Adelaide Tam | Work in Progress

Every month we ask a designer or maker about his or her 'work in progress'. This time we talk to designer Adelaide Lala Tam. Seven years ago she came from Hong Kong to Eindhoven to study at the Design Academy. A conversation about discovering your motives and her research into our food system. "I have more and more respect for what I eat."

Why did you choose Eindhoven?

"When I was still studying in Hong Kong I got a book with a list of all the design schools in the world. The Design Academy Eindhoven scored very high. Only... Eindhoven? I had never heard of it. My teacher did, and confirmed that the course was well regarded."

What appealed to you?

"The course offers a mix of art and design, aimed at social challenges, which I like very much. And everything here is in English. What's more, Eindhoven is still relatively cheap."

How did you experience your first period in Eindhoven?

"I liked that education right away, but the food here...After a while, I really sniffed at dim sum, haha. About sixty percent of the DAE students come from abroad. We often went cooking together, which was cozy and cheap. I noticed then that food can be a powerful medium. For the first time in my life, I thought: I want to do more with this."

How do food and design come together?

"My interest is not necessarily in cooking or plate presentation, but in the system behind our food production. In Hong Kong, it was common to use everything from a cow. Organ soup, for example, you’ll find everywhere. I saw less of that in the Netherlands. What happens to the rest of a cow? In my second year, out of curiosity, I spent a day in a slaughterhouse.”

Visiting the slaughterhouse impresses Adelaide. Not so much the slaughter of animals for our consumption - she grew up with a grandmother who slaughtered chickens - but the way we do that; the small space in which the cow has to wait, the fear in the eyes of the animal, the loud bang of the gun. After that, she lost her appetite for beef. Yet she is grateful for the experience. And especially for the employee who was willing to give insight into how a part of our food is produced. The bullets that are (were) used to kill the cow form the basis of her final project at the DAE. She graduates cum laude.

How did the employee of the slaughterhouse react to your work?

"He couldn't come to the presentation of my project, so I don't know. But I cherish the fact that he wanted to give me a glimpse. People often don't realize how a piece of meat is made. That's an important theme in my work, awareness of our food system."

And now we're at the Genneperhoeve for this interview...

“Yeah, my current project is about a cow. Actually, I wanted to buy one myself, haha. On Marktplaats I found one for 250 euros.”

And?

“A cow is a social animal, so letting an animal graze on its own didn't seem like a good idea. Then I came into contact with the Genneperhoeve and I worked with them for two years. Got up early to milk the cows, work in the barns and help to make the cheeses.”

Can you tell us more about your project?

“In collaboration with the Genneperhoeve, I'm doing research into the beef production system. There is one cow in particular that I am following, Romie 18. She is a dairy and beef cow. And yes, at some point she will be slaughtered too.”

What's your goal?

“I want to give people with Romie 18 a perspective on the complexity of meat production in a very accessible way. I aim at reaching the general public to provide people a look at their daily food from a different perspective.”

Do you still eat meat yourself?

“Partly, yes, but less and more consciously because I know the life behind a piece of meat. It's not my aim to convince people to become vegetarians. Nor do I like the whole bloody, activist way in which meat consumption is often denounced. People don't have to make choices out of fear, but based on knowledge.”

How can Eindhoven help you?

“In the summer I want to organize an event around the slaughter of Romie. I am looking for two things. Firstly, a chef who can play a role in this, someone with a passion for this story and connecting people to the story. Secondly, I am looking for an organization that can collaborate with me to build a better food world for tomorrow.”

Do you have any tips, suggestions or do you see opportunities for collaboration? Then leave us a comment on LinkedIn!

What if you are still at the very beginning? If you feel like you have gold in your hands, but you are still a long way from being there? Every month we ask a design or tech talent about his or her work in progress. And if we can help with something. Would you like to tell us more about a project? Send us an e-mail!

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