This week part one out of four of the essay ‘Food as energizer for the public domain’. The first two issues will mainly give an overview of the history of our relation to food and its’ availability. The last two issues will research its future role in public domain.

I wrote this essay in 2008 when studying architecture at the TU Delft in The Netherlands. After finishing the essay I wrote a program for a building in which food had a central place.
The essay is written from a Dutch perspective which means not all assumptions are valid for readers living in other countries. Questions about my sources and comments can be emailed to foodinthestreets@gmail.com

Everyone on earth needs to eat. Many of us are able to do this daily but there is still too many who cannot eat enough nutrients each day or who cannot eat at all. What and how one eats depends among others on the culture and wealth one is grown up or lives in. First an overview of the changes we’ve gone through in the last century.

Until WW II many people did not care what to eat but worried if they could eat. In the 20th century three events caused a change in the Netherlands and their relation to food; the industrial revolution causing the train becoming a popular way of transport, the growing number of immigrants and the changing lifestyle which is partly effected by the first two events.

The introduction of the train caused a big revolution in food. Not only did the distance over which food could be transported grew but also eating food while travelling was introduced.The industrial revolution which took place in the second half of the 19th century (in the Netherlands) also had a big influence on the way we eat. People became wealthier, labor was organized different and the quality and quantity of food production played a more important role.
Starting around 1920 the assortment of (prepared) products grew and more snacks where eaten in between meals. Only during the economic crisis in the ‘30s and during WWII there where shortages in food.

After WWII another change influenced the eating habits of the Dutch. More households bought kitchen machines like a refrigerator, a stove, a microwave oven but also a washing machine. This gave women a lot of freedom – they didn’t have to spend that much time on housekeeping anymore – so they could find a paid job. In the end this meant they had less time to prepare a meal. The introduction of ready-to-eat-meals and fast food was a fact and even stimulated by the popularity of the television. Meals became less important and the value of food decreased.

Meals became more exotic when more immigrants came into the Netherlands. They took their eating habits and started to import products from their home countries. Cooking their own meals remembered them to their identity and gave them a feeling of solidarity.

By the end of the 40’s many Indonesian restaurants were opened which were mainly visited by students and artist and later by former soldiers which were excited about the new food. Eventually more people got interested in eating out which finally caused immigrants with different nationalities to open a restaurant. This is why we still can enjoy so many food cultures in the Netherlands.

Click here to part  II - Too much is still not good