Close your eyes for a moment and imagine the perfect soda-drinking experience, your own notion of cola consumption in its purist Platonic form. Sure, your favorite beverage will likely differ from mine (R.I.P. Vanilla Coke), but less obvious is the fact that your preferred container might differ, too. I like cans above all else; you might go for plastic bottles–or glass ones, or cups filled from the fountain (that camp divided again by the matter of sip vs. straw). Granted, things like value and convenience come into play and dictate our consumption habits much of the time. But there are subtle sensory details that distinguish the experience of one vessel from the next–the feel of the material on the lips, say, or the rate at which the liquid pours–and I think most people, if pressed, could choose a favorite.
All of which is an admittedly roundabout way of arguing that these wacky eating utensils by Jinhyun Jeon maybe aren’t that wacky at all, and I think there’s a chance they could forever change our relationship with yogurt, if nothing else.
Jeon created the Sensorial Stimuli Collection as part of her thesis project at the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands. The various pieces, handcrafted from silver, plastics, and ceramics, are the same general size as conventional cutlery, but each is augmented with its own sensorial twist.
Some of the utensils add an unexpected but relatively straightforward new element to the proceedings–a slightly different temperature than usual, say, or a bit of unexpected heft. Others are more radical, like the coarsely textured spoon that looks like it was chewed up by the dishwasher, or the one coated in bright pink plastic and covered with tiny bumps.
The project was inspired in part by the designer’s fascination with synesthesia, the neurological phenomenon in which our senses occasionally get tangled in strange and unexpected ways. Taste, as we know, is shaped by all of our senses, but in terms of stimulating those senses, standard tableware isn’t doing all that much. “By manipulating the senses,” Jeon says, her designs “heighten the experience of taste.”
Of course, when you’re talking about sustenance, playing it safe isn’t necessarily a bad idea. Utilitarian cutlery has served us well over the centuries. But considering how permissive we are of the avant-garde (and the downright zany) in our fine dining today, why not experiment with the tools involved? Sure, slurping your favorite soup with a bumpy alien spoon might be totally weird. But there are always regular spoons to fall back on.
What Jeon’s utensils could do, though, is make a typically bland food instantly more compelling. With a touch of the unexpected, a utensil could be totally transformative. And I think that’s worth exploring. I’m sure people were skeptical of the first crazy straw, too.