From the history of curry to the future of global cooking
Food has always been tightly connected to religious or ethnic communities, making it more than just its nutritious ingredients. It also resembles a connection to our childhood and parents, making it a part of our identity.
This experiment was part of my Master's degree in Design and Technology. I chose to focus on one dish - Curry, not only because I feel a personal connection to its essence, but also because by tracking the long history of curry (here and here) I learned about its underlying Geo-political and economical aspects - from the ancient spices merchants, the “discovery” of America by Europe, to the British colonialism and the slavery in America. Immigration of people is also immigration of food. The path of curry is the path of human history.
What is the future of traditional cuisine?
During my research I discovered The recipes project. Food, Magic, Art, Science, and Medicine. In particular one article drew my attention with its sharp critique on modern colonialism. It draws a line between “the 18th century’s standardization for the visual and textual colonial taxonomies of resources in the Americas”, and modern cuisine - as depicted in Chef’s tables on Netflix.
Taking food and its ingredients out of context is something I spend a lot of time thinking about. Looking at global trends - on one side, accelerated immigration and a global market - both in logistics and digital exposure, and on the other side there’s the foodtech revolution, with lab-based foods, detached from any culture and tradition. Some aspects are quite negative, and some raise open questions and opportunities for design.
Localizing recipes through a color index
People modify recipes all the time, using local ingredients that resemble absent ones from origin locations. On the first experiment I wanted to see if I could do the same, using a methodological analysis.
With an MVP experiment mindset, I chose to focus on color alone as a recipe guidance. I used Processing.org to calculate a color average of the curry photos.
I was sceptical it was possible to successfully cook a recipe though a color guide. The experiment succeed beyond my expectations! Not only could I distinguish color differences between recipe variations, but the new flavors were interesting enough for a local take.
I took the experiment one step further: create a new cooking experience. By looking at a recipe in a more fluid and intuitive way, will people feel more connected to food? Will they enjoy making it? Will it encourage playful, creative cooking?
Instead of the Western cookbook list of 'ingredients and methods', I created an interactive experience, where each step of the recipe is color coded. It allows the amateur cook to check how they're doing throughout the cooking process, and encourages an attentive and intuitive mindset.
The recipe, illustrated
The experiment in action
The color guide: the goal color of the original recipe, color of current cooking, and what color to add for a closer match.