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Katja Gruijters


by Ed van Hinte

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KATJA GRUIJTERS Katja Gruijters has developed a deep understanding of the food universe. She is a food design pioneer. She was already interested in design in relation to what people eat and drink, and in thinking about the way in which food would have to develop in the future before her graduation from the Design Academy in Eindhoven in 1998. As a designer she is an early recogniser of potential by identifying the changes that are happening. These changes are all related to population growth and the ability to get and maintain food production to a sufficient level to conveniently and pleasantly feed generations to come, keeping the surface of the earth intact as a habitat for life. Katja Gruijters’ graduation project concerned the development of several meat replacing snacks in an attempt to define an authentic identity for what is referred to as ‘vegetarian meat’. Now she is no longer in favour of meat surrogates. The reason why is revealed when the principle is reversed. Suppose it made sense to promote meat consumption, would there be carnivorous greengrocers selling veal processed to look like cauliflower? To reduce meat consumption it would be more honest and real to try and seduce people into eating alternatives, such as tofu or seaweed without explicitly mimicking ‘meat’. Gruijters is particularly interested in the materials available for eating and ways in which they can be presented to seduce people to join an adventure and to experience tastes and smells, and textures that they may learn to love. The propositions she offers revolve around themes that are often ignored in the current eating culture. Aware-


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ness of origin, for instance, is important, as is the selection system that turns perfectly edible vegetables into waste. Katja Gruijters has turned this into a major subject in her work entitled Beautiful by Nature. Cultural difference is interestingly ambiguous as a theme. On the one hand, there is a common transfer of habits, rituals and ingredients, which follows globalisation. On the other hand, there is a tendency to unjustifiably ignore differences, for instance when the Americans dropped food packages in Afghanistan, which contained obscure and (to Afghans) untrustworthy foodstuff such as jam and peanut butter.

AS A DESIGNER SHE IS AN EARLY RECOGNISER BY IDENTIFYING THE CHANGES THAT ARE HAPPENING Probably the most important descriptors for Katja Gruijters’ food concepts are freshness, which does not exclude preservation, and honesty, which does not imply that all her food magic must reveal itself instantaneously. She always has tricks up her sleeve to make you wonder.


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SEA SUBMERGED FOODSTUFF A little know fact is that Dutch farmers receive subsidies for grazing cows outdoors. Th is doesn’t make sense from an efficiency and hygiene standpoint in milk and meat production or for animal wellbeing. The image, however, of black and white animals on a green tapestry plus a blue sky with white clouds above, and of course a windmill to complete the scenery, culturally defi nes Dutch industrial heritage. Spotted grazers on land help create political support for agriculture and they look lovely from train windows.


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What happens underwater can hardly be noticed. Traditionally, we dump almost all our waste there because of this. Cruise ship tourists don’t notice the mess they leave behind, because it sinks quickly. The sea has the reputation of being a limitless ‘landfi ll’. It wasn’t until recently that the vulnerability of all this salt water, our trustworthy source of life and nutrition, caught our attention. It is only now that we’re starting to fathom the complexity and scale of underwater ecosystems and the way all lifeforms are interdependent. You cannot eat a sardine without affecting its biological environment, let alone catch a shoal of them without confusing their world. We know this for a fact. Yet there is no clear picture of the sheer number of underwater species. An estimated quarter of a million species have been identified, which may represent only ten percent of the population, or more, but probably less. Discoveries are continuing. In the most recent FAO (Food



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HEALTH INCORPORATING HEALTH The most discussed, most blurry theme in the world is the relationship between what we consume and health. Every day the media spit out numerous contradictory ‘fi ndings’ about allergies, wellbeing and substances that cause cancer and prevent heart failure or the other way around. We greedily absorb these bites of ‘information’ from media, since we like our information to be like snacks: tasty and almost pointless. Talking about health and food is the equivalent of gossiping. Despite the complexity of its content, however, the range of different cause and effect relationships between food and health is not


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very wide and its elements are accessible to exploration by design. There are two fields of interest: fi rstly, the clearest effects happen when humans eat either not enough or too much. Secondly, humans may be sensitive to substances and they may consume them to cure symptoms. Those effects vary in predictability and cause the blurriness. To allow a human body to function and restore itself it needs carbohydrates, fibre, protein and various types of fat. Oh, and we mustn’t forget water! Th is is the bulk of nutrition. Deficiency of any of these has very direct and predictable effects on health. Th is is also true for crucial substances that the human body needs in only very small quantities. These produced the fi rst cause and effect relationships to be unveiled and researched, and are well documented. Discovery started centuries ago. Ancient Egyptians had already



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ALMOST EDIBLE CROCKERY An unusual project: in 2015 Rijnstate Hospital in Arnhem commissioned Katja Gruijters to develop a new disposable tray and dinner service. The project demonstrates changes in relationships between, clients, producers, users and designers. The link between food and health in this project is rather indirect, involving mealtime equipment for, admittedly, a hospital. Katja Gruijters worked together with product designer Fons Broess. The assignment concerned the development of a disposable tray to be produced by disposables manufacturer Papstar in Barendrecht, for serving breakfast and lunch to hospital patients, which was intended to become the basis for the further development of a disposable dinner service line. This provided the designers with an opportunity to rethink the entire system. Several concepts were considered, with different viewpoints as cues for development, such as new rituals with tapas or a picnic format. Another option, not necessarily contradictory to the other ones, was using the hospital’s surrounding landscape as an inspiration. All the ideas had a single principle in common: the disappearance of the tray. Either it had gone altogether or it had been more or less integrated into the disposable crockery. The name for this principle became ‘serving plate’. After analysis of the production, logistics, use and waste sequence, and studying appropriate form associations, the most promising


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idea to emerge was a set of ‘serving leaves’. In Dutch the word for leaf is ‘blad’, which, incidentally, is the same as the word for tray. The set consists of three sizes of plates whereby the smallest is also the deepest and can contain soup or porridge.

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF THE TRAY Such a set of products entails more. It is designed to become part of an entirely new composting system with considerably simplified logistics. The plates consist of cane fibers a plant-based material. The shape of the plates is derived from leaves, including the tangible expression of veins. Compostable leaf plates have to express their meaning to all users and look pleasant.


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MAKING ‘HANGOP’ OR CURDS Put organic buttermilk or yoghurt in a cloth and hang it to drip dry. After six hours it has a wonderful taste and texture. Consider similar dishes elsewhere.


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HANG AND SAVE There are so many things one can do with milk and so many milk derivatives are available, that one hardly is aware that processing milk always concerns preservation, mostly with the help of lactic acid bacteria and enzymes for cheese. Katja Gruijters, spellbound by the skill of cows to turn grass into milk, investigated old fashioned recipes for ‘hangop’ (literally ‘hang up’), or curds, which is a very close relative of cheese. The main difference is that (cottage) cheese is directly made from milk, whereas the main ingredient of curds used to be buttermilk, but now is yoghurt more often. Originally buttermilk was the drinkable leftover of churning butter. It is a fluid thick enough to be put in a wet cloth and hung. The buttermilk available in supermarkets today is skimmed milk to which lactic acid bacteria have been added, which is too watery to make curd. Organic buttermilk, however, can be up to the ‘hangop’ standards. Yoghurt is slightly different from old fashioned buttermilk because it is the result of pasteurizing milk and consequently fermenting it with bacteria. The Russians have a recipe for making ‘Tvorog’ with self made yoghurt. To explore the potential of do-it-yourself curd as a rediscovered old process – before you go to the office hang a cloth full of yoghurt from a tree and you’ll have curd for afters – Katja Gruijters developed a special cloth. She did a mood board investigation about its aesthetic qualities. In addition, she collected ‘hangop’ recipes from all over the world. ‘Hangop’ can be combined with various kinds of sweet or salty ingredients, or flowers, or nuts. The Arabic version is named ‘labne’. It is dried longer and therefore more firm. It can be kneaded into balls, to be preserved in olive oil.


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THERE APPEARS TO BE NO END TO WHAT ONE CAN DO WITH SAVOURY BREAD For bread producer Unipro that has been part of CSM Benelux since 2010, Katja Gruijters proposed ten ideas for bread snacks, five years before the merger. Once she starts to think of variation in shape, composition and packaging, there appears to be no end to what one can do with savoury bread. It can be artisanal, Mediterranean, candy sized or freshly baked in paper and warm. The trick is to open up the right market, which doesn’t work for every idea. The balance between new and familiar has to be just right.


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nieuwe helden INDUSTRIAL BELGIAN BAKERY, BREAD SNACKS, 2004 Dough can contain many different ingredients and take many shapes. A closed doughnut is one of the many concepts Katja proposed. Fill it with whatever you like.



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ABOUT TEA If you want to become a designer, get annoyed and solve your problem. One of Katja Gruijters’ most often reoccurring exasperations is the teabag. In it is often some kind of pretentious dust, and then as a guest in a restaurant, or wherever, you are left with this dripping clammy clod and nothing to properly get hold of it. In 2004 our food designer, working within the partnership Foodoo with Marielle Bordewijk, was approached by Douwe Egberts to present ideas around tea drinking. The project was named Pickwick Naturals. Foodoo presented a panoramic but concise overview of tea drinking rituals and tastes from all over the world. It reached from the very different Chinese and Japanese tea ceremonies to the tradition of drinking mate tea through a pipe in the eastern half of South-America. The Middle East has a range of traditions and of course there is English High Tea, which is slowly spreading now to restaurants in Europe. She came up with ten different tea propositions, all with an emphasis on a clear identity of ingredients and on simple ways for users to blend teas according to their own preferences. Her ideas included home-grown teas, attention for the magic of colour and purity, opportunities to do your own crushing, or to look at unfolding leaves. There even was a wooden pair of tea tweezers. She showed that tea drinking has the potential to become an ‘outside the kitchen’ communal ritual. Making tea is so delightfully simple.


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puur thee

van eigen bodem


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CHEESE ARCHITECTURE It must have been the shape of cheese, its making, and the brand Castello that evoked an architectural mood in Katja Gruijters, when in 2013 she was invited to do three food performances in the brand’s pop-up store in shopping mall New Babylon in The Hague. Castello is originally a Danish brand, which dates back to 1893. Currently the brand is produced by Arla Foods, an agricultural marketing cooperation. There is a range of spicy cheeses that each of which is characterised by its composition, shape and the way in which it is punctured with needles to bring in the mould, mostly Penicillium Candidum (white) and Penicillium Roquefort (green, blue). A punctured cheese looks quite spectacular and stacking punctured and cut cheeses and arranging them on a table, together with other tasty ingredients is not all that different from urban planning. It is no mystery then that, inspired by Mondrian’s Victory Boogie Woogie, the work of abstract architect Tadao Ando and Chinese waste arranging artist Song Dong, our designer decided to create a City Scape of cheese for her first performance. The similarity between urban sprawl and Song Dong’s work is striking. The next two performances zoomed in on more detailed Castello cheese characteristics, in particular puncturing, to show how the different colours come about and how these combine with similar ingredients and cutting. Cheeses must be cut according to certain rules to make the taste and the texture stand out. Katja doesn’t allow leftovers, so after the performances she organised a party in her studio.


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CASTELLO POP-UP STORE, THE HAGUE 2015 The moulding process and shapes as well as the precision of cutting were translated into performances around a maquette perspective of cheeses, each to be enjoyed by guests.


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Links A fatter, healthier but more unequal world A history of solar cooking Design for dreaming (Movie GM 1956) Foodlog (Dutch) Food waste facts Historical origins of food preservation hist.html Quotes about chocolate Schneider, Felicitas, The history of food wastage

Schneider_-_The_History_of_Food_Wastage.pdf Temperatures in the Arctic have increased at twice the global average These 5 demographic trends are shaping the world What’s the right diet for you? A Horizon special. Wijk E.P.A. van, Placebo en zelfheling (in Dutch) (Placebo and self healing) Zelfheling.pdf Weg met de achterbuurt (Away with slums) Interview With Jaap Seidell (in Dutch) PDF Wikipedia for defi nitions, facts and figures


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About Katja Gruijters

Author: Katja Gruijters and Ed van Hinte Graphic design: Studio Renate Boere Photography: Mike Roelofs: Cover & backcover, Jonas de Witte, Beeldontwerp, pg. 2, 4, 17, 43, 75, 88, 93, 99, 122, 124, 125, 126, 142, 144, 147, 149, 162, 163, 164, 166, 167, 168, 169, 178, 202, 210, 213, 217, 218 Marieke Wijntjes: pg. 7, 33, 37, 38, 40, 58, 113, 128, 129, 150, 151, 215, 216 Studio Katja Gruijters: pg. 19, 20, 68, 73, 79, 85, 90, 94, 98, 99, 101, 103, 119, 138, 200, 205, 208, 213 pg. 30, 31 Michiel Soeter: pg. 31, 108, 110, 116, 118, 154 Studio Oostrum Foto en Film: pg. 44, 46, 47, 48, 49, 62, 63 Annemarieke van den Broek: pg. 70 Mathilde Karrèr, Hotel Rebel, commissioned by The Flower Council of Holland: pg. 72, 73, 76, 77 © Reinier RVDA: pg. 80, 81, 82, 83 Berber Theunissen: pg. 87, 197 Gert Jan van Rooij: pg. 98, 99 Studio Fons Broess: pg. 103, 104, 105 Yuri Keukens: pg. 107 Lizzy Kalisvaart : pg. 114, 127 Digidaan: pg. 125 Elmar van Dam: pg. 126 Boisbuchet: pg. 133, 135 Antonio Guzman and Aitor Uribarri: pg. 136, 137 Hans van der Mars: pg. 178 Pim Tops: pg. 201, 207, 208, 209 Font: Utopia Std en Futura Lithografie:

After graduating at the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands, Katja Gruijters specialized in food and drink design. Since 2001, she has worked in her own studio, designing food experiments, concepts, tasting events and products. Katja’s work is based on world-wide long-term trends in food culture and motivated by the need for sustainable development. For more than ten years Katja wrote a monthly column about her vision on food design in Food Magazine, a trade journal for the Dutch food industry. She has been commissioned by companies in the Netherlands and abroad and she is involved in education. Katja Gruijters developed a Food Design course at the HAS University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. She collaborated in a food pilot for Design Academy Eindhoven and currently teaches food design at ArtEZ in Arnhem. Katja Gruijters gives various food design workshops in the Netherlands and abroad and she initiated a new foundation called Feed Your Mind, which is developing design research projects.

© 2016 Uitgeverij TERRA TERRA is part of Uitgeverij TerraLannoo bv P.O. Box 97 3990 DB Houten The Netherlands

Ed van Hinte graduated in Industrial Design at the University of Technology in Delft. He is now a researcher, teacher and acclaimed design critic.

First print, 2016 ISBN 978 90 8989 688 9 NUR 656

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced and/or made public by means of printing, photocopying, microfi lm or by any other means, without the prior written permission of the publisher. The publisher has made every effort to acknowledge the copyright with regard to the photographs included with regard to the photographs included in this book. Anyone who nevertheless feels that their rights have been violated should contact the publisher.


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