K-Ration @ the Triennale: Beauty and Function reconciled

K Ration, Italy. Foto Fabrizia Parisi

Meals for soldiers in action

It’s about differences: cultural, culinary and, why not, caloric. It’s about trying to preserve the ordinary and the familiar when the extraordinary and the unknown take over. It’s about tasting home while faraway from homeland, and surely, it’s about the upcoming Expo2015. But first and foremost, K-Ration, the military food exhibition currently held at the Triennale Design Museum, is about design: the one that redeems the beauty of function.

…rigorous functional discipline and performance often leads to products that are unconditionally beautiful, in which function taken to the highest degree generates the same level of aesthetic value.

Giulio Iacchetti, designer and curator of the Exhibition

What’s that “K”

To clear your curiosity on the name, “K” stands for Keys: the initial of an American couple, Ancel and Margaret Keys who, during World War II, introduced an individual daily military food ration, drawing inspiration from the Mediterranean diet.

In fact, Dr. Ancel Keys was also known as Mr. Cholesterol, a curious nickname he carried thanks to a huge international study he’d conducted examining links between heart disease, cholesterol and diet, in seven countries: Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, the Netherlands, Finland, the United States, and Japan. In 1959, the Keys published Eat Well and Stay Well, a bestseller cookbook promoting the Mediterranean diet. With the royalties from the book, they bought a house in Naples, Italy where lived happily ever after: Ancel Keys died at the age of 100 (a tangible proof of his lifetime studies on the healthy diet).

K-Ration: military field rations from twenty international armies

All photographs are courtesy of Fabrizia Parisi.

K-Ration New Zealand. Photo by Fabrizia Parisi
K-Ration in New Zealand: neat design and an endless list of stuff (creamy chicken and potatoes, Thai lamb curry, chocolate biscuits, marmite, tea, coffee, chocolate drink, cheese, muesli, bread, instant soup, isotonic drink, peanuts and raisins, chocolate, instant noodles, sweets, muesli bars, strawberry fruit grains, onion flakes etc.)
K-Ration: Italy. Photo by Fabrizia Parisi
K-Ration in Italy: the indispensable pasta and beans, a load of sweets and three (!) sets of toothbrushes
K-Ration Lithuania. Photo by Fabrizia Parisi
K-Ration in Lithuania: minimized to the minimal
K-Ration USA. Photo by Fabrizia Parisi
K-Ration in the USA: individual ration for one vegetarian meal
K-Ration Ukraine. Photo by Fabrizia Parisi
K-Ration in Ukraine: biscuits and canned meat
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