From September 18 to 30, Roots Laboratory – ‘a cooking, making and breaking installation’ comes to London design boutique Mint. Conceived by Marije Volgelzang, founder of food-design studio Proef, Roots explores the shared culinary history of British and Dutch root vegetables. Traditional clay cooking methods are used to bake the vegetables, which are then displayed on a table landscape of sea salt and herbs.
Roots draws on the age-old tradition of baking whole animals in clay on an open fire, as practiced by the Native Americans, Roma Gypsies and the Chinese, for example. For 2008, instead of animals, we have the humble root vegetable - here baked in its sculptural shell of organic clay for two hours at 200 degrees. Now comes the fun part. To access the cooked vegetable inside, visitors are invited to smash the clay sculpture with a hammer – but not just any hammer – these have vibrant fluorescent pink handles. For dealing with stubborn uncooperative vegetables, there are also mini hatchet knives available for chopping and slicing (also accented with pink).
Potatoes, red onions, purple carrots, shallots, parsnips and swedes are all beautifully displayed in wooden pallets prior to being cooked, tasting even more fabulous due to the addition of herbs into the clay shell before baking. Tiny wooden folks and spoons have the tips of their handles decorated with scraps of herbs. As the clay is not fired at a high temperature, the broken pieces can be washed and reused or alternatively, make excellent compost for the garden.
Marije Vogelzang sees her installation as ‘an evolving terrain, connecting past and present on a modern table like an eclectic archaeological site.’
Volgelzang’s philosophy is that she designs from the idea of ‘eating’, rather than merely shaping food to fit into a pre-formed concept. Her food-design consultancy is based in Westergaspark, Amsterdam and projects range from food and design installations, as here at Mint, as well as bespoke catering for events, through to complete concepts for restaurants and cafes. Vogelzang is also in demand as a consultant for the food industry, as well as a guest lecturer at conferences and art schools. There is also a Proef restaurant in Rotterdam, created in collaboration with Piet Hekker from De Bakkerswinkel that serves organic ‘slowfood’.
In addition to Roots, Mint boutique is celebrating London Design Festival with other new works from its favourite designers. Hanging over the Roots Laboratory are two versions of the Exploded chandelier from Dutch designer Ward Van Gemert. Old brass chandeliers are disassembled and dipped in glossy black or white pigment. The pieces are then re-assembled in an ‘exploding’ form, strung along the electric wire that is also used to light the bulbs.
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