Friday, December 25, 2009

Food and Art

I was reading the other day from one of my favorite food blogs (www.chadzilla.typepad.com the December 13th article) about food and art. Which led to some question about the nature of food. Coming original from an art background and finding myself into restaurant work as an necessity at first, and working to the point of dedication to food I have always attempted to create food that suited my artistic needs. What is then artistic food?

In the introduction of Ratio by Michael Rhulman he discuss hollandaise sauce as it applies to his discover of ratios. He states, "Take away the vinegar, pepper, and lemon and you still have hollandaise. Take away yolks or butter and it ceased to be hollandaise," (Rhulman xxiii) what he was discussing was in reference to the old Dean at the C.I.A. and his conversation of ratios, and that an understanding of the fundamentals of cooking is necessary in understanding food. But this is a backwards approach to understanding food. To understand the fundamentals, I believe, you must understand food. Make hollandaise and place it in a bowl what is it? It is not a meal, despite the friends who would claim they could eat by the spoonful I would challenge them to eat a whole bowl, nor is it a sauce. When studying sauce making in a culinary school your are given several criteria as to what is a sauce. You may been told about consistency, or classifications, but these are just label and points of qualities. The one criteria is that it is a liquid that is used to enhance a meal. A English Muffin, ham, and poached egg is a fine meal, but to add hollandaise to elevate, to improve it. It is not because it becomes Eggs Benedict, this is just a name of a dish and one that, in the contemporary since, has little to do with traditional ingredients, it is because the sauce works well and enhances. The acid, the fat, the moisture, these qualities create something new out of what was already there. So to the point of without vinegar, pepper, or lemon, but with just butter and egg you have hollandaise I will have to say no. Butter slowly whisked into egg yolk is emulsified butter, butter slowly whisked into egg yolk with vinegar, pepper, and lemon is emulsified butter with vinegar, pepper, and lemon. It is the intent that makes it Hollandaise Sauce.

There was a great moment in modern art where somebody decided that it was the intent to create that was the art with the end product being the manifestation of that intent. This idea is as fundamental to cooking and eating as it is to the visual arts. What makes a Christmas dinner different than any other dinner other than intent. It is an idea that every cook should be asking their self when they begin creating a new dish.

This discussion of sauce, intent, and art in food my seem to stray in subject away from the purpose of these collection of writings, but what makes a good meal different from one survival. It is rare that in the quest for survival that purpose, intent, and fulfilment come into our meal, but art is life as much as food is life. Suffering as well has a place in all of this. In my attempts to create a gallery worthy conceptional food piece I stand on one principal of art that artist use cultural language as the medium for their work and message, and almost no human action, save love and religion, has more cultural meaning than food. The lack of food, not to link myself with the minimalist, has a much impact than its presences. To eat rice everyday, as I am prone to do, is to experience life is some form, and it is with these understanding that we must approach solving issues of poverty; thru an artistic understanding of food, cultural, and emotional impact. The food and assistance must have the same impact delivered on a person as a chef deliveries with a sauce. Ask questions of those we seek to help, not just are you hungry, but what do you want, what did your parents eat, where do you come from. The key to solving the issues of hungry, and the desperation that it comes with is to find the impact. For me it has been a life long pursuit for a perfect red beans and rice. A quest introduce, possibly with the realization of its impact on me, by my parents. So how to feed someone like me, give me beans, I have all of the rice I can take.

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