I still remember the first time I bought a coffee from one of those branded (and expensive) coffee shops, the ones that offer exotic-sounding varieties like Americanos and Machiatos, and the sense of awe that crept up in me as I gazed inside my perfectly-brewed cup. There, dancing over the piping hot coffee, was a pretty leaf, formed of foamy froth and coffee dust. Perfectly shaped and precisely detailed, that leaf was to me nothing less than a work of art!
Time and again, in our Instagram feeds or on the glossy pages of some magazine or, if we have the dough to spend, in the plates in front of us, we get to see extremely well-presented dishes, dishes that are designed to appeal to our sight as much as they are seasoned to please our taste buds. Fancy flourishes of a crunchy lettuce leaf or a fine drizzle of a spicy sauce dress up a modest dish and transform it into a veritable pièce de résistance. Of late, especially with the mushrooming of gourmet restaurants, chefs have begun experimenting extensively with presentation. From carefully arranging the components into beautiful patterns to creating detailed pictures on the plate, chefs are leaving no stone unturned in their efforts to woo customers with truly unique dishes. In fact, so creative and attractive are these creations that they have been elevated to the status of art. Food art of culinary art is now being considered a new genre of art, some even including it among the performing arts. If you’re reading this and going, “What the?!” you’re not the only person. This move, of including gastronomical creations into the realm of the arts, has elicited as much criticism as it has praise.
Those not in favour of the move have the following arguments to make; firstly that food is cooked primarily for consumption and therefore, there is always a monetary angle involved. Chefs innovate to increase sales and not because they believe in creating something beautiful. Secondly, that food is well, food, edible items meant for nourishing the system rather than stimulating thought or change. Since the principle purpose of art is to bring about a change in the individual, food simply cannot be looked at as art. Those in favour of the move strike down these accusations with the following arguments: the monetary angle is a consideration for most artists, even if not overtly, every artist wants his art to be appreciated, in a way, consumed. Also, if dishes are sold, art is sold too, in fact, at exorbitant rates. Secondly, that art does not necessarily need to have a cleansing or moralizing aspect. Good art can simply appeal to our senses, move us with its beauty. A well decorated dish succeeds in doing this. In fact, it appeals to not just one but multiple senses, like smell, sight, touch and taste. So, if it does manage to wow the viewer, it should be looked at as art!
Well, the arguments will continue, but in the end, what matters is how you feel when you see a delectably decorated dish in front of you. Does it draw in all your concentration and tingle your senses and make you feel good about life? If your answer is yes, then you’re probably among those who consider food to be art. And guess what, it’s okay!
Here are some delicious and artsy spreads, drool!
Mosaic made from beans and other food items. Artist: Jason Mecier.
Artwork on eggshells. Artist: Christel Assante
Sculpture made from butter. Artist: Jim Victor
Foodscapes by artist Carl Warner
Fruit and vegetable art by artist Ray Duey
All the more reason to love food, right?