On a recent visit to New York City, Israeli design student Iftach Gazit spent some time with Manhattan’s homeless to see what an average day looks like for them.
He discovered the importance of the 24-7 laundromat, which acts as a safe haven for many New Yorkers living on the street. At the laundromat, people are able to not only clean their clothes, but also fill their water bottles, charge electronics, wash up, and rest for a few hours without being hassled.
“From that point, I started thinking: Where can a homeless person cook in an urban environment?” Gazit says.
He wondered if he could invent an easy and free way for people to cook in laundromats. First, he tried filling a Tupperware container with pasta and green beans, and put it in a washing machine with clothes. After the cycle was done, he says the food was hardly edible, and putting it in the dryer only made it taste worse.
Gazit then explored how he could adapt sous vide — the process of cooking food in a temperature-controlled water bath — for the washing machine. He put a raw steak in a vacuum-sealed, waterproof Tyvek bag with a plastic liner to keep it from leaking. Again, Gazit says the steaks weren’t spectacular, but they were definitely more edible than the pasta and green beans. Next, he will try tofu and vegetables, and work to improve the bags.
Rather than a functional way to cook food, Gazit says the larger goal of the project is to provide social commentary on the post-WWII American dream of TV dinners and time-saving home appliances.
“What happens when you no longer even have a house to maintain this American dream? In this day and age, we see a continuing decline in the middle class’ ability to maintain its standard of living, especially after the 2008 mortgage crisis that left many people without a home,” he says. “The dream became a nightmare, and people had to be resourceful and find replacements and solutions.”
Called Under Pressure, the project was part of an industrial design course at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. Gazit designed (what he calls) Sous La Vie bags, which would come in three varieties — salmon with teriyaki sauce, mixed veggies in olive oil and garlic salt, and garlic-herb steak.
Though the line of dinners technically doesn’t exist yet, he eventually wants to make it available to the masses. A few homeless people reached out to Gazit recently, and said they want get their hands on the dinners.
“I’m trying to get it to work better, so it could benefit them,” Gazit says.
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