Sous la vie. Tyvek paper. 2017.

Sous la vie. Tyvek paper. 2017.

Sous La Vie (Under Life): vacuum-cooking in washing machines

The Sous La Vie is a waterproof tyvek bag for vacuum-cooking in a washing machine, designed at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, under the guidance of Liora Rozin. Even though this product was done at the Department of Industrial design it is more of an eye opener, It brings forth opposing ideas such as fast food vs slow food, rich vs poor and capitalism vs socialism.      

The food we eat, and the way we eat it, reflects on our taste but much more on our economic abilities and culture. Our meals provide an example of the social aspects of our lives. In this case we will witness the rise (and fall) of the middle class as it can be seen through the home cooked meal.

The TV-dinner is one interesting example to examine this in the U.S. During the Second World War women took on industrial jobs, previously occupied by men. This trend continued after the war was over, significantly changing the way families worked, as more and more women had jobs and less time to tend to house chores. This gap had to be filled with inventions such as the TV-dinner (and the washing machine, which became more accessible during that time).

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The design of TV-dinner attempted to give the aroma and feeling of a home-cooked meal when both parents had to leave for work. Since their invention, TV-dinners have evolved in taste and in their cooking methods, but they remain a cheap substitution for the real thing: no longer a home cooked meal with fresh ingredients, and instead of the family sitting around the dinner table they are glued to the TV (a great opportunity to air you some more commercials and create a consuming cycle). Time is money and cooking takes time.

But what happens when you no longer even have a house to maintain this American dream? In this day and age we see a continuing decline in the middle class’s ability to maintain its standard of living, especially after the 2008 mortgage crisis that left many people without a home. The dream became a nightmare and people had to be resourceful and find replacements and solutions.

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One such solution is the laundromat, most of them are open 24/7 and they offer a hassle-free shelter. As one homeless blogger (afrostyplease)* describes the laundromat as “Probably the most useful places on earth for homeless, besides the library”. He adds: “you can clean your laundry, fill your water bottles, find an electrical outlet to plug in a computer, or cell phone, take a bird bath, take a dump, charge your electronics…, rest for a good few hours as a patron, and not get hassled..., and in some cases get on the internet all in the same place.” So why shouldn't you be able to cook some food while there?

On another part of the culinary spectrum, the world and economic beliefs, we find Sous vide (French for “under vacuum”). Sous vide is a cooking method in which vacuum-sealed food is placed in heated water and cooked over a long period of time. This high-end method cooks food evenly and retains moisture. Where does this slow food, high-end, exclusive cooking method meet the American family in 2017?

In sous vide the food is cooked in a bath-like device at temperatures usually around 50 to 70 degrees Celsius. The same conditions can be found in a washing machine; all you have to do is change the semantics. Instead of following a sous vide recipe and cooking a piece of meat at 58˚C for two and a half hours, just set your washing machine to “synthetics” for a long duration program. Cooking vegetables? Set your machine to “cotton” for a short duration program. Sous vide offers a scientific approach to cooking your food in a controlled environment, so after some trial and error you might achieve satisfying results.

The bags are made from Tyvek paper, bringing together the print world with the fabric one. Even though the food inside the bags is sealed within a plastic bag, the laundry dinner bag is also waterproof (the Tyvek paper is water resistant, and the bag itself has a dry bag seal; measures taken to keep your clothes clean and your food soap free).

It can be humorous to think of cooking your food in the washing machine as a new dinner topic, or a Damien Hirst-style restaurant filled with washing machines instead of pills. But humour is not the point. Instead, the Sous La Vie laundry-dinner serves as a reminder of lost homes and (the American) dreams. It offers a deep look at the cultural conditions that determine what products we consume, in this case capitalism and fast food vs socialism and slow food (not to say one is better than the other). The laundry dinner is not intended solely for the homeless, but much rather for us all: a product that reflects on our taste, our economic ability and our culture.