Culinary creativity: tuck into a week of features on how design shapes food culture
Join us in exploring the ways in which culinary culture provides a playground for creativity and community.
Creating something, be it a visual identity, artwork or just that evening’s dinner, is an act that tends to combine absolute frustration and a hopeful passion. There are days when working in the creative industry means long stretches of not much at all really. You sit at your desk pushing words and shapes back and forth, yet nothing combines in the way it’s supposed to. Even when you follow the steps you know, what education or experience has taught you maybe, it just doesn’t work. Then there are days where, from somewhere intangible, all the components suddenly appear just as they should. When we begin a day’s work there is also little knowing what kind of creativity will strike but we do it anyway, in search of the satisfaction that hits when it finally falls into place.
The same, I think – although it could just be my lack of culinary skill – can be said for cooking. There are times when you follow the same passed-down recipe you’ve made hundreds of times, but it just doesn’t taste as good. Or, you throw together the ingredients lurking at the back of the fridge and it’s the best meal you’ve ever had. As Yotam Ottolenghi describes in a conversation we had discussing the relationship between the two, it’s an irresistible process. “It takes one set of things and, like magic, turns it into something completely different,” he says.
To some readers it may be a surprise that our latest editorial campaign, made possible by our Extra Nice Supporters, explores creativity as a way to access culinary culture and community. Cooking after all lies firmly outside the usual creative disciplines we tend to write about. But as we’ve learned over the six features we’ll be publishing this week, they often follow the same steps and thoughtful discussion.
First we’ll begin by exploring the ways food in fiction is visualised, with a special focus on The Simpsons. Joined by food writer Laurel Randolph, Jenny Brewer discusses Laurel’s mammoth project, The Joy of Cooking Milhouse, in which she recreates products and recipes dreamed up in the show. Krusty Burgers, Squishees and Nacho Hats are all discussed, with Marge finally being recognised as the true hero, too.
Then, from the fictional city of Springfield we’ll head over to the Ottolenghi Test Kitchen in Camden for an introduction on the process of how to create a cookbook with Yotam and his trusted test kitchen partner, Noor Murad. Discussing their own relationship to cookbooks and the release of the first Ottolenghi Test Kitchen authored recipe book, Shelf Love, we learn from two beloved chefs about their craft and even the benefits of creative constraints in the kitchen.
“Questions around where our food comes from, how it gets there, and whose labour is required to sustain our consumption habits have suddenly become topics of everyday conversation.”LinYee Yuan
Aside from the ways in which we engage with food creatively, we’ll also spend time looking at the wider food industry and its relationship to designers in particular. We are very pleased to be publishing a piece by founder and editor of Mold magazine LinYee Yuan, one of the most exciting writers and thinkers reevaluating design’s relationship with not only what we eat, but how we eat. LinYee’s essay discusses exactly this via an in-depth look at seeding food ecologies. The pandemic, as LinYee explains, has led to “questions around where our food comes from, how it gets there, and whose labour is required to sustain our consumption habits,” becoming “topics of everyday conversation,” she writes. It’s a much-needed discussion too, with the United Nations predicting that “by 2050, we will not be able to produce enough food to feed our growing global population.”
On the other side of production, Ruby Boddington has looked at graphic designer’s contribution to this conversation in a discussion around the ways in which creatives and studios can utilise design to create tangible, long-term change. Joined by founder of Massive Change Network, Bruce Mau, Sharp and Sour Studio and Berel Abreu, the piece additionally looks at the responsibility of a designer in the context of packaging, advertising and marketing, as well as how one individual can navigate those conversations with a client. As Bebel notes within the piece: “For designers, every problem is an opportunity.”
We’ll then head across the globe in a piece by Dalia Al-Dujaili discussing food as storytelling, all via food trucks. Through conversations with Antojitos in Goa, Heisser Hobel in Germany and The Poutine Machine in Ohio, Dalia looks into how food trucks first came into fashion and why their design is all important. And finally, to end our week, we’ll be reviving our recipes feature with a series of contributions from a variety of food-focussed enterprises.
Across their different narratives each of the features we’ll be publishing daily this week explores the energetic overlap in which creativity and cooking meet. All are driven by the curiosity food seems to evoke in a creative, from the shows we watched as children to the chefs whose recipes we devour today – let alone the wider conversation our individual consumption contributes to.
Culinary Culture and Community
This story along with many others are part of our Culinary Culture and Community campaign exploring the intersection between food and creativity. To read further pieces from this series click on the link below.
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About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.