|[Food for Thought] Chapter 7 - Food and Shelter
||[Nov. 8th, 2010|05:37 pm]
Food and Shelter|
1) What are your experiences of eating?
Because I live in a family of four, with parents that both work full-time and a sister that attends school regularly like I do, I am immersed in the daily, "go-go" routine of suburban life. My breakfast time is fleeting in the morning, and it serves mostly as a method of quelling my hunger before I make an inevitable dash for the morning bus. When it comes to lunch, things can be quite paced and enjoyable, but sometimes lunch is lost in the daily bustle of school, and instead it becomes a series of small snacks throughout the day. Luckily, dinner with my family usually feels like the truly celebrated and honored meal of the day. Though my dad will often arrive late, or not at all (seeing as he spends a lot of time traveling), dinner is almost always a chance to enjoy family company and a hearty meal, even it it sometimes exists in front of the TV.
Unfortunately, eating in my life is never truly about an enlightening experience. I have been privileged enough to indulge in some of the more elegant foods of western culture on formal nights out, and I've been given opportunities to experiment with some more "exotic" food items, but never in my life has eating really been an experience beyond the satisfying of a grumbling stomach. Never have I connected with food spiritually, never have I desperately sought out food as a means of survival and never have I been apart of ceremonial food preparation. One of my vaguely significant experiences with the brevity of food was merely partaking in a Christian family's prayers prior to dinner. In recent memory, nothing about eating food has ever made me consider anything more than... the act of eating food.
Eating is straight-forward in my life. It is a meal prepared because it's "that time of day" or because "it will stop your complaining." Even family gatherings in my life have no major implications. If anything, they are about a common perception of a North American routine. I meet with family on Thanksgiving because it's what we've always done, and not because we feel a serious need to exchange "thanks". Outside of the family complex, I eat because I'm hungry. Or, because food is so readily available everywhere I go during a day, I eat because I see something appetizing and because I can have it prepared for me at a modest price. Even when my friends and I make somewhat "ritual" runs to a local McDonalds or IHOP, there is no sense of great importance in our eating. Admittedly, we're eating because we all have indulgent sides, with money at our disposal and a reckless abandon towards the serious health implications of "all-you-can-eat" pancakes.
2) What besides hunger is being satisfied?
While food can seem quite materialistic and one-dimensional in western society, it is still a pivotal aspect of human nature. It may often come in copious amounts and may be wasted frequently, but there is a certain satisfaction that everyone can obtain from it. For most, food isn't spiritual fulfillment. Rather, it is a method of a common, 9-to-5 working day routine. Food means schedule, as western society often defines a day through its three square meals. While a food schedule is not strictly adhered to, everyone can recognize the time of day with its parallel meal. At noon, the thought of lunch has passed through the head of every employee of the company. When some one sleeps late into the day, they know that they've missed breakfast. Food helps our society through the regiments it warrants.
Food also works hand-in-hand with many events and outings. In this way, food satisfies our leisure time. Regardless of being hungry or not, many people will instinctively purchase popcorn at a movie theater. Outings to a fair often warrant mass food consumption, as do sporting events. We can go even further to say that food is an excuse to go out. Food gives us opportunities for dinner at a friend's house, for a quick run to McDonalds, and for business luncheons. This is true because food satisfies a sense of social interaction and togetherness. Many groups of friends will decide upon random dinner outings, simply because restaurants are that common ground of conversation exchange and bonding. Beyond a circle of friends, food satisfies family. The term "family dinner" is more than just a common term. When family and extended family get together, food is often the central focus for the night. In addition, food is a venue for romance. A romantic dinner is symbolic of any burgeoning love, and will often serve the further developing of love. Some go as far as to consider many food "aphrodisiacs", and often use certain food items to inspire and strengthen sexual desire.
Though sometimes questionable in practice, food can also satisfy urges for competition. Food eating contests occur quite regularly, even resulting in leagues, institutions, and awards. Although many find such practices repulsive, others find exhilaration in the rapid consumption of hot dogs. In addition, many see food as a chance for experimentation and personal competition. Spicy foods can be consumed without any intention of satisfying hunger, but instead satisfying a sense of accomplishment and courage. Amongst friends and Internet culture, contests like the "Cinnamon Challenge" and the "Gallon Challenge" have been trialed by many. Food may even begin to do harm to the human body, but it still, in many prospects, proves vigor, determination, and raw solidarity. In terms of competition, chef skills are another common outlet. Western society is well aware of shows like "Iron Chef America" and "Chopped", but cooking competitions occur everywhere. Chili cook-offs, cake designing competitions, oyster shucking speed rounds, all happen quite regularly and with respected honors. When it comes to being a chef as a means of income, food is a means of profession. Food can be a means of academics, and even a means of carrying on family honor. If one so chooses to open up a restaurant, food can even inspire establishment.
Most characteristically of our society however, may just be food's ability to satisfy boredom. Indeed, many individuals find food as something to keep their hands busy. Food is something to watch in front of the TV, and something to make when you have time on your hands.
3) What food images have you seen today?
Images of food that I see today usually revolve around the advertisement of food. Because food is produced in such mass quantities and at such rapid rates, it is available everywhere one goes throughout their day. With the domination of fast food restaurants, privately owned restaurants, and convenience stores, the human population is barraged with food images on a constant basis. While there is evidence of design and composition in many of these advertisements, many of them can't be considered as works of fine art. If true artistry does exist in modern food advertisement, it usually lies in the process of making a food item look more appetizing than they often are. Food images we see are often highly edited, glossed-over and embellished. Food is made to look more plump, rich, and juicy, and many ads will actually go the extent of making it look like as if it is served in larger quantities than in actuality. Advertisements for food wish to achieve the bold and the pristine, but never the mystifying or the thought-inducing.
Beyond advertising, food doesn't appear as prominently as it once did it art. Still life isn't the phenomena that it once was. I could even dare to say that food has lost it's beauty of simplicity in today's modern art. Though still life is still a respectable method of improving one's work with shape, light, shadow, and colour, it no longer dominates gallery institutions. Interestingly enough, art today often looks towards the commercial nature of food. It looks to portray art in much the same fashion that it is distributed. Art today illustrates food in excess, in large proportions and in "supersizes". It also looks to incorporate the figures that come to represent food. Artists like Ron English portray mascots and spokespeople, often as the money-peddling, domineering figures that they are. With a keen sense of how food is so startlingly abundant, many artists choose to give food a grotesque appearance, representing it in its most extreme forms. The cover for Animal Collective's "Strawberry Jam" is one such example of this portrayal. Avey Tare photographed the album cover to embellish the strawberry jam as strikingly rich, lucid and glistening. Today's food images go beyond original surface appeals. They also portray the experience of eating, the humor in eating, the sickness in eating, and how eating may generally affect our lives.
4) How often can architects design housing with alternative materials, when construction workers are trained to use wood?
When it comes to designing with alternative materials, modern practices are leading architects to design houses with alternative materials quite frequently. Many precincts have actually taken to enforcing the use of alternative housing materials, as the damaged environments around us nearly demand salvation. With the world's energy resources being used up faster than ever and the onslaught of predicted Global Warming effects, human beings are taking noticeable steps towards the redemption of the environment. When added with the advancements of the computer age, overpopulation, suburban sprawl, and economic boom and bust, alternative housing becomes a very tempting option.
Some notable alternative materials include cardboard, car tires, ceramics, rubber and recycled plastics, glass, bamboo, straw and cob, and even aluminum cans. Some designers have even been so bold as to harness inflatable materials, rammed earth, and beer cans. Just as well, there a huge amounts of "sustainable" woods that can be used without causing any concern. River wood, reclaimed or salvaged wood, dead timbers, all can be used with leisure.
While initial perceptions would lead people to believe that construction with these materials would cause difficulties, this has actually been disproved. Many alternative materials follow the same basic principles of wood, and when it comes to other, more unnatural materials, construction workers can easily adapt. Using glass and car tires can be very straight-forward. If problems do arise with left-field products, workers are often willing and eager to be trained.
Although not entirely widespread and popular, alternative housing is springing up more often around North America. Housing has appeared in Toronto, Connecticut, Kentucky, New Mexico, Texas, and even New York. It is an appealing option for eco-buffs, outdoors-men, those who prefer isolation and, those who are strapped for cash. Around the world renowned architects are creating award-winning houses with the enlisted help of a team of workers. These workers work very closely with the architect, and thus learn methods of construction through first-hand experience. While still overlooked through the world's increased needs for fast, reliable, and luxury housing, it should be recognized that reliable housing could prove significant in times to come.
5) Should urban planners and architects have utopian concerns as the basis of their work?
The idea of a "utopia" is tempting to many. It has a very futuristic appeal in its aesthetic, and it can result in highly structuralized, ordered living. The utopian ideal is well suited for improved public transit, cleanliness, and even behavioral changes in humans. However, initiating a utopian template for a developing city also means the deconstruction of that city (to a certain extent). Utopian concerns often involve the ridding of a city's underbelly. For many, this means the destruction of culture. While much a city may be dilapidated, dirty, and rundown, it is nonetheless embedded with an overwhelming amount of history and symbolism. Communities often become attached to their surroundings, even when they're fully aware of how unappealing their living might be. This is because life in a rustic area brings a sense of attachment. Families may have lived in a certain community for generations, historical events may have taken place within certain buildings, and cultures may have been born. When big corporations move into parts such as these with plans of installing mega malls, hotels, and casinos, they spark an outrage.
For this reason, urban planners and architects should not have utopian concerns as the basis of their work. The controversy that can surround new urban planning is far too drastic too be tampered with. Of course, this isn't to say that the utopian vision should be abandoned. Utopian designs can be applied in small factors without prompting heated backlash. Large metropolitan cities today show signs of utopian intellect in their apartments, their town-housing complexes, and their mall districts. In addition, many utopian designers have taken to creating whole new communities that don't intrude on new cities at all. While ambitious and often costly, projects like the "Three Palms Islands" in Dubai have been met with critical acclaim. The Palm Jumeirah is already quite handsomely populated, with developed housing and even a monorail system. While not the cold, calculated example of a utopia that many would expect, the Three Palms Islands do create a sense of idealism, improved living, and social management. In senses such as these, the utopian ideal should appear as a promising prospect for designers and planners. It shouldn't, however, be a ruling cause at the base of all concerns.