Food + Design + Cities

I went to a one day meditation lifestyle workshop, amongst other things it talked about Ayurevedic cooking and food.  It highlighted qualities of food that impact mind, heart, senses and spirit.  He defined 3 classes-

1. Sattvic foods are uplifting, help our curiosity, mental clarity, emotional serenity, sensual balance

2 Rajasic foods help us ‘to do’ and stimulate, and can aggravate some aspects of mind

3 Tamasic food make us stop/rest,  breeds lethargy and deterrent to spiritual growth.

Tamasic food is what we should avoid as it makes us negative. and low energy. This included having left overs, mircowaved food, processed food, alcohol etc.  I was a little surprised about the leftover food idea.   This had also come up in discussion with some recent overseas house guests who were picky about this, and also recalling my great Aunt was much the same about having meals made fresh daily.    Some people in the workshop questioned how practical this was, raising the fact we live such busy lifestyles, and reheating meals is totally norm in my house.  Like most things it’s probably achievable lifestyle change with the desire, discipline and action to be organised and mindful.

I had imagine growing up in Vietnam, our  older “picky” relatives probably had access to food in such a different way.    I believe lifestyle, culture, and city form are all are vicious circles of each other.  It is a chicken before the egg kind of question of which one really comes first.

The teacher also linked the modern culture of poor Tamasic foods were contributing to our angry, negative and violent society.  Surely food is not the only factor, but I kind of see how that theory makes sense.  The social links to food has been of some personal interest in relation to community building.  During IwB research, it was showing how access to food was linking to disadvantaged groups, and poor social outcomes in Toronto’s inner suburbs. On the flip side, many cities are showing how food initiatives (community gardens a classic case) could be such strong community building projects.  Community dinner and food was core element to the BYO BQE event I helped organise earlier in the year.

Food &  Design definitely seems to be a trend as summarised beautifully in Dezeen.   I had done Terra Farm – a summer workshop in New York about urban agriculture, and I hardly think there would have been such interest in the topic 5 years ago.   From a physical design point of view, part of me thought, well ‘how hard can it be?” (some dirt and more plants in the city).   It is technicially much more complicated as I later learnt, especially in the rooftop farming ideas, but I still don’t think that the built form is the biggest challenge to food in cities.

I think the harder part is the whole cultural shift around food.  For me that doesn’t even yet happen at my individual level.  I’ll admit to bad eating habits. I still shop in big box supermarkets.  I wish to get more into cooking because I do enjoy it.  I would like to grow my own plants, expect I just haven’t to much extent using space as an excuse.  Permaculture class had been on my to-do list for awhile.    It all just hasn’t been a priority.  I’m probably also just lazy.  So prehaps a challenge to myself is to practice what I professionally preach.

I don’t know what it takes to change the world, or shift cultures –  a “revolution” according to the chef Jamie Oliver.  That and some big systems design thinking at all levels, to drive “top-down” policy and the support the rising “bottom-up” community action.

I’ll go think about it after I badly mircowave my lunch of Tamasic food

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