Design can play, and is already playing, a critical role in rethinking food of the future

This question of “how” first demands for us to rethink our most fundamental relationship with food. When was the last time you squeezed a plum to determine its ripeness or thwapped a melon to listen for its juiciness? Besides sex, eating is the only thing we do that engages all of our senses – the act of putting something in our mouth, experiencing flavour through smell, texture, and taste, and then swallowing, is one of the most intimate things we can do. For all of the ways our biology is hard wired to experience pleasure, surprise, and disgust when we eat, we often know more about a Tinder date than we do our food. Asking questions around where, how, and with what types of labour our food is produced, is only the first step in having a healthy relationship with our food.

Beyond carbon emissions from transporting and storing food, I’ve come to believe that the most ethical (and delicious) approach to consumption is to eat seasonally and locally. My friend, the Japanese food educator Momoko Nakamura, introduced the Confucuian concept of “72 micro seasons” to me, a way of marking time through the observational lens of natural patterns dictated by the climate. At the time of writing, it is “bush crickets at the door” season in Japan, an autumnal moment marked by cold dew. In New York, it is apple, gourd and cabbage season at the farmers market, the perfect time for baking pies and making hearty stews. In Houston, where I grew up, my father is catching sand trout in the waters off Matagorda Bay while the shrimp migrate out of the marsh. Add some okra into the mix and a seafood gumbo sounds like the perfect dish for this Gulf Coast season.

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