On the Subject of Food and Art
Didn't end up sitting around all day today as previously expected. I finally pulled myself out of bed, and after several cups of coffee headed to the Statens Museum for Kunst - Copenhagen's largest collection of art.
The museum turned out to be free which was a HUGE plus, and to put icing on the cake, it was quite an incredible museum, the highlight being its wide range of contemporary and modern art. These genres tend to be my favorite as the meaning and purpose of the piece are ultimately left up to the viewer.
Naturally, the day's events have led up to the question: Is food truly art? The question has been pondered for centuries and yet, a clear answer hasn't really been decided upon by the general public. We all agree that painting, drawing, sculpture, etc is art. Music is art. Dancing is art. But what about food?
The issue of course, is the problem of consumption. Food is certainly not an everlasting thing, much like a painting or a sculpture. Even things like music, dance, theatre, have all been well documented and recorded and will last for ages. Food on the other hand, is a momentary joy. Experienced for only a few minutes, if that. Or is it? What about memory? Memories can last a lifetime - doesn't get much longer than that. Is the memory of biting into a perfectly ripe fig less beautiful than a painting by Matisse? That I cannot answer. But what I can answer, or at least bring to light, is that food does have a life (an existence) much longer than it's actual experience. And that life, that juicy, sweet, luscious fig can be found in one's memory.
In my opinion, memories can be even more powerful than a standing painting or sculpture. For one reason alone: they have meaning. If something does not have meaning, it is not worth remembering. Visual art can have meaning too - the best paintings, sculptures, and food are those that evoke an emotion within us. Emotions are powerful things, and I think food carries them well.
Which brings me to my next point. If we are considering food as art, does it need to be VISUALLY appealing? I don't think so. But that is precisely where emotions become involved. For instance, there was a painting at the gallery today that really struck my attention.
This is "And in his eyes I saw death" by Ejnar Nielsen
This painting is obviously striking. I think I just stood there looking at for at least five minutes or so. Is it visually appealing? Not at all. In fact, it's downright horrid. But it did strike up an emotion within me. One of despair, finality, and loss among other things. I certainly wouldn't want this on a wall in my own home. Yet despite it's lack of visual appeal, it is an image I will never forget. It is permanently cemented in my memory. Just like that fig.
Does that mean that a roasted pigs trotter and grits that your Mammy made you can be just as beautiful, if not more, as a $1000 meal at Per Se in NYC? Yes! It absolutely does! To delve even deeper into the subject (A special thank you to all of you still with me, I'm on a soapbox), food is the only art form (that's right, art form) that consistently provides stimulation to all 5 senses.
First you smell the pork as you meander down the street. You turn into the shop and see the suckling pig rotating on the spit. It's skin crisp and brown. Little geysers erupting with juices that slowly run down its side before finally reaching the pigs belly and dripping onto the the suckling beneath it. You ask to try a piece and the man behind the counter reluctantly cuts you chunk from just above its front legs. You feel the crisp skin and tender flesh of the pork, the beautiful fat glistens on your fingers, smooth like fine silk. You place the piece of meat on your tongue and bite down . You immediately hear the snap and crunch of the crisp pig's skin as it breaks between your teeth. The juices from the flesh begin to run down your throat, seep from the cracks of your mouth, whispering to you. You taste its life, it's purpose, the farm, the feed, the sunny yellow days and cool spring nights, when the hay is moist and beads of dew begin to form on the pigs bristly hair, the slow in and out of it's breath, piglets at its side, dreaming of another sunny tomorrow. If that is not art, then art be damned.
Clearly, I feel very strongly about this subject and therefore felt the need to take a little time to write about it here. I consider myself an art lover. An artist? Not yet. But for those of you that do know my culinary and extracurricular history, it's safe to say that I've followed a nearly straight path of things, establishments, and jobs that can all be defined as art. I do what I do because it has tremendous meaning to me. The art in these things takes up a life of its own and sings to my emotions.
My wish for anyone reading this is to find that food that can be considered art, whether it is a deconstruction of A-1 sauce at Alinea, the smoothest bowl of lobster bisque you've ever had, or the most flavorful pistachio your tongue has ever come across. Live in that moment. Make it yours. Remember it. Believe in the art it has to offer.
I fødevarer, vi har tillid til