The equation begs the question "Food plus design equals what?" And with world hunger we might even ask if this should even be a question.
Whether or not it should or shouldn't, I've had tastes of possible answers from the French culinary designer Marc Bretillot - most recently this week at Maison & Objet - the consumer product trade show held twice a year near Paris.
Bretillot created a milk bar called A Boire (To Drink) within a walk-through installation entitled Animality - an exhibition exploring the forecasted trend of Beauty and the Beast - think fur, feathers, and whimsical luxury.
On tap - or rather in tall plastic shot glasses slightly melted under a salamander - he offered the following drinks - all cow's milk:
La Cigale (The Cicada): virgin olive oil, sugar, milk
L'Oiselait (The Oddbird): smoked salt, milk, hay, flax seed, brown sugar granules
Le Parasite (The Parasite): carbonated milk, lemon juice, sweetened condensed milk, blue poppy seeds
The drinks were on the warm side of cool - from sitting out under hot lights. The olive oil was more of an aroma than a taste. In fact most of the ingredients were added in such a small quantities that they were hardly noticeable - even the carbonation was slight. They were as you might expect - barely sweet, barely salty - sour, carbonated, crunchy, etc.
What was fascinating though were the reactions of the visitors. Their initial hesitations could be well understood since this was not a food show. But while most of them appeared to be quite creative themselves - in their funky, designer fashions - many declined to take a single sip. And those who did - and remember what I said about the subtle flavours - reacted quickly, strongly, and negatively.
The poster is a portrait of Bretillot - with his head as a cow's udder.
The main course was lamb shank suspended by a string over mashed potatoes and gravy - in a custom-made candelabra. There was a definite sense of ceremony - but the food itself while tasty enough was basically average bistro fare - and cold.
If what I've said seems to be criticism of Bretillot's work, it's not - not at all. Again, he's not a chef - he's a culinary designer. What does that mean? I guess that's another question we can consider - through cultural and personal exploration. And for me - as a cook and a diner - that thought-provocation is perhaps the great value of his work.