“About four years ago, I read that we are eating too much meat and that we are doing irreversible harm to our planet. I wanted to approach this problem in a creative and openminded way that involved the industry’s butchers rather than propose alternatives,” Dutch graphic designer Carolien Niebling tells It’s Nice That. Carolien recently completed her master’s at ÉCAL – where she now works as a teaching assistant – and specialised in food-related design. Her latest publication, The Sausage of the Future, is a vibrant and immaculately curated publication that traces the various building blocks of sausage-making and explores the moistness, flavouring, glue and preservation of different types.
The Sausage of the Future is made up of brilliantly vivid photographs, inventive illustrations and comprehensive explanations and the book’s strength lies in its ability to marry scientific accuracy with compelling design. Structured into four sections; theory, method, material and result, Carolien worked closely with butcher Herman ter Weele over three years to develop new sausage recipes that could help reduce levels of meat consumption. “One example is the blood sausage made of chocolate, almonds and apple, which comes from an ancient Italian dessert that is sweet and delicate with a tangy apple centre. This sausage arose from Herman’s desire to popularise the blood sausage among young people. The challenge was overcoming people’s psychological aversion to eating something ‘scary’ like blood; the sausage is now chocolate-brown rather than blood-brown,” the designer explains.
Carolien’s ability to seamlessly combine facts with art is exemplified in the various collaged spreads of the deconstructed meaty goods. The insect paté, for example, features mealworms and milk foam against a backdrop of a grasshopper’s wing, while the heart fuet is represented by multiple images of individual fennel seeds and salt crystals against a closeup of a cow’s heart. The dismantled mortadella is, however, the book’s showstopper, featuring vibrant photographs of pork pieces, broccoli, carrots, romanesco, cauliflower and pistachio nuts. The result is a mosaic of unconventional shapes in shades of pink, green and blue.
“As I worked on this project with the support of ÉCAL, The Sausage of the Future has become a very visual book. It was important to have the reader understand the book’s basic ideas just by flipping through it, even though the proper eye-opening moments occur when reading it,” Carolien says. The book’s accessibility is in part due to graphic designer Helge Hjorth Bentsen’s illustrations that depict anything from the sausage’s anatomy to the meat-mincing process. Helge’s drawings can be understood as innovative interpretations of encyclopaedic diagrams and, in this way, blur the lines between factual information and art.
The Sausage of the Future’s images are taken by three different photographers: Jonas Marguet, Emile Barret and Noortje Knulst, all of whom were commissioned by Carolien. Jonas Marguet captured “portraits” of each sausage as Carolien asked him to “visualise their characters: mysterious, chic, humble and clean or bold and strong”. Emile Barret’s striking images depict the individual ingredients involved in various types of sausage, breaking the finished product down into bitesize fragments. Emile Barret and Noortje Knulst also snapped documentary-style shots of different butchers’ production methods.
“The fact that we need to eat less meat does not mean that we have to get rid of the existing meat processing industry. We just need to tweak and adapt it. I hope to inform butchers that they can keep their jobs by evolving in line with growing environmental concerns. Aside from that, I want to inspire people to think differently about what and how they eat. We need to stop excluding certain foods because of temporary fads and fashions. We should embrace everything edible available to us inside and outside the supermarket and include it in our diets in a sustainable way.”