Designing food cultures

Sonia Matos

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Portugal’s relationship with the sea is integral to our understanding
of the country’s history and cultural identity. However when thinking
of the Atlantic Ocean most Portuguese associate it with a glorious past as opposed to a natural resource that is essential to the country’s economic, social and environmental wellbeing (Pitta e Cunha, 2011). This contribution will present a design project that was developed as a response to this gap. With a special emphasis on sustainability, food and health, ‘Designing Food Cultures’, has proposed to study and rehabilitate local vernacular knowledge of marine edible resources such as seaweed.
Despite the country’s rich sea ecology, the recent economic crisis and the renewed interest in issues of health and nutrition, the use of seaweed has never achieved considerable impact. This situation can be associated with the slow decay of longstanding agricultural practices that are
now replaced with the import of food from elsewhere. In this climate, local vernacular knowledge of healthy aliments is replaced by a largely unsustainable system that has devastating economic and environmental consequences.
Located in the Azorean archipelago – one of Portugal’s most remote regions – the project has proposed to develop and design a cookbook
that explores the local vernacular knowledge of marine biodiversity and resources. Initiated in January of 2012, ‘Designing Food Cultures’ has also instigated a series of cooking workshops with local stakeholders such as the ‘Association of the Wives of Local Fishermen’ and professional schools where local youth develop cooking skills that will allow them to seek new job opportunities. Through these workshops, participants are able to learn about local edible seaweed as they create, and at times recreate, old and new recipes.
The workshops and consequent development of a cookbook appear as an important catalyst for change whereby new modes of gastronomic and cultural production are made possible. Even though largely misunderstood as a form of ‘humble literature’ – an idea suggested by cultural theorist Arjun Appadurai in ‘How to Make a National Cuisine’ (1988) – cookbooks have potential to redefine our cooking and eating habits at the same time reenacting valuable forms of vernacular knowledge. Hence, the project’s emphases on the value of communication design when attempting to promote healthier eating habits that are bound to a sustainable use of local resources.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2013
EventCUMULUS Dublin 2013 - National College of Art and Design, Dublin, Ireland
Duration: 7 Nov 20139 Nov 2013


ConferenceCUMULUS Dublin 2013

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • design, sustainable development, visual communication, food


Dive into the research topics of 'Designing food cultures'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this