Foodie culture today seems loved and scorned in equal parts. Why? Feinschmeckers and gourmands have existed forever, yet food is suddenly a topic in culture at large. "Food has moved from physical necessity to the epicenter of constant attention through media, public opinion, and status," write the researchers behind Food Thinking, a study of emerging food culture in European countries. "Suddenly, everything is about food!"
Intent on discovering what’s driving the renaissance, a team from the German design and innovation consultancy Gravity spent the past few months traveling from country to country, interviewing chefs and shoppers about their eating habits. They dumpster dove with freegans, visited the lab at a molecular gastronomy pilgrimage site elBulli, and talked with emerging chefs in Spain and the U.K. Food Thinking lays out their findings across 18 interviews, 127 ideas, and six theoretical "concepts" that imagine how our "social obsession" with food will articulate itself in advertising next.
The Gravity team threw themselves down the rabbit hole, pushing the prevalent trends in food culture to absurdist extremes. The six concepts "reflect what we saw during our research and give an indication [of] what food can look like in the future," they explain. It’s hard not to be cynical about the gimmicks that grab our attention as consumers. Some of the best—Hermès potatoes!—would be right at home in a gallery, functioning as critiques of consumer culture. Others are more thoughtful, like a netting that attaches to the cover of a dumpster, intended to hold "still good" foods above the mass of trash below it.
The basic insight? "Food is no longer about physical, emotional, or even social needs. It revolves around self-expression and status." Like any other mode of self-expression, it holds a mirror up to culture at large. Whether that means buying potatoes that correspond to your net worth on the free market, or getting to know the cow you plan to eat in a few months a little better, well, that’s on you.
Check out the six concepts in the slide show above, or head over to Food Thinking for more.