. We live in a world with a “saving time” mentality, and the technological developments of this century reflect an obsession with the creation of time-saving devices and systems to make the world move as efficiently as possible. In the case of food, this trend is embodied in the way food is currently grown, produced, processed, consumed and enjoyed. It can be found in the design of (fast) food places, supermarkets, services, packages, kitchenware, tableware and recipes.

I became fascinated by these innovations because they try to take away an essential ingredient of food: connectivity. For instance, many great food innovations are focused on alternative methods for growing, distributing and integrating food production in our cities. They generate new systems of local supply chains that run faster, fresher and healthier—altogether more efficiently. However, not very many of them consider the social impact they could have.

Lots of initiatives stop their development at the moment they find a way to increase efficiency, but I see tons of social opportunities hidden within these ideas. I believe that, when we recognize the social power food has, we can transform those developments into social innovations.

For example, an alternative local farm can become a social hotspot, a place of social bonding, or even a new cultural tradition. To rethink those ideas from a social perspective enables us to both physically as well as psychologically benefit from food innovations. We might not reach the highest level of efficiency, but we will transmit consciousness on the importance of being connected through food. Because at the end of the day, situations involving food are social and meaningful gestures created within a cultural framework. They enable us to connect with ourselves well as with others.

Workshop at Rocambolesc, photo by Blanca Zaragoza

Muddle, photo by Julia Sterre Schmitz

On what kind of food situations are you working at the moment?

One of my aspirations is to transmit consciousness about the social power of food and create awareness on the importance of empathy within bigger food firms. At the moment I am involved in an innovation project at Danone. Together with Tamara Castrillon, Innovation Manager at Danone, I am co-creating and co-facilitating a sequence of workshops dealing with innovation strategy for product development. To work on such strategic projects from an outsider perspective is very valuable to me. It enables me to position myself between the consumer and the team, to place all players at an equal level and create a two way street of empathy. My perspective gives me the means to learn about routines in food business cultures, the structures of food identity and overall to create social impact in the world of food and nutrition.

Next to that, I am spreading my philosophy of food design through giving workshops at universities such as Elisava Barcelona School of Engineering and ERAM Universitat de Girona.

At the moment I am creating a series of workshops in collaboration with Rocambolesc, the joyful ice-cream shop owned by Jordi Roca and his wife Ale Rivas. The way they transmit pure joy through their ice-creams and sweets is very inspiring to me. They convey their happiness for what they do through your tastebuds. In addition, the philosophy of bringing El Celler de Can Roca’s dessert cart to the street and turning it into an experience available for all, supports my idea that food is a social act of connectivity and sharing.

What is your biggest food-dream you want to make come true?

My food-dream is to make the world spend more time with food in daily life. I aim to convey curiosity to my audience to explore the different social bonds that food can bring about. Through my design philosophy I invent new culinary interactions for everyday food situations, and in this process I highly value intuition and subjective experience. With my work I aspire to preserve the tradition found in many cultures of everyday food situations as a moment to connect with the self and share stories with others. In the coming years I strive to start more projects which acknowledge this social nature of food, and by doing so inspire others to create with food. I’ll be starting with my dream for 2019: to restart my project Muddle, and spread its food stories among the general public.

For now, I want to ask you to kick off my dream by consciously choosing to spend a bit more time with your food today. Because we shouldn’t forget Winnie the Pooh’s wise words, “’What did make it so extraordinarily delicious?’ ‘It took time.’”


Read more about Lotte on her website: www.lottemeeuwissen.nl or instagram: @everydayfoodsituations