In last Thursday’s blog post, “A Brief History of Culinary Innovation,” I wrote:
Technologies [like “online cooking tutorials, bookmarking digital coupons, and Instagrammed photos”] are essentially more about convenience and social sharing than changing our relationship with food itself. You can snap a photo of that meatloaf with your smartphone, upload it to Facebook, and tag your dinner guests in the pic, but the meatloaf is still meatloaf. (No offense to meatloaf.)
But, I admit, I may have spoken too soon. Consider this my formal apology to meatloaf.
Each year, the global design competition Electrolux Design Lab invites university students, both undergraduate and graduate, to present “innovative ideas for household appliances of the future.” In 2012, the theme was “Design Experience;” participants were instructed to “draw inspiration from professional experience creators (chefs, architects, interior designers, hotel designers etc.) to design home appliances that will provide a fuller sensory experience.”
The list of entrants has been narrowed down to 30 semi-finalists, hailing from 20 countries; in late October, the final 10 will compete in Milan for the top prize of a six-month paid internship at an Electrolux global design center and cash prize of 5,000 Euros.
And the competition has been fierce.
Some of the most interesting innovations that could change the way we think about, prepare, and share our meals, are:
Mexican designer Yunuén Hernández wants to bring molecular gastronomy to the home kitchen. “Until now the realm of molecular cooking has been dominated by celebrity chefs and Five Star restaurants,” her pitch explains. “With Mo’Sphere your kitchen becomes a place of exciting new creations and tastes the like you’ve never known.” Is molecular cooking just a passing fad, or is Mo’ really more?
Julian Caraulani, a designer hailing from the U.K. and Romania, is responsible for SmartPlate, “the world’s first intelligent dish that physically understands food and transforms it into sound.” The plate “wirelessly connects to your mobile device, then by measuring different aspects of your ingredients it identifies food and precisely attaches musical notes, harmonies and rhythm to each ingredient.” All of which makes me wonder: what does broccoli sound like?
The cartoonishly-named Spummy, brainchild of Brazil’s Alexandre de Bastiani, uses nanotechnology to create edible foam infused “with any flavour or combination of flavours you can imagine.” Inspired by Ferran Adrià, the inventor of flavored foam, the Spummy promises potential buyers that “the future of 5 star cuisine is possible in your own home.” Not to mention that it could bring bubble baths to a whole new level.
Treat (Tree + Eat = Treat)
Australian designer Amy Mon-Chu Liu is reimagining the way people store and preserve food by combining classic food storage techniques with mobile technology. The Treat warns cooks when food is aging by changing color and eventually dropping from the tree when expired, and can be accessed remotely by a mobile device. “Treat yourself to fresher food and more of your own valuable time with The Treat,” the pitch urges consumers.
These inventions, and the bright minds behind them, could fundamentally alter how we cook – perhaps as much as the previous technological advancements that forever changed our civilization’s relationship to food. Could the Treat become the new canning? Or Mo’Sphere replace the microwave? Only time will tell.
But the most important questions still remains: what will become of meatloaf?