Eating as you drive is rarely an extraordinary experience. Packaged sarnies, sweaty burgers, bags of crisps, and canned energy drinks are motoring foods that even committed gastronomes put up with. As people grind through their daily schedules there's little time for discrimination and few options for fine dining on the move.
The concept of a motorcentric dining experiment is, however, one that has percolated in the collective brain of Bompas & Parr for some time. How can an in-car meal be sexed up? When the Avant Garde Diaries asked us to think about an art project for the car manufacture Mercedes-Benz we knew the Drive Thru held the key.
We started off by speaking to Dr Rachel Edwards-Stuart, a flavour scientist, about the culinary implications of in-car dining. She pointed us in the direction of a number of academic research papers. They detailed how people's seating arrangement can have an impact on perception and enjoyment of a meal, the ways in which colour can enhance flavour and how the right music can bring out certain aspects of the food. Charles Spence, Professor of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford found that low pitched notes by brass instruments can bring out a bitter taste while high pitched notes on a piano make you increase perceived sweetness.
Her work contributed to ideas on how to control the interior space of the car, shape the menu and craft sodas inspired by the physical, biological, ethical, architectural, and temporal dimensions of the car. By choreographing humidity, sound, lighting, and smell (the latter with meat-based air fresheners from world renown nose Dawn Goldworm) we can create a hot-rod meal in your car seat.
Armed with Dr Edwards-Stuart's insight then went on a six-month burger quest to deconstruct the popular sandwich and turbo-charge it for more a more intense gustatory experience. The result is the savage and audacious duck-sausage doughnut. We call it the Big Merc.
The combination of sugar, fat and salt makes the food deeply compelling, high in hedonistic value and geared to stimulate your neurons. These are the cells that trigger the brain's reward system and release dopamine, the chemical that motivates behaviour, and makes you want to eat more. The same receptors are targeted by powerful amphetamines.
And when you think the combination of sausage and sugar pastry is as good as it gets, it's time to meet the grapes. According to a Hells Angel we spoke to researching the project, they are the ultimate road food. Modular and moorish their sweetness and acidity cuts through fatty meaty flavours and refreshes the palate. What foods these morsels be.
Come down and check it out for yourself. The installation is on for London Fashion Week when there is limited time to eat between shows, which start every hour. Models, journalists and buyers go hungry as they dash between presentations and appointments. The Mercedes Drive Thru is our solution, an art installation that serves emotionally compelling food on all fours within 180 seconds of arrival.
The route takes vehicles beneath Selfridges and along a 40m stretch of polished marble. This marble is a key inspiration for the project due to its role in exploring the theory of embodied taste. Polished marble surface are a signifier of good taste while the vector for flavour in meat is the marbled fat (eg in a steak). An adjoining revolving restaurant is provided for diners who arrive on foot to see the action.
You'll emerge holding steaming meat luggage within minutes of entering and experience a specially commissioned light installation by Jason Bruges Studio, a big and nasty soundscape by Dom James and our troupe of roller-girls, Marawa and the Doughnuteers. All informed by science.
Come eat within the world's first art project combining motoring, meat, mixology and a triptych with four panels - The Four Horsemen of the Oesophagus. Allow our sodas to push your cup holders to their limit. Let's get meaty.
Welcome to the Mercedes Drive Thru, part of the global Avant/Garde Diaries series of events from Mercedes-Benz. Pop down your self 14-16 September, Selfridges, London. For more information on the development of the project and to purchase tickets please visit www.theavantgardediaries.com.