Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Beauty is in the Bowl of the Beholder
Welcome to the first installment of "The HeART of Food", a daily exploration of our relationship with food and, particularly, how healthy food brings real beauty into our lives. When I first conceived this train of art and writing, I had just completed last year's series of painting or drawing my dinner each night as an artistic and dietary discipline. I thought it would help me stay accountable to good food as well as the discipline of creating art, even if it were a tiny piece, every day.
That series got me seriously interested in the beauty that is inherent in food carefully grown, mindfully prepared, artfully presented, and joyfully consumed.
It prompted me to pay closer attention to avoiding food that contained unpronounceable ingredients, refined sugar, emasculated grain, or trans-anything.
I also have done some delving into the images or objects connected with food which artists throughout time have shared with the world, and concluded that some of the most beautiful images speak to us of abundance and blessing. Think, for example, of ancient libation cups and bowls created to offer sustenance to gods of earth, sea, and sky.
The marble (marble!) bowl shown above was made by the Cycladic people, ca. 2800 B.C.E., is of a size easily held in the hand, and is carved as thin as a porcelain cup. We know nearly nothing of their civilization, except that they chose to exercise their remarkable skill with marble on very few objects: images of goddesses and these amazing bowls.
How can human beings who would create something so delicate to hold their nourishment degrade to the level of synthesizing food that deserves nothing better than Styrofoam packaging? How did real food lose its beauty?
It is to reclaim the power of food's beauty-its power to sustain the heart literally and figuratively as more than just a package full of calories-that is the object of this series. You are invited to share insights as they occur, or just read along for the ride. From time to time I'll mention resources, post images, and share links you may want to check out. If I assert a fact, I'll quote the source so you can explore further if you like. All art will be either mine or in the public domain or used with permission of its creator. For instance, the marble bowl can be seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art . (If you happen to know the artist please share with the rest of us)
This first week, I want to also think about clean eating and making even seemingly insignificant foods beautiful to the eye. I am of the opinion that one of the reasons we Americans have fallen so far down the slough of bad eating is that there is little to encourage us to linger over and enjoy the interaction with our food. We drive through, get a bag through the car window, and eat from it without even looking at how it's presented. I know. I'm an expert! But I'm also thinking that if we were to consider giving good food the presentation it deserves, we might appreciate it for its aesthetic appeal as much as for its physical nourishment. It would take fewer calories to satisfy us, since our eye and soul would be full.
One thing I don't care to do is to become a recipe site. There are countless excellent recipe sites available, from the Washington Post to Dr. Oz to Martha Stewart. They all do a better job than I could, and they'll give you nutrition values and calorie counts too. If I'm making a point and have a recipe on hand to illustrate it, I'll probably foist it on you. Don't feel that means you have to try it!
So, now that Memorial Day and Taco Night are behind me, it's time to get down to the HeART of the matter.
Expect each day's fresh post by 5:00 am Pacific Daylight time.