Solo – in the company of food
Eating scene, 2018
Solo is an eating scene for a single person. The aim is to break today’s traditional way of eating alone at a restaurant through a series of instruments, arranged in a specific order, combined with a set menu. The eating experience is a melody, conducted by the instruments. By presenting different alternatives and choices along the way, there is also space for the guest to jam. To compose their own experience and make their own kind of music.
To slow down, think, look, taste, feel, reflect, evaluate, act and compose. To activate and stimulate the hands, the heart and the brain, to really appreciate the situation and to give time for oneself through the act of eating.
Solo — in the company of food.
Handcrafted in Sweden.
Material: beech, marble (Perlato Rosato), glass, silver, sponge, ceramic, linen, rubber and cork.
Special thanks to Yasar Aydin, Hannu Hietamäki, Petter Brandt, Simon Klenell, Rasmus Nossbring, Emil Karlén and Astrid Textiles.
Photo: Petter Brandt
“”I’ve been exploring the act of eating and the scene that appears around the material food, through workshops, experiments and by collecting peoples’ personal stories — experiences and memories.
How can something so ordinary as the act of eating be so equivalent with the company of others, for us to consider it as a valuable moment? When there is no company around we intend to eat like pigs, swallowing pasta rapidly while holding the plate in one hand, or finishing half of our take away meal before we’ve even climbed over our doorstep. In a restaurant we’re often seated behind the bar, able to witness the chefs making food, or we’re in front of a screen whose purpose is to compensate the loss of human company and interaction.
When company is missing for the moment, our time for food, or the actual amount of time we’re willing to spend on the act of eating, seems non existent. Sometimes when we for a change really grant ourselves that time, we, or the people surrounding us, seem to be in a febrile state of mind, scanning and looking all over in search of some company.
The Barcelona based architect firm MAIO, is forecasting a change when it comes to housing and how tomorrow’s apartments will be equipped for their inhabitants needs. The kitchen doesn’t necessary need to be an obvious part of housing in the future. Today it’s possible to have your breakfast, lunch and dinner at places serving food 24/7. The way of living, including these options is linked to a modern lifestyle, high status and privilege.
The need of space and time for ourselves, also in the non-home-environment, is maybe more important than ever before. We’re multitasking and are always connected to our devices and the cloud. We’re living in an era of the eye, with our body seated in a chair, a couch or a bed. Except for our thumbs, that are swiping in patterns over the screens, the rest of our body is in relaxing mode. We are following the life of others through our social medias, and we even know what our neighbor is having for dinner only by swiping to the left, to the right, down or up. The moment we’re not in others company we connect ourselves and enter the digital world instead. Always in the cloud, never alone.
The body is biologically and through history built to be in constant movement. Designed to be able to carry children, to farm, to fish and to build — to move for survival. Today we’re facing problems such as overweight and back related injuries and issues. We’re literally sitting down and observing as our health becomes damaged and impaired. We eat processed food which contains unknown content, served on a silver plate along with the statistics of our nightmares, flown in from areas we know little of.
We happily accept, partake, bite, chew, close our eyes to avoid the truth and swallow it all down. What happened to the hand? Perhaps it’s no surprise that some of our most memorable meals are the ones where we ourselves are included in the act of making the food. Someone remembers the smell of freshly ground cardamom, another how important it was for the pancake batter to be entirely whipped clean without even a smallest lump of flour still hiding in it. The third, how a really perfect dough feels in the palm of your hand.
Through a series of instruments I want to show some of the potential that is to be found in the act of eating alone. To encourage a greater presence in the present moment through slowness and awareness. By slowing down a bit we can allow some space and time for contemplation and sensibility to grow within ourselves. By allowing things to take their time, we’re also opening up for creating something bigger and broader.
The table is tall and lengthened. The lone napkin symbolizes that it’s meant for a single person. I want the guest and the food to slowly wander side by side, being able to take pauses and make sensitive choices during the process. I want to encourage the guest to have a dialogue with oneself, but also with the food that’s presented - to see the food as the company.
Symmetric and repetitive lines and shapes create a rhythm. The scales of the instruments are customized for exploring the food, one by one, every bite for its own. To encourage sensitivity but also offer the guest the possibility to stay within the norms of what we refer to as acceptable table manners in our culture. By presenting a new setting, it’s also easier for the guest to break rules and manners. Or to come up with their own. The no right-or-wrong is hopefully creating a more inviting scene for those who aren’t familiar with our table manners, compared to a traditional table setting at a fancy restaurant.
The guest faces numerous options, such as a small nipper and toothpick instruments constructed with the purpose for moving bites of food. Another selection is a brush for sticky and wet ingredients. And for the dry parts the hand comes closer.
I don’t want to say that people should, or shouldn’t, eat this or that. But by slowing down the pace I think reflection and awareness around where the food comes from, flavors and combinations come automatically. But also by inviting the guest to be present in the process of creating that greater value. Perhaps the quality of the food is not determined by that exotic oyster, flown in from the other side of the world. Instead, maybe it’s possible to refine that locally farmed carrot and transform it into a new and exploding sensation of taste - an experience of food to remember.
Pipettes in the company of small glass bowls remind the guest of laboratories and the world of experiments. The number of instruments tell that the procedure can be repeated. You have more than one chance to try out your own combinations. To redo, to change your mind, to wander off and then return again. To compose and jam.
The hand blown glass is whispering to us about fragility and transparence. Ceramics and silver are familiar material choices in the current situation, but here presented in a new way and scale. Everything locally handcrafted. The table top in marble, the small plates of solid silver and the glass cloches make it possible to elaborate with both heat and cold in the process.
Some of us might be in a greater need than others, but I think that a more stimulating and activating eating process, can benefit many. A tool to use for help when it comes to how we value the time we share with ourselves, how we value our choices of food and how to increase the value of the act of eating. Solo — in the company of food.””
Sofia Almqvist, designer, May 2018