Eat This Art!
There is nothing more fabulous than seeing a vibrant and beautiful painting of food. Or is there? Maybe that same plate of food would be just as engaging and enticing on the table as on a canvas. Natural food is so full of colour, from the bright green of a pepper to the deep red of a steak cooked raw; food is just as beautiful as art. Many great chefs would say that cooking and presenting food is an art in itself. Both are about pleasure, appealing to the senses and invoking memory and emotions. It is easy to imagine how one could influence the other.
Food is one of the basic needs for survival. Without food our bodies would waste away and we would die. But, on a lighter note, food is also a source of great pleasure! Cooking releases fantastic aromatic smells that can linger in a house turning it into a home. Many of our best memories are located around food too. We all remember our childhood breakfasts or Sunday dinners. And Christmas meals are not just about getting together with family but it are also about celebrating that kinship year after year with traditional foods.
Art is like that too. Do you remember the first time you saw an impressionist painting or a piece of artwork that really caught your eye? Like food, art invokes pleasure and a sense of appreciation for the beautiful things in the world.
You might wonder how one influences the other. Many different schools of art exist around the world, and food has always been a muse for the artist. Just think of a bowl of fruit. How many paintings do you think exist with a pear or an apple?
Art loves color, texture and depth. And nothing is more true to these features than food. An artist has an appreciation for these aspects that most of us do not even notice. For example I might see a green pepper in a fruit stall; the artist will see ten different shades of green, shapes, lines and angles, and beauty.
So how is food inspired by art? Or is it? The simple answer is yes, of course it is! Food creates and captures images that are every bit as beautiful as what is on a canvas. Just think of what a pastry chef can create out of even the simplest of ingredients.
Baking and making desserts are a real form of artistry that take time, patience and a lot of determination. With these foods especially there must be a unique finished look that is every bit as enticing as the dessert itself. Deserts are really about pleasure and indulgence of almost all of our senses.
Real food is all about beauty, creating a painting on a plate that is good enough to eat. Masters in cooking will focus not only on what the put in their dishes but also on the end result too. Food has to look good enough to eat. And for serious kitchen experts the final product is as important as the process that went into creating it.
If you are preparing a meal for family or friends then you will get the best ingredients you can from all your local markets. It is usually easy to tell by just looking a fruit or vegetable if it is ripe and good for eating. We use the same technique of visual pleasure when we look at a piece of art. Ok so we probably are not going to eat the art we are looking at, but we are drawn to both because of visual delight.
Let’s get back to that meal that you are getting ready for your closest people. You will want the food to taste great and to be something that all your guests will enjoy eating. But you also want to show them what you can create, that you are an artist in the kitchen and in presenting the food you make on the plate. No one is going to enjoy eating fabulous food that is thrown in a bowl to resemble something like the bottom of a trash can. Just as you will have laid your table carefully and decoratively, and will have tidied your home to make it welcoming, your finished dish will have to do you proud by looking as pretty as a picture.
People always comment on how good food looks. Or how tasteless. Most of us go by the simple theory that if it looks good it tastes good too. Of course, one does not necessarily follow the other (I bake). We are already attracted, or not, by that piece of cake before we smell or taste it or even know what it is. In this way food gets a little of the magic of art from pleasing the visionary senses and drawing up all sorts of emotions.
Both art and food are representative of the era in which they were first produced. We are social creatures and as humans we strive for pleasure and excitement. All of that was much more obvious in the wealthy class of, for example, the sixteenth century. Of course if you did not have the funds to see or enjoy art then you most likely did not have the means or the ingredients for making exciting dishes.
Life can be really tough and full of challenges every day. But there are many simple ways to get pleasure from moments too. Eating is a pleasurable experience. It is a basic must too, but it is completely indulgent if we sit back and taste what we chew. Art is another one of life’s great pleasures. A sculpture can seem as full and beautiful as the real thing and a painting can sometimes evoke feelings of joy and being at ease. When food and art come together and one inspires the other we can take satisfaction in the fact that as humans we can create something beautiful. And all with what nature has around us, and have fun with it too.
Article published in Food&Chef Magazine, Issue 4