Marije Vogelzang: Playing with your food

Dutch eating designer Marije Vogelzang spoke at the Spier Secret Festival 2013 about the connections between people, rootedness and cooking in fire.

With so many people living fast lives, the simple connections between them are sometimes lost, and it is those simple connections that eating designer Marije Vogelzang sought to celebrate at the recent Spier Secret Festival 2013 in the Cape winelands.

She hosted a dinner where meat and root vegetables were moulded in clay and cooked in a pit in an open fire – an ancient Chinese method of cooking meat. Once the clay is removed, the skin of the animal effortlessly peels off the meat leaving juicy flesh inside.

"It’s eating roots but it’s also going back to our roots cooking in fire," she says.

The various types of clay used are reminiscent of human skin colours. But when the various clays are smashed open and the food inside revealed, it all looks the same. The vegetable roots are also a play on the roots of mankind, which originated in Africa.

"People will feel that they are actually a part of the food that they eat and that they are also a part of the people next to them,” she says of the dinner at Spier, which featured a long table setting of clay, shells and hammers – "anything but fine dining."

Vogelzang also speaks about food as a multi-sensory experience involving not only touching, hearing and seeing, but thoughts, emotions and associations.

She mentions one of her projects: a pop-up Go slow café in the busy centres of Milan, Rotterdam, Tokyo and NYC. Upon entering, diners took their shoes off and put on "huge slippers" that made it impossible to walk fast. They also cleaned the floor as they walked in them. The staff working in the café were elderly people, which would possibly remind the patrons of being taken care of by their grandparents.

Things that you can’t buy like somebody giving you attention, Vogelzang says of the experience.