By Joe La Delfa.
In my favourite scene of Ratatouille, an anxious waiter tentatively asks Anton Ego, a food critic as equally feared as he is renowned, if he was ready to order. Anton sharply replied, “You know what I’m craving? A little, perspective. That’s it! I’d like some fresh, clear, well-seasoned, perspective.” The waiter was understandably confused, how can your food deliver an underlying value when it is generally taken on face value?
An important aspect of design is education, if a design can cause you to question, then the opportunity is there to change your attitude, awareness and ultimately your behaviour as a consumer. Unusual weather patterns caused by human activity are affecting the crops of previously abundant foods. This in turn affects the supply; potentially eradicating the food source all together. It’s a problem we are blissfully unaware of; if we pay attention to our monthly receipts we may notice an increase in the price of our peanut butter, but nothing sharp enough to cause inquiry. As far as we know, as long as we can afford it we can buy it. Throw away slide shows about endangered foods do little to promote empathy; same goes for a well written news article on the low down of the cocoa industry prompting little more than food for thought (pardon the pun). It takes an experience to really evoke thought and promote sustainable consumer choices.
The Ghost Food truck causes us to think about where our food comes from and introduces us to the idea that food crops are at the mercy of drought, overfishing and extreme heat. Giving us an incentive to change our behaviour and treat the planet’s resources with respect. Ghost Food gives its customers a taste of a future without chocolate, cod and peanut butter by combining the scent of the food with a rubbery, tasteless substrate. The vegetable protein and algae is served in a white box, accompanied by a wearable mask, which fits over the nose, holding a scent bulb in place. A bout of mental gymnastics is required to put two and two together, and the result is a sterile yet nauseating experience that is certainly not greater than the sum of its parts.
Product design can draw heavily from these concepts, as products are taken on face value also. In some instances, products are considered as disposable food. Bought, used and disposed of with little regard as to where it came from and where it’s going. If a product can provoke the same thoughts and feelings as Ghost Food, then we, as designers have a better chance of creating genuine change, as the user is made aware every time they use the product.
So the next time you are ordering a meal at a restaurant try your meal with a dash of perspective to taste. Not only will you appreciate the wonderful flavour, but the wonderful series of events that allows the food to be there in the first place.