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Taste Slowly Taste Slowly

Taste Slowly

by Elizabeth Thacker Jones
October 25, 2009

Last month on Governor's Island in New York, Droog's design festival, Pioneers of Change, featured an interesting take on a pop-up restaurant, created by a designer speaking today at Pop!Tech. Inspired by the recent economic downturn and a low-brow haute ethos, the Go Slow Cafe celebrated design as it relates to reclamation, re-use, amusement, and slow food. A print hung in the entranceway that read: Taste Slowly.The cafe, a traveling installation, was set up in one of the abandoned Army quarters built on the island in the 1890s.  With limited electricity, the cafe is designed to use as little energy as possible. The project's designers-Marije Vogelzang of the Dutch design and architecture collectives Proef and Sloom; and Hansje van Halem-had elderly volunteers from a senior center prepare and plate the prix fixe dishes slowly and by hand.

Patrons were given felt slippers to wear. The tea bags were hand-sewn. Even the walnuts were cracked to order. All the food was served on reuseable wooden boards, laser cut with a diagram that visualized how far each element of the meal traveled to get there: local food was served in generous portions, while ingredients from far away were served in progressively smaller amounts. Heaps of greens from a rooftop in Greenpoint, a couple olives from Turkey, and a dab of Dutch licorice known as zwart wit. "Chew Slowly," said another print."I use food to communicate my ideas," Vogelzang says. "It's about the verb of eating. It could be the harvesting, cooking, eating, or going to the toilet afterward."Shortly after news of the six-day Go Slow Cafe hit the internet (as soon as bloggers found the single patch of wireless on the island), the Department of Health arrived and shut the installation down due to confusion over its permits: Was the installation required to follow the rules for a private event, a restaurant, or a food truck?   Vogelzang took it in stride. In the past, her projects have brought attention to the intersection of celebrating terroir and quality control, having once used an empty reservoir basin to host a tasting of the Netherlands's 12 different tap waters, bringing attention to their different properties, asking us to take a micro-local approach to regulating agricultural and food consumption.Vogelzang will discuss her work today between 11 and 12:30 Eastern time at the Pop!Tech (watch it here). She will also be creating a "Pasta Sauna" as part of Performa 09, new visual art performance biennial in New York City, in early November.Guest blogger Elizabeth T. Jones is a design strategist specializing in food design and green innovation.  She lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
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