PLIX Co-Designer Highlight: Maggie Coblentz on Space Food!

Maggie Coblentz, the MIT Media Lab Researcher with whom we co-designed our Space Food activity, was recently interviewed by The Tech about her research in developing and speculating future foods for astronauts.

It’s always fascinating to hear about Maggie’s design process, and the way she approaches her work as a multidisciplinary thinker: artist; chef; architect; sound engineer; curator; scientist. I wanted to highlight two passages that I think could put an interesting spin on our space food activity:

“I created this immersive kitchen environment that you would not typically have in space to see whether that would increase appetite through the anticipation of a meal. . .I’m trying to break apart all the rituals of eating. What makes it feel celebratory?” The texture, the fizz, the sounds, the tradition — recreating that for the context of space was Coblentz’s mission.

When we think of space food, we often think about the packaging and preparation of food, but Maggie’s work places a significant emphasis on ritual and environment. I would be curious to explore these ideas as a remix of the space food activity. For example, rather than thinking about which flavor we’d most like to bring aboard the ISS, patrons could be invited to think about which sounds they’d most like to bring. Which tones, noises, pitches, dings, clangs of cooking, of meal preparation, would be most missed? Which would you wish to bottle up and play as your soundtrack for adventures in low-earth orbit? (And can these be recreated without cooking? I am imagining a foley-inspired space food workshop!)

“I’m coining this ‘anti-plating’: thinking of new ways of plating food where you don’t need a flat surface,” Coblentz says. “It can be spherical, or a 3D shape where you could put food on all different sides. Imagine having your salad dressing on the inside as a sphere, and then the lettuce on the outside.”

I love this passage because we often frame space as a series of environmental hurdles, rather than opportunities. There is a potential riff on the space food prompts here, by contextualizing the constraints for dining in outer-space as possibilities for experiencing food in new ways–by thinking of micro-gravity as a tool for sculpture-making rather than a complication which necessitates designing a litany of velcro-adorned utensils and food containers.

Curious to hear if anyone has run space food with their patrons thinking about these considerations! Inspired to write up a few new prompts for the activity. Wonder if any folks in our community would be excited to explore these ideas :smiley::rocket::ramen:


Not Space Food but Space Laundry! Thought this could be a cool article to link to in this activity. Dirty laundry in space? NASA, Tide tackle cleaning challenge

1 Like