Earlier this year, Liz Swig was taking time out after the Zona Maco art fair in Mexico City. An overarching theme at the fair had been transparency and reflection; and Swig, a collector and hard-driving creative entrepreneur, took a few days out in the resort town of Tulum to recover from a bout of flu and reflect. Here she was served a bowl of oatmeal at a little wooden table drenched by early morning sunshine.
‘That’s when it hit me,’ she says. ‘Oatmeal, done properly, can be a complete experience. I took a bite from that bowl and it was as good as anything I have ever eaten. It was the beauty of that single experience in Tulum that inspired me to go on a journey to disrupt how people view oatmeal. Right now it is perceived as a sturdy breakfast staple. I want to explore its potential and reposition it as an experience for any time of day. My goal is to make oatmeal cool and sexy.’
So Time For Oatmeal was established. It is the first culinary foray for Swig and her platform for creative partnerships, LizWorks. Swig’s operation has produced a limited-edition line of eyewear in collaboration with Vik Muniz, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Paola Pivi, and an 18ct gold charm bracelet, Charmed, which featured contributions from seven female artists including Barbara Kruger, Cindy Sherman and Laurie Simmons. ‘I love the idea of taking something traditional and contemporising it,’ she says.
The first stop on Swig’s quest to revolutionise oatmeal is this year’s Design Miami. She has partnered with Brazilian design duo Humberto and Fernando Campana to introduce Time For Oatmeal within a sensory environment that reimagines food as material, and material as food. The Campana-designed installation uses wood panels laminated in oats. Humberto suggests that he and his brother are ‘alchemists’. And this might be the biggest test of their powers of transformation. ‘It is a challenge to take something people don’t pay much attention to and shine a light on it, to invite them to see it another way,’ he says.
Swig has also commissioned two series of limited-edition Campana Brothers bowls, creating the perfect vessels for enjoying the daily ritual of eating oatmeal. An earthy form in terracotta comes in an edition of 250, while an ornamented version with animal and plant motifs, entitled ‘Lizbowl’, is being produced in an edition of seven, each entirely unique. Seven, for Swig, has always been an important number: ‘It is a number imbued with meaning – we have a seven day week and seven deadly sins – and whenever it feels appropriate to use that number I will.’
During Design Miami, a menu of seven Time For Oatmeal dishes will be introduced ‘to boost stamina, inspire brilliance, improve sex drive and cure ailments.’ Swig has worked with food editor, author and founder of Bureau X food consultancy Christine Muhlke, and nutritionist, chef and owner of West Village eatery Nourish Kitchen + Table Marissa Lippert, to create sample offerings for different times of the day. From the postworkout morning taste of Burn Baby Burn (containing freeze-dried blueberries, sesame brittle and tonka bean) to Stay in Tonight (with cremini mushrooms, parsley and pecorino), Swig is thrilled by how ‘completely scrumptious’ each taste is: ‘Stay in Tonight rivals any risotto you might prepare.’
‘The response to this project so far has been one of huge excitement,’ says Swig. ‘I am convinced that we will change the perception of oatmeal. It can be what we eat at any time of day, even with a shot of tequila – the oatmeal spiked with turmeric, kaffir lime and Korean chili flakes is perfect for that.’
Oatmeal is certainly getting its ‘dance card’. ‘Tell me what other grain has been exhibited at an art or design fair,’ says Swig. ‘Quinoa has never been to Miami.’
Liz Swig’s Time for Oatmeal Dishes
6:55am: Get the Hell Up
Contains goji berries, pecans, freeze-dried raspberries, orange and lemon zest, toasted coconut, pomegranate molasses, cinnamon, muscovado sugar, vanilla bean and pink Himalayan salt
8:32am: Burn Baby Burn
Contains roasted almonds, freeze-dried blueberries, sesame brittle, lime zest, hemp seeds, chia seeds, maple syrup, cinnamon, goat milk powder, cordyceps mushrooms, salt and tonka bean
1:07pm: Out to Lunch
Contains Turkish apricots, cherry reduction, toasted sunflower seeds, toasted coconut, soba-cha buckwheat, golden milk, cordyceps mushrooms, schisandra berries, muscovado sugar, salt and pink peppercorns
4:14pm: Afternoon Delight
Contains dried plums, peanuts, tristar strawberries, dark chocolate chunks, dried baby banana, chaga mushrooms, muscovado sugar and Maldon sea salt
6:09pm: Swipe Right
Contains pepitas, toasted coconut, tumeric, vadouvan, kaffir lime, Korean chili flakes, nutritional yeast, lime zest and salt
7:51pm: Stay in Tonight
Contains cremini mushrooms, thyme, shallots, parsley, sunchoke chips, garlic manchego, pecorino romano, nutritional yeast, truffle oil, salt and black pepper
00:00am: Here's Looking at You
Contains Persian green raisins, kumquats, rose tea syrup, cocoa nibs, vanilla bean, collagen powder, tocos rice bran flour and pink Himalayan salt
As originally featured in the December 2017 issue of Wallpaper* (W*225)