Unique to Iceland, the askur, or wooden bowl with a hinged lid, was the traditional serving utensil. The soup or porridge was put in the bowl, and the bread or meat was placed on the open lid. Each person had his or her own askur, which was made from driftwood staves and elaborately carved. A horn spoon was used for eating.
Last year, Björg Vilhjálmsdóttir developed a project that revolved around simplifying a diverse food community without disposable packaging.
1 THE GREATER CONTEXT
As a result of globalization more goods are produced than before and raw materials are transported from far
afield in order to make use of cheap labor in distant corners of the world. The finished products are then
transported back over long distances. Peoples living conditions have improved greatly and as a result they
travel more than ever before.
This means that not only raw materials and goods are continually being shifted
around the world, but also people are constantly moving about. Never before have humans travelled to such
an extent. I am not trying to change this, but I look at an aspect that could decrease transportation.
2 3D PRINTING
3D printing is a new technology that makes it possible to design and produce goods without having to
transport them long distances around the world. Production doesn’t have to be on a large scale and
everybody can use the technology. With the existence of 3D printers, each user can download a 3D printable
file of the product design.
3 THE TRAVELLERS ASKUR
The old askur
The roots of Icelandic food culture can be traced back to the askur. It was in everyday use during the Middle
Ages. Everyone had his or her own individual askur. They varied in size, depending on the size of the owner.
The askur had two separate compartments and in the book, Icelandic food-culture, by Hallgerður Gísladóttir,
she writes: “Solid food was eaten from inside the lid and liquid food was eaten from the belly of the container
(and the askur was) particularily well suited for resting in one’s lap. It is therefore an example of a treasure
that came into being because of deprivation”.
A new askur
When people go trekking, food needs to be rationed, not for reasons of deprivation, but because each
person can only carry so much weight. A traveller having a picnic, places the food in his lap, so obviously the
same areas of contact are used as when eating from an askur. The new askur refers to the old one. With 3D
technology, consumers can print their own askur and choose variations in form, such as size, typography
and symbols to decorate the outside of the askur, in a similar tradition used to distinguish the old fashioned
4 A SUSTAINABLY DEVELOPED FOOD SOCIETY
By carrying one’s own askur, responsibility is transported from society to the consumer. This creates an option
away from the systematic production of disposable food containers. Food from places that support the project
is apportioned directly into each traveller’s askur without the use of food-wrappings. The traveller can thus enjoy good food without creating ecological footprints.
The key question is: ask yourself. The individual is encouraged to take a stand. The ecological system of the
earth is under threat. The design outlined, opposes speed, as well as the use of disposable food containers.
The ideology focuses on a sustainable food society. Ask yourself what you can do to change society.
Ask yourself next time, before reaching out for a disposable container. It can take disposable containers decades to
break down in nature. How can we respond to unsustainable development?
To answer the question, the search is on for new possibilities. With the SLOWTREAT askur the user takes a
stand and relates to a sustainable food society that connects a lot of small restaurants working within various
food traditions using locally produced food. This creates variable menus for the traveller all around the country.
A journey for the taste buds, so to speak. Restaurants all over the country, that have been awarded a stamp of
approval for the sustainability and quality of the food they offer, take part in the project, apportioning food
directly into the askur.
Food from the local area going directly into the askur, encourages variety and cuts down on the transportation
of raw materials around the world.
Images courtesy of Björg Vilhjálmsdóttir