To find out about our vision read statements of Linda Lezius, founder and eating designer at Wild & Root for an interview of Foodora.
What’s today’s relation between people and food?
The relation between people and food is continuously changing. In the past the purpose of food was mainly to feed us and keep us alive which also explains our former life as hunters and gatherers. The demographic growth forced us to start agriculture and produce more calories per country in shorter time. Less to create higher quality, but more quantity. The French anthropologist and ethnologist Claude Lévi-Strauss defined cooking as the first act of civilization and handcraft. Therefore we developed traditions and rituals around cooking and growing in an ongoing effort to adapt to our current needs which are also based on the political and economical condition of our individual country.
Over the years we optimized and modified our products so that we reached the peak of highly processed food with lots of sugar and bad fats, which we call “convenience food”. Michael Pollan highlights this in his documentary Cooked with a wonderful TV commercial of the 60s that summarizes the great advantage of convenience food by allowing “mothers to read the news” and let them participate in the world’s happenings. This clearly shows that food always adapts in order to fulfill the need of the current socioeconomic situation.
Currently the trend is to go back to our roots. We want to know what is inside our food, where it comes from and who has grown it. It is about natural products with a story behind it.
The desire of being industry-independent, authentic and transparent leads us back to a trend of growing herbs, fermenting cabbage and baking cakes just like our grannies used to do. We want to do it ourself, opposed to having it conveniently served to us, and we are eager to learn the handcraft that is slowly disappearing.
How can food become a medium to convey meaningful messages?
Food is a powerful tool that can convey many different messages.
First, we have the direct influence of food on our lifestyle. As it is something we put inside our bodies it has a huge impact on our overall wellbeing and in a time where we are confronted with a lot of external conflicts, such as environmental issues, political and economical instability, we increasingly focus on the factors evolving around ourselves and we are getting more aware of our diet and the products we use and consume.
Food is also a great medium to connect people. Everyday we eat in several different places with different people. The act of eating no longer only serves the purpose of feeding ourselves but has rather become a social element that creates a sense of belonging and allows us to define our culture through food. It creates cross-cultural conversations and allows us to find commonalities between seemingly different nationalities. This automatically makes us more receptive to new influences and curious about foreign customs and practices. Through traditional dishes for example, we are immediately immersed into the culture, history and traditions of a country and can simultaneously educate ourselves in the most pleasant and delicious way.
Through cooking we are not only confronted with the many components of our food but simultaneously start to question what we are actually consuming. Consequently the demand for regional and seasonal produce grows for its positive impact and health benefits. There is a growing appreciation for the environment and the amazing produce that grows in front of our doorstep. This is a key element of what we try to achieve at Wild & Root. Through the interactive elements we incorporate at our events, we raise awareness for the amazing benefits of locally grown, organic produce, as well as playfully including our guests in the creation of their meal to create a unique experience.
In some cases it even serves as a political tool and makes a statement, using the power of hunger strikes or boycotting certain foods and brands for example, to voice our discontent of certain political powers and unethical behaviors. Whether it concerns politics, economy or the environment, food is a powerful tool for carrying different messages.
What messages is food able to convey?
As mentioned before there are many different ways food can be used for more than just eating.
One of the messages we put a big emphasis on at Wild & Root, is a sensitive consciousness of the healing power of food. We want to highlight the great value that is growing on our fields and motivate to take advantage of it. By beginning to use basil to cure your headache instead of buying aspirin, for example.
We try to inspire people to delve into the world of natural plants that are full of health benefits. We stage performances focusing on our “main actors”, which are the regional and seasonal products, in an installation that allows them to narrate their own super powers and health benefits. In our opinion, food can tell its own story if people look at it from the right perspective, which leads us to our mission at Wild & Root: Sharing, learning and experiencing. We underline traditions and crafts that can be passed on over generations through recipes and special dishes. Every meal comes with stories and an exchange of experiences. The moment our guests take a seat at our table, the food ignites a conversation between strangers. We encourage them to talk about their last visit to the farmers market or reminisce about their fondest culinary memory from their childhood.
Food also plays a leading role in social campaigns such as “ action against hunger” (a charity dinner curated by famous chefs and restaurants where the collected money is donated to charities fighting famine around the world) and “Über den Tellerrand kochen” (where refugees get to cook and sell their native dishes to share their culture and customs with the public and raise money to support refugee organizations). At “Schnippeldisko” (organized by Slow Food Youth) vegetables that would have been neglected because they don’t conform to the general expectation of how a vegetable should look, are processed into a soup to raise awareness of food waste and critical thoughts about TTIP and factory farming, to name a few examples.
People today are increasingly making conscious choices about what they eat and why they eat it, which are often driven by ethical, environmental and health-related factors, and they are also very vocal about it. There is currently an overflow of food blogs and food documentaries and it’s a great thing as it clearly depicts the increasing interest and awareness of the multifaceted role food as a mean of communication plays in our everyday lives. At Wild & Root we understand that in order to make a positive impact and be good to ourselves and our community, we need to support each other and create a strong network of like-minded people. Therefore we put a great emphasis on collaborating with young and local producers, cooks and artists, and spreading the concept around “conscious consumption” by making it accessible to everyone, regardless of their background and specific nutritional preferences.
Food today is also very democratized. One doesn’t need to spend a lot of money or have a special set of skills to enjoy food. You can cook a simple meal at home, go out for dinner at a fancy restaurant or follow a strict diet, but there are no rules when it comes to the choices you make for yourself. Of course it can seem daunting at first to cook a meal from scratch but you can be open and experimental and try out lots of different techniques and ingredients, that suit yourself. You can enjoy your Döner from around the corner and have a vegan super bowl the next day. Once you discover the variety of choices and the explosions of taste, it opens up a whole new world filled with discovery, surprises and new experiences. Leave your comfort zone and do whatever feels and tastes right to you!