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Childhood Food Memories - A multimodal dining event based on memories from the 1940s

By Anu Hopia, University of Turku, Functional Foods Forum, Maija Kontukoski,  University of The Arts, Finland, Heikki Uimonen, University of The Arts, Finland, Sami Silén, musician, sound designer

The aim of the project was to research cultural and personal multisensory memories and how they can be employed in contemporary design.  A multisensory dining event was constructed in collaboration with scientists (cultural musicology, food science), a sound designer and a restaurant.  The event was based thematically on childhood food memories of women born in the 1940s. The study’s approach is based primarily on an applied ethnomusicology that broadens the use of research knowledge beyond the academic context and aims to influence social interaction and empowering of communities. The methods used are typical for fieldwork methodology.

The memories were collected by interviewing five local women. Each interview lasted one hour and the participants were encouraged to talk freely about their childhood memories of food, environmental sounds, and music. The recorded interviews were transcribed and analyzed by using content analysis to identify the important foods, raw materials, cooking techniques and dining situations, as used in both every day and festival  contexts. The analysis also covered the importance of scents, colors, sounds, and soundscapes of the food memories.

The analyzed data was used as inspiration for the chef, restaurant manager and the sound designer. The chef designed a four course menu as a modern interpretation of typical foods from the 1940s in Finland. The soundscape and photo streams were designed to reflect the atmosphere of that period.  The recorded  interviews of the informants were listened to prior to each course. These played an important role in building an empowering experience and communal atmosphere where memories of the recent past could be remembered and shared among generations.

Fourteen participants, including the interviewees, took part in the event and their feedback on the event was collected and analyzed.