Using whole, unprocessed food (True Food) to make dinner for weeknights can often be a daunting task for busy families. There are several barriers that keep parents and children (ages 6-10) from cooking nutritious meals together on a regular basis—the main barrier being time. This thesis identified the narrow window of time between when a family arrives home and eats dinner as an opportunity to design collaborative recipes, enabling members of the family to spend time together. The result is Family Mise en Place, a set of collaborative Meal Cards. This system of cooking seeks to organize mealtimes, so children can contribute equally, supporting parents on busy weeknights. Family Mise en Place facilitates inclusive cross-generational cooking, helping families build dialogue and learn from one another. A secondary objective is to connect parents and children to the food they eat. Within this context, family members explore sustainability and health implicitly through the experience of cooking with True Foods.
Family Mise en Place came together by pairing participant research with theories of systems thinking, constructivist learning and Information Interaction Design, supported by an investigation into the history of the North American food system. Research involved interviewing Current Parents (CP; those raising children ages 6-10) as well as Empty-Nesters (EN; those fifteen or more years removed from raising pre-teen children). It also involved a web survey of Current Parents and ethnographic cooking activities with Children (C). Finally, prototype testing consisted of observing families cooking together using the Meal Card prototypes. The outcome of this thesis is a toolkit that breaks the cooking experience into three stages: Gather, Prepare and Cook. Each stage is depicted through a Meal Framework, which is a series of Meal Cards that uses iconography children can understand, makes cooking accessible, and enables kids to contribute to the family meal.