The spoon that can taste for you.
As I mentioned in another post, Zheng believes the Electrolux Design Lab competition “is like fuckin’ Christmas” for That’s Flawesome. Why? Because the design concepts that are submitted are so outlandish, it’s hard to take any of them seriously. Well, get out the tinsel and string up the lights! It’s Christmas time! Electrolux just revealed the 30 semi-finalists for their design competition. It’s so difficult to choose which present to “open” first, because there are so many! *Shakes a box* How about this spoon that tastes your food, so you don’t have to? I’m sure that’s exactly what you wanted…well, besides socks, or a new Lexus with a giant red bow on it.
Tastee, designed by Christopher Holm-Hansen, is a spoon…? I mean, it looks like a spoon, but it has a hole in it, so I guess you can’t really scoop anything. Wait a sec…if you can’t scoop anything with this ‘spoon’, why is it even shaped like a spoon? Couldn’t you just make it some sort of probe that you stick into your food? Is this some weird example of skeuomorphism? Yes, I had to use that buzzword, because every fuckin’ designer and their Noguchi coffee table-loving moms love that term. Do you know why? Because they think it makes them sound smart.
Anyway, let me post the description in the above graphic:
Don’t you wish you had the sophisticated palette of a professional chef? The Electrolux Tastee is a taste indicator that is used when cooking to assist the chef in bringing out the flavours in the meal. The Tastee is the shape and size of a regular spoon but with one main difference, The Tastee tastes for you. Using receptors based on the human taste bud the Tastee tells you what you need, what you don’t and maybe even something you would never imagine. Tastee helps you make the perfectly balanced, flavourful meal for you and your family to enjoy.
And there you go. Tastee is a spoon that tastes FOR you, so you don’t have to taste your food while you’re cooking. And through the use of
magic computers, sensors, and science (?), Tastee will tell you what your food needs, or what it doesn’t, so your food is guaranteed to be delicious.
First, a little disclosure: I like to cook. Hell, I started a cookie bakery, so you know I enjoy food, and creating dishes. For me, the experience of cooking is really fun. I see it as a combination of art and science, very similar to design, actually. You discover a need [I’m hungry]; you do some user-centered research [what do I like to eat?]; you take note of constraints [what ingredients do I have in the fridge?]; you formulate a solution taking into consideration your restraints [here’s a recipe, or I’ll just cook off the top of my head, like I usually do]; then finally, you design [cook]. As you do that, things change, because that’s just what happens in the world of design…and cooking. In design, we iterate, we see what works, and what doesn’t. In cooking, we taste, and figure out what we like, and what we don’t like, and adjust variables to meet our tastes.
Another nice thing about both cooking and design: both things are a process, AND an experience, and both (should) produce an experience for others. Speaking strictly from a experience design standpoint, cooking is wonderful. Oftentimes, it’s very social, with family and friends around in the kitchen, talking, helping, drinking wine, watching, tasting, etc. And maybe that’s a thing people don’t understand. Cooking—at least casual cooking in the home—isn’t this activity that has a strict set of rules, that must be followed to a T, in order for a product to be created. It has many variables, from ingredients, to type of cookware or appliances being used, to individual taste. That last one, let’s think about that.
How do you like your steak? Personally, I like mine lightly seared and so rare, it’s like I’m eating my meat straight from the butcher paper in which it was wrapped. That’s pretty gross, right? Well, not to me. I love it like that. How about cottage cheese? Assuming you like cottage cheese, how do you eat it? For me, I can only have cottage cheese plain, or with some sort of fruit. I have friends who only like to eat cottage cheese with ground black pepper, which honestly, I think is weird. But hey, that’s me. I like to eat my steak bloody, and my cottage cheese with canned peaches.
And what does this show? Besides my affinity for rare meat and sweet curds & whey, it shows that all our tastes vary. We eat different things because we like different things. Very rarely will we have the same exact tastes as someone else. How food tastes is purely subjective. Sure, there are exceptions; for example, I’m sure no one likes their cottage cheese mixed with fine gravel and mud. I would assume that is a preparation that none of us would enjoy. But cottage cheese mixed with ground black pepper? I’m sure we could find an equal number of people who enjoy it, and who don’t enjoy it. There really is no universal way to prepare/season/eat cottage cheese. Also, our tastes change over time. For instance, when I was 4, I hated tomato sauce. Absolutely hated it. I hated when my mom made spaghetti, not just because of the tomato sauce, but because of the shape of spaghetti; I thought long noodles tasted weird. A year later, I only wanted to eat spaghetti with sauce. No other pasta shape or food would do.
The designer claims Tastee analyzes what you are cooking, and somehow compares the taste of the food to tastes of someone with a more refined palate, guiding you on what you should do/how you should season the food you’re cooking in order for it to taste “good.” But what is “good”? Only you, the person cooking/eating, knows what’s good, and what isn’t. No one can guide you on how to make your food taste good. People can give you their opinion; you can have someone taste what you’re cooking, and ask them for advice on how you should season the food. But their advice really only considers their taste, not yours. They don’t know how you taste. There is no universal “this is how things should taste” set of standards when it comes to cooking. And there’s no way a magical sensor spoon can predict what you will find enjoyable. Just get a real spoon, and taste what you’re cooking.