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Marije Vogelzang makes you look at food differently at Maas' Wild Kitchen. 

The future belongs to rot, fermentation and mould. It is no different for a while. Indeed, it is a very pleasant prospect, even, or perhaps especially, in times of Corona. Not that we should now start eating the neighbour's too-long-uncleaned fridge en masse after three weeks of power cuts, but rotting, fermentation and mould are needed to give rise to very tasty things you can eat or drink. Think beer and wine, kimchi, yoghurt, sauerkraut and gorgonzola. That's only going to increase in the coming years.

Who can talk about that very nicely is Marije Vogelzang. She is a food designer and world-famous. Rotterdam theatre house Maas Theatre and Dance has managed to snare her for a series of lectures on food and everything around it. They can be enjoyed online, or live, after the theatre event De Wilde Keuken (The Wild Kitchen), an enormously tasty performance in which dancers, actors and designers immerse you for more than an hour in everything to do with growth, flowering and decay, and also serve you as a main course on a silver plate.

Online 'college'

The shows are almost all sold out, but so you can experience and watch the lecture online. Now 'lecture' might be a bit of a tricky word, as it brings to mind homework and studying and sitting still for a long time. So let's call Marije's lecture something else. Suggestions can be sent in the mail.

I spoke to Marije after her second lecture. This is who she is: 'I call myself food designer. I trained as a designer at the Design Academy. Then you learn to design products and that can include food products. Then people call me food designer but that's not right. I don't design food. Nature itself can do that very well. I like to look at the verb food. How do you use food between people? What is the history of food and what does that offer me as a designer? What are the cultural laws of food? You can also look at the landscape and see how our diet has changed the whole landscape.'

More products?

'As a student at the academy, like all other students, I was looking for my perfect material. Many people then choose plastic, wood or ceramic. But I wasn't actually very good at those things at all. It didn't interest me that much either. Should I make more products? The world is already full of products.'

I liked it so much that when you make something with food, it becomes part of your body. Of course, you can't do that with wood. I still get very excited that, when I make something, you put it in your body and you can also smell it. It gives you memories of the past.'

'It is a very sensitive material. There was no one else involved with food at all at the academy. It wasn't really accepted at the academy either. It was accepted by my teachers, though. The funny thing is that it was only 20 years ago. Back then, the whole idea didn't exist that everything we have problems in the world is food-related. People were not thinking about sustainability or climate change. 'Plastic soup, obesity, bee mortality, it's all food-related. That really wasn't a topic back then.'

Ready in the toilet

I rather thought: wow, I have a material here that appeals to all your senses, which is also temporary, because it decays again. You don't make an object that is ready at a certain moment. When is food ready? Is it ready when it's on the table, is it ready when you eat it, or is it ready when you go to the toilet, or was it ready when it was a plant?'

'As a designer, it's fun to see what the time factor does to your material. So who am I in that process?'

'I also started focusing on food because I have always found rituals very interesting. The first design I started with was a funeral meal. That consisted of only white food, because white is the colour of death in a lot of cultures.'

No cake and coffee?

'It was a statement against our funeral culture. Many cultures do something with food around death, and we hardly do any. So I wanted to make something really tangible, something you could share with each other. From there, I went further.'

'I also had some creative restaurants, where the concept kept changing. From that work, and organising dinners, I developed into a curator and started making exhibitions on the origins of food. I set up a foundation to provide a global platform for designers working with food. It is now a global movement.'

Is that your fault?

'I hope so, but I think it's also the zeitgeist. There are many more designers who are tired of not making more and more stuff all the time. People who produce food also don't have time to think about the deeper values. It is a very specialised profession. The quality of products is very high, but innovation lags behind, while there are also a lot of problems to solve.'

'There is room for creative people to step in. They can stand between the farmer and seed breeder, turn things upside down and question them. There is room for that now.'

You also showed ceramic objects during the lecture, which you could put on your plate between your food, so your plate looks full but you eat less. Good against gluttony. And you could also play with them. So it's all about being conscious about food?

'Consciously certainly, but also unconsciously. It's about making people take a different look at things they think they know, that they deal with every day and therefore overlook.'

'Consciousness suggests that you should only eat very sustainable food, but I think it's also important to eat something with your hands once, just to feel it. What is it like to lick your hands off, or lick each other off? That's how you sensitise yourself, by using all your senses. Part of it is endurance, but that is more of a side effect. When you start eating with more pleasure and more attention, you automatically become more sustainable.'

Good to know Good to know
Marije Vogelzang's lectures can be accessed at the Maas TD website.


Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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