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Designing education with dough

Process(ed) Food designing education with dough Emily M Howe design@UArts 2012

table of contents

research, philosophy, background

experiments, prototypes, planning

lessons one through four

Research, Philosophy, and My Background My personal philosophy on food has many different influences: growing up on a small farm, time spent cooking in New Mexico, living in Italy, and countless other thoughts and moments. Process(ed) Food pulls from all of this, here are a few aspects I’d like to highlight.

“Food turns events into celebrations. It’s not just about the food, but the experience of creating and then consuming it. People need families and communities for this kind of experience. Kids need parents, or some kind of guide, to lead them toward the food routines our bodies need. Becoming familiar with the process of food production generates both respect and a greater sense of calm about the whole idea of dinner.” Camille Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Sharing dinner at the Cottonwood Gulch Foundation. Summer 2010

Explaining the textural differences of a well kneaded loaf. Summer, 2011

Cottonwood Gulch Foundation Thoreau, NM

Cottonwood Gulch leads small group wilderness expeditions in the Southwest. This year will mark my sixth summer working with food at the Gulch. I started as cooks assistant, and moved up to co-heading the main kitchen. This was the place where I learned to appreciate the value of a good meal after a hard days work, and the ways in which food can be so much more than purely sustenance. In the summer of 2011 I set out to put homemade bread back on the menu. After babying bowls of batter, kneading quadruple batches, and rushing to get the loaves into the oven, I realized that this project was meant for more than just one person.

It was time to recruit some helpers: campers. I started with basic lessons and pre-made the dough myself. We made pizzas and pretzels, pulling and punching the dough. Then I moved on to making loaves from scratch with the kids. We mixed and kneaded, and worked on other components in the downtime. They loved it. I loved it too. For me, sharing my knowledge along with sharing the experience of making a meal was even better than the food itself. Cottonwood Gulch has an incredibly strong food culture. Even if it is not immediately recognized, eating drives everything there. Daily schedules are structured on meals, and the activity level is so high that there is always an appetite. This is the place that taught me the impact of a good meal.

Shaping pretzels with the girls group. Summer, 2010

Food consciousness today Process(ed) Food is congruent with a current movement in food and food culture. Recently, there has been an increased awareness and attention given to what people are eating and where it comes from. Industrial food production is losing fans and gaining critics with debate over the effects on our health and environment. This means that people are spending more time in the kitchen, some even going as far as reviving cottage industries like canning and preserving. Cooking is an active form of protest, nonviolent resistance by breaking bread. Process(ed) Food works within this movement capturing the sentiment that is already there and sharing it with the next generation. In a society that has such a complex relationship to food, I want to give children a meaningful experience in the kitchen, one that will be the foundation of a continued involvement with cooking. These workshops are meant to celebrate the process of making rather than just the end result.

Various books that have influenced my philosophy of food

“If we are to change consciousness around food, we are going to need the skills of not just the politician or the activist, but of the artist, of the brilliant metaphor and the stunning event.� Michael Pollan, speaking at the opening of Edible Education 101: The Rise and Future of the Food Movement

Pie Lab, Greensboro, AL Pie Lab was started in 2009 as a project of Project M. A varied group of architecture and design students teamed up to explore how pie could act as a form of community engagement in Greensboro. The group used pie as a means to bring design into a community where it might not otherwise have a presence. I was initially attracted to Pie Lab simply because of the name. I have a love affair with pie for being such a symbolic food. It’s delicious, allamerican, and built to be shared.

Food Corps, Nationwide Food Corps is a branch of Americorps dedicated solely to nutrition, food access and education. Participants spend a year working in communities to help develop these programs and volunteer their time to the cause. Food corps acknowledges that there is a problem with American food systems and works to change it. I find this program inspiring for its commitment to service and equality in food systems, translating the enthusiasm of young people to help educate future generations.

EAT Love, Marije Vogelzang, and eating design Marije Vogelzang is a dutch ‘eating designer.’ Her work is mainly concentrated on the way that people interact with food and with each other. How can eating become an experience? One thing that Marjie said has stuck with me throughout this project: “Being a designer, how close can you get to the human being? My designs go inside your body. They feed, they become part of you. Ever after you carried them to the toilet they will feed the soil that feeds the trees that will feed you again.” I immediately latched onto this sentiment. I love food because it is ephemeral. It is made, shared, consumed, and leaves nothing behind but a dirty dish. Food is design to be shared and bring people together. For this project I wanted to share more than just the food itself.

“In the hindu tradition, it is basically a spiritual crime to eat alone. It’s understood that what food does is bring people together and create a space that is shared. And that the act of food is the act of sharing.” Peter Sellars, speaking for Edible Education 101: The Rise and Future of the Food Movement

As humans we are hard-wired to share food. We have been since day one. Personally, I believe food should always be shared and most of the food I make will be eaten by others. At least when I bake it is. I am a bread baker who is allergic to gluten. I love the process of making bread, the hand working and transformation of elemental ingredients, but I can never partake in the final form. I give it away. For me, bread is making for the sake of making. Process(ed) Food is sharing this idea with others. My initial concepts were all about sharing food itself. Later, they evolved into sharing knowledge.


The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking

Michael Ruhlman, Scribner, 2009

When baking, most basic recipes adhere to the same set of ratios between ingredients. The recipes alter the style and flavors, but the general formula is always the same. Cooking ratios are based off of weight, as it is a much more accurate means of measuring than volume. This eliminates the need for measuring cups. With weight, all you need is a scale. I have found that when working with children, measuring by weight can be quite an advantage. A digital scale is incredibly easy to use, and very interactive. More importantly, there is less room for error. An end goal of an exact weight is much more objective than filling and reading a volume measurement, which can be very subjective, varying greatly depending on something as simple as viewing angle. Having the basic ratio allows for greater experimentation than simply following a recipe. A recipe is a closed, step by step process. A ratio is a guideline and an invitation to more experimentation in the process.

“Ratios are about the basics of cooking. They teach us how the fundamental ingredients of the kitchen—flour, water, butter and oils, milk and cream, eggs—work and how variations in proportions create the variations in our dishes, bread rather than pasta, crepes rather than cakes.” Michael Ruhlman, Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking

The bread ratio is:

5 parts flour : 3 parts water

Bread is fun. Getting your hands messy is great. Kneading is swell. Punch down dough is stupendous. Sharing the warm loaf fresh out of the oven is even better. But...

Dough is also a tactile science. It’s a living material and extraordinarily versatile. There is nothing more hands on than kneading a messy pile of flour into a stretchy ball of dough, seeing the material transform from one state to another, simply by working your hands.

Beet dough made at the School in Rose Valley

My first experiment with natural food coloring

Experiments, Prototypes, and Planning Initial experiments and prototypes were based on the concept of a shared eating experience. My work in the fall semester dealt with facilitating communal cooking, and the natural extension of that became focusing on the experience itself. In January there was event planning and by April that shifted to lesson planning.

Collaborative Kitchen Cube This prototype for a communal cooking space is based upon the premise that the best meals are those that are shared. Participating and collaborating in meal preparation enriches the final product and gives the participants a feeling of ownership and pride in what is produced. The more people who get their hands in the kitchen the better. The Collaborative Kitchen Cube is designed so that up to four people can have their own work surface, while contributing to a single pot.

Initial model to test scale

Biscuits for my studiomates, recipe can be found in the reference section

Early experiments with shared food Initially I investigated the effect homemade food had on my classmates by bringing in a various breads and pastries. Ironically, I could never eat anything I brought in, those things just happened to be what I loved to make the most. The interaction was very one sided though, I prepared the food at home, and my very appreciative classmates snacked away.

How to make colored doughs: (with natural dyes)

Using the basic ratio for dough, 5 parts flour to 3 parts water, the liquid can be replaced with most anything. I have found that beets, carrots, and spinach make for a wonderful color pallet. The easiest method is to use an electric juicer to extract the pigmented liquid from the vegetables. I process them raw. Another method is to lightly steam the vegetables, reserving the steaming water, and puree them in a blender or food processor. Strain the slurry with cheese cloth, wringing out as much liquid as possible. It’s alright to water down the vegetable juice a bit, but the most saturated color will come from the highest concentration of juice. Note the changes when the dough is baked, some colors will retain their intensity while others fade.

Variations on natural food colorings and experimental forms

Experimental dough made with beet pulp

Experimenting with Colors:






A material investigation of dough, why cooking, design, and science can be friends.

methodologies: design




Problem, brief, prompt

Theory, question, problem

Desire edible food product


Open experimentation, iteration

Controlled experimentation

Recipe, improvisation

what / result

Product, system, solution

Conclusion, replicable experiment

Food! Yums!

Cooking is the steps taken to produce a desired end product (food), often following a predetermined recipe, or set of instructions. The scientific method involves stating a problem, creating and testing a hypothesis, and then forming a conclusion. The design process solves a problem through a series of variations or strategies working towards the end result. The most valuable step in the design process is the process and the problem solving which is often in the form of free form experimentation. Cooking from a recipe removed much of the guess work, which is where the learning and innovation comes in. Process(ed) Food reintroduces that element of experimentation and play to the process of cooking, while treating the food as if it were a science experiment.

Free form experimentation without predetermined outcome encourages creativity and builds a better understanding of the material.

Meeting with JB Baker-McAllister

“Kids who were a problem in the classroom, became fabulous in the stream [when doing the hands on research]” JB Baker-McAllister,

explaining her experiences with teaching stream ecology to elementary schoolers.

JB and I met to talk about the practical side of working with younger children. She has taught for twenty five years, and currently runs the First Day program at Gwynedd Friends Meeting. My previous experience was with kids of at least middle school age, so she was a great resource. JB reassured me that ‘everybody likes to make and eat yummy things,’ and introduced me to the magical play dough recipe in Feed Me! I’m Yours.

Proposal for the course: “My objective is to introduce young people to the concept of food as a material. Food is not only a form of sustenance, it is also malleable, transformative, and holds endless potential for experimentation. I want to provide a new way of playing with the processes of cooking, one that places the emphasis less on the end product and more on the steps you take to get there.”

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emily m howe / design@uarts / ow880 0131 with a/ ll484

The School in Rose Valley When it came to actually testing and implementing of Process(ed) Food, I chose to work with The School in Rose Valley, a small progressive elementary school near Media, PA. Rose Valley takes an alternative view on education that emphasizes the concept of ‘learning by doing.’ I felt that their philosophy would be a perfect match for the theories behind my course.

Mary Gordon, Director of Afternoons Program I worked with Mary and the Afternoons after-school program. We initially met to go over the course and for me to get a feel for the school. Mary was very supportive of the idea, and helped me with everything from everything to getting into the kitchen to picking just the right group for the sessions.

The school campus

Character Development: Bread Buddies

Bread Buddies were conceived to help me explain all the specialized knowledge I have about the bread making process. I used the characters to cover topics like how yeast works, and why you need to give it a little sugar before mixing it all together. Bread Buddies are intended to appeal to both children and adults, engaging and narrating the life of bread.

The Illustrated Life of Bread: 1) meet the characters

2) measure your ingredients

The basic ratio for bread doughs is five parts flour to three parts water. Scale appropriately.

3) proof the yeast in warm water

4) mix the flour and water

5) knead the dough for 5—10 minutes

6) let the dough rise for about an hour

7) punch the dough down to release the gasses

8) the dough needs to rest again, and do a little stretching before it is ready to be shaped into loaves

Lessons One through Four The process of translating a typed up, detailed lesson plan into real life can be kind of messy. Almost as messy as ten kids and an open bag of flour. The following section covers the on the ground testing of Process(ed) Food at the School in Rose Valley.

Observations: Lesson One The very first session was a mess. Flour and kids everywhere. I started with a large group, far too many kids to leave anything up to chance. I learned that the micro explorations of the nuances of flour are not nearly as fascinating to ten year olds as they are to me. Throwing flour at your friends is much more exciting. The more successful aspect of the session was the actual making. I found that the group calmed down when they learned what we would be making for the day. It was much easier for them to concentrate when there was a clear goal. After mixing up a batch of cookies, we worked with a non-edible salt dough for the remainder of the class. I gave them the directive of ‘make a zoo,’ which sparked some pretty impressive creations and creatures. Overall, the kids had a great time, even if I saw it as total chaos.

Above, Evan sculpting his platypus, below, mixing the cookies

Sculpting a creature

The “zoo” made out of salt dough, recipe can be found in reference section.

Measuring out a batch of dough with the scale

Observations: Lesson Two Kids were doing math voluntarily. How cool is that!?! This was by far the highlight of lesson two. The group immediately embraced the use of the scale for making dough. I gave them the numbers, and using the do-onestep-and-pass-it technique they proceeded to calculate the weight of each scoop, and how many grams were still needed. The curricula for the day introduced the idea that yeast is alive. I found that personifying an ingredient is a very effective way to engage the kids in the story and finer details. At the end of the day they could repeat back the ‘life cycle of yeast,’ (wake it up, feed it, it burps, then you kill it in the oven, pretty cruel, huh?) and were busy mixing up their own batches of dough with the scale. It would be interesting to run this class using volume measurements as well.

Sophie shows off her pizza dough

Above, the kids learn the power of good leverage when kneading, below, weighing flour

Kneading 101

Observations: Lesson Three Bringing in prepared dough was a really effective way to ease into the activities for the day. It allowed everyone to immediately do something with their hands, rather than only talking at first. This also provided the snack for later on, plus an incentive to stick around for it to come out of the oven. The atmosphere for this lesson was casual and more relaxed, we happened to have live background music provided by Adam Monaco of The Plants. It took a little while to get over the ‘gross factor,’ but colored dough caught on quickly thereafter. By far the most memorable statement was, “It’s colored dough, made with beets, you can’t eat it!” The colors definitely served to move the dough away from a food product, although some kids need to brush up on their vegetables!

Above, introducing the bread buddies, below, sculpting with colored dough

Creations with beet, spinach, and carrot doughs

Observations: Lesson Four This session was focused on truly abstracting dough away from the edible with the goal of a collaborative group piece. It’s unfortunate that the creations could not be baked right then, as the forms were further abstracted by the rising of the yeasted dough. This would be where the real understanding of material distinctions happen. Baking revealed that the salt dough retained its shape while the other ballooned up. I thought that this was an appropriate culmination of the lessons, although it would be something altogether different if the same kids had participated in all three. It is impossible for me as a teacher to evaluate their learning when it is only in a small snippet versus a cumulative series. Even those who only caught a few minutes seemed to be having a great time. It was very satisfying to see so many small hands busy kneading.

Evan with his bowl of rice

For the final project the group worked together to build a table setting complete with plate, goblet, bowl, utensils, condiments, and various foods.

In conclusion, Process(ed) Food proved to be a learning experience for everybody, not just the kids. Personally, I experience a whole new world of teaching and externalizing my knowledge to such a varied audience. From preschoolers to presenting to my peers, I have never talked about dough as much as I have in the past few months. The kids walked away with new and difference experiences in the kitchen. Hopefully, they are inspired to continue their learning and squish around some dough on their own. Talking with Mary Gordon after the final wrap up was incredibly reassuring. She told me that the whole Afternoons program was abuzz with talk about the ‘kitchen class,’ and that the kids were really having a great time. Working with The School in Rose Valley was a wonderful partnership, and I hope I can continue the relationship with them. After a little refinement, I would love to take Process(ed) Food further, running workshops with fresh faces in new places.

reference Here are the references, recipes, and people that helped bring this all together.

Bibliography Bittman, Mark. “Food’€™s New Foot Soldiers.” Opinionator. NYTimes. com, 23 Aug. 2011. Web. 27 Apr. 2012. <http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes. com/2011/08/23/foods-new-foot-soldiers/>. Brown, Edward Espe. The Tassajara Bread Book. Boston: Shambhala, 1995. Print. Edge, John T. “Pie + Design = Change.” The New York Times. NYTimes. com, 8 Oct. 2010. Web. < magazine/10pielab-t.html>. Hamilton, Gabrielle. Blood, Bones, & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef. New York: Random House, 2011. Print. Kingsolver, Barbara, Steven L. Hopp, and Camille Kingsolver. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: Our Year of Seasonal Eating. London: Faber and Faber, 2008. Food Fright. Web. 10 Dec. 2011. <http://www. Excerpt.html>. Klanten, Robert. CrEATe. : Eating, Design and Future Food. Berlin: Gestalten, 2008. Print.

Lansky, Vicki. Feed Me! I’m Yours: A Recipe Book for Mothers : Delicious, Nutritious & Fun Things to Cook up for Your Kids. New York: Bantam, 1979. Print. Pollan, Michael. In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. New York: Penguin, 2009. Print. Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore’s Dilemma a Natural History of Four Meals. New York: Penguin, 2007. Print. Ruhlman, Michael. Ratio: The Simple Codes behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking. New York: Scribner, 2010. Print. Sellars, Peter. “Food as Culture.” Edible Education 101: The Rise and Future of the Food Movement. UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA. 22 Sept. 2011. Lecture. <>. Vogelzang, Marije. Eat Love: Food Concepts. Amsterdam: BIS, 2008. Print. Waters, Alice. “A Delicious Revolution.” Education for Sustainability | Center for Ecoliteracy. Center for Ecoliteracy. Web. 10 Dec. 2011. <http://>.


Sugar Cookies (goof-proof!) This recipe is dead simple. Simple enough that a rowdy group of ten year olds can make it without too much help, and if their concept of a full scoop isn’t quite right the cookies will be just fine. Preheat oven to 375°F In a medium bowl SIFT TOGETHER: 2 ½ c. all purpose flour 1 ½ tsp baking powder ¾ tsp salt ¼ tsp nutmeg CREAM TOGETHER in a larger bowl: 1 c. sugar ¾ c. vegetable oil ADD, one at a time: 2 large eggs 1 tsp vanilla Mix the wet ingredients well, then add the flour to that and mix well. Use you hands if you like. Shape or scoop cookies in around ½" ball sized. If you like, roll in sugar before baking for about 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown.

Ratio Pizza Dough Almost all doughs follow the same basic weight ratio of their two main ingredients: flour and water. Salt and yeast are added in much smaller quantities and are more of a preference of taste rather than structure. For a LARGE pie: 500 g [17oz] flour (can be a mix of white/wheat) 300 g [10oz] warm water 2 Tbs sweetener (sugar, honey, etc) 1 Tsp active yeast 1 Tsp salt Proof the yeast in the water, with the sugar. Let sit for a few minutes. Mix the salt in with the flour, add the water and yeast mixture and mix well. Once the dough comes together in a ball it’s time to knead it for 5-10 minutes. Cover the dough with a damp towel and let rest in a warm place to rise. When the dough has about doubled in size, punch it down to release all the gasses. Let dough rise again for another 45 minutes or so. After this, the dough is ready to be formed into a crust, or made in loaves, rolls, or farm animals. For pizza: bake at 400°F for 10—15 minutes, or until crust is golden.

Salt Dough (Feed Me I’m Yours) The magical salt dough! This comes together very quickly, and can be baked to preserve the forms for later play. Mix: 1 cup salt ½ cup water 2 Tbs vegetable oil Then add, 2 cups of flour Mix the dough until in forms a ball, then switch to hand kneading until the dough is smooth and pliable. If after extended play, the dough feels dry, add a bit of water to perk it up. To preserve sculpted forms: Bake in a 250°F oven for 3 hours or so, depending on thickness, until the dough is completely dehydrated, but still with original color.

Special Thanks! A big thank you to everyone who was involved: Mike McAllister Alexandra Schmidt-Ullrich JB Baker-McAllister Mary Gordon Hannah Burn Jordan Stone Margery Howe Megan Hild Adam Monaco The School in Rose Valley And all of my wonderful bread buddies from The School in Rose Valley

About the designer: Emily M Howe studied industrial design at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a maker, a baker, and a little bit Quaker. Emilyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work is based on careful documentation and well considered process. She enjoys working with her hands the most, and her favorite room in the house will always be the kitchen.

More work can be seen at her website:

emily m howe Š 2012

Process(ed) Food  

I am a designer, but also a cook. I find that in my own daily practice the two often overlap and inform each other. For my capstone, I wante...

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