By Lewis Robinson
Now that “food, glorious food!” has transcended this anthem-like song from the musical “Oliver” into the cultural concept of “Art,” food production and the culinary arts have been given pride of place among the visual, performing and written ways people express their humanity. Few cultural products express beliefs and value with the same power as food.
There are countless paintings and photographs hanging in museums and galleries, hit films still in rotation in television and movie theatres, books by foodies and celebrity chefs that make us salivate the instance we are exposed to them, and music, from the classics to popular tunes.
As a professional art dealer and confessed gourmet, I recommend not only viewing but also experiencing the following mouthwatering samples of Food As Art for your pleasure:
- The Peasant Wedding is an iconic scene, painted in 1567 by the Dutch Renaissance artist and printmaker Pieter Brueghel the Elder. One of his many depictions of peasant life, it features foods that grown and harvested in 16th century Netherlands. The painting now hangs in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
- Freedom From Want—also known as The Thanksgiving Picture or I’ll Be Home For Christmas, is the third of the Four Freedoms seriesof oil paintings by American artist Norman Rockwell.
- Reversible Head With Basket Of Fruit is the 1590 work of the Italian painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo, who was best known for creating imaginative portrait heads made entirely of fruits, vegetables, flowers, fish, and books.
- The ubiquitous Campbell’s Soup Cans created by Andy Warhol between November 1961 and March or April 1962, helped to elevate the artist’s reputation as an accomplished 1950s commercial illustrator, to a notable fine artist, as well as setting him apart from other emerging contemporary pop artists.
Classical & Pop Music
- Audiences enchanted every year by the Christmas confection that lights up opera and ballet stages in many parts of the world, owe a debt of gratitude to one of the great Romantic composers, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, for his immortal
Nutcracker Suite—especially for the mouthwatering Sugar Plum Fairy dances in its second Act.
- Nothing pays homage to citrus more charmingly than famed Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev’s satirical opera, L’amour Des Trois Oranges(The Love Of Three Oranges).
- Nostalgia for summer and its mouthwatering romance with a luscious fruit are evoked from first to last chord by The Beatles’ Strawberry Fields Forever song.
- Taste buds and bodies dance on an imagined Jamaica beach whenever we hear Harry Belafonte tune up his mellifluous voice to the island folk music of Banana Boat Song… Day-O, Day-O …
- Jambalaya—On the Bayou… written and recorded by American country music singer Hank Williams conjures up a whole cornucopia of Creole and Cajun foods and wild nights of merriment.
- Giuseppe Verde mixed the Italian gusto for celebration into the devil-may-care Drinking Song that brings some moments of lightness to his tragic opera, La Traviata.Movies (best seen when not hungry)
- Babette’s Feast has been a must-see movie since it hit the big screen in 1987. No film has ever succeeded in vicariously feeding worldwide audiences a royal feast with rare delicacies—cooked before our eyes by a master chef—which few mortals have even heard about, much less seen, smelled or tasted. And no other film surrounds sumptuous foods with such beautifully told story of ossified and intolerant religious strictures melted into warm human relationships by the epicurean delight of the culinary arts.
- Eat Drink Man Woman, released in 1994, celebrates family by lavishing its members with the amazing cooking skills and artistic mastery of flavoring by the father, a sidelined Master Chef, nurturing his daughters.
- Big Night, a 1996 tour de force by great actors playing Master Chefs and Restaurateurs (Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub)—with a staring role stolen by a complicated ‘pasta-and-everything’ dish called Timpani.
- The Hundred Foot Journey could easily have been the movie—released in 2014—that made the world fall in love with out of the way areas of France, Indian and French cooking and food as the life essence that sparks heartfelt love through the stomach.
FLUXUS—A Tapestry Of Food And Music
- Called a ‘classical music transgression’ by some, an ‘artistic act of rebellion’ by others, a musical movement named Fluxus astonished audiences at a series of concerts celebrating the centennial season of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, by having a culinary group prepare a giant salad on the spectacular Disney Hall’s stage between musical interludes. Who would have thought…?
Fluxus calls itself “an international, interdisciplinary community of artists, composers, designers and poets,” who came together during the 1960s and 1970s to perform experimental art.
- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is part memoir, part soulful paean to nature and healthy eating and part the kind of gorgeous literature we have become accustomed to being gifted with by the prolific author of the ‘Poisonwood Bible’ and other books, Barbara Kingsolver.
- Chef and cookbook author Ingrid Croce wrote Thyme in A Bottle–Memories And Recipes From Croce’s Restaurant, as a tribute to her late husband, singer and songwriter Jim Croce. Her Croce’s Restaurant and Jazz Bar had graced San Diego’s Gaslamp District for years, before she decided to preserve the multi-ethnic recipes with which she attracted her clientele into a book.
In the area of celebrity chefs, some stand out not only because of their cooking accomplishments, famous restaurants, television shows and cookbooks, but mostly because their longevity and continuous relevance.
Just to name a few: Emeril Lagasse and his food network shows; Alice Waters, founder and owner of Chez Panisse, the legendary (and health food oriented) restaurant in Berkley, California; and Chef Bernard Guillas, Maître Cuisiniers de France, whose work attracts diners to the Marine Room, an upscale beach-front restaurant in La Jolla, California, as well as to other restaurants around the world to which he lends his expertise. Chef Guillas is also the author of many cookbooks.
- A multitude of cooking schools attract travelers to Spain, France and countless other destinations in Europe, the U.S. and other destinations to enjoy foodie tourism adventures.