Contemporary Expression

Finding Art In The Food You Eat
August 18, 2005, 12:34 am
Filed under: Living An Artful Life, The Art Files

As published in The Church Street Freedom Press August 2005

Taking the time to recognize that each element of our lives lends itself to being an artful moment does take some practice. The challenge for you this wonderfully hot month of August is to find the art in the food you eat.

You’ve experienced that meal that was served to you by coming with such elegance or such fanfare that it was clear that the chef and even the server thought of it as art. But did you? What about the making of a simple grilled cheese sandwich? Can that be art? Indeed I say yes!

Okay, before you think I’m just completely off my rocker, consider this quote from Antonin Careme 1784-1833; “The arts are five in number: painting, sculpture, poetry, music, architecture –whose main branch is confectionery” .

Congratulations go out to Renee Kasman, pastry chef at Zola’s, who recently won a contest sponsored by Purity Ice Cream for the 2nd Harvest Food Bank. She took a classic vanilla ice cream and added ingredients to make it an Italian Macaroon Blueberry Caramel Crunch desert. “A successful song is a song that you want to hear over and over again” says Kasman. ”Good food should be the same. If you have done it correctly you will want it over and over again.”

Some chefs will spend time working on the visual element and others more on the flavor and texture. The art is found in finding a balance of both, not losing sight that food is art for your mouth. Wedding cakes for example, need to be made to hold up under fluctuating temperatures and sometimes making them to look just breath taking can result in a pretty bland taste. Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse in California in 1971, serving a single fixed-price menu that changes daily. The set menu format remains at the heart of Alice’s philosophy of serving only the highest quality products, only when they are in season. Over the course of three decades, Chez Panisse has developed a network of mostly local farmers and ranchers whose dedication to sustainable agriculture provides a steady supply of pure and fresh ingredients. This concept is followed as much as possible at Zola’s and Margo and Red Wagon, and just about any really great chef owned restaurant in this town.

When it comes to money, we put it where our mouth is! As a community we tend to eat out more. There are a several lesbian chefs in town, not all of them, but enough of them. If they wanted to, they could demand equal rights for GLBT’s or withhold all the good food! Eating out in Nashville can be a social pleasure but it is also a clear statement that we appreciate the enjoyment of artful food.

Actually, the pizza at Christopher’s and the eggplant at Tin Angel, the salmon at Fido’s, the curry chicken at Frothy Monkey, Julia’s creations at Family Wash or the daily sandwiches at Provence are absolutely, without a doubt, works of edible art.

Slow down and look, taste and smell your food and think about the farmer that raised the ingredients, the chef that prepared it and the proprietor that has set the music and colors in place around you for an artful experience.

Now back at home, let’s do the same. Last spring I wrote about how your home is your gallery. Let’s look at your kitchen as your studio! Enjoy finding the right utensils and items to work with. I’m very fortunate to have a wife (everyone should have one!) that creates a menu of meals and does the shopping and then we cook together.

We love food but by planning and creating and enjoying food more slowly and by making it at home where we know what was in it, I lost over 50 lbs over the course a year so it can be very good for you too!

Okay so back to that grilled cheese – sprinkle some Italian seasoning in between the cheese and add a green apple slice and it’s art!

Nancy VanReece is a visual artist in Nashville. Her works are carried at Urban Décor on Woodland in East Nashville. She is also President of the Board of Directors of Nashville’s leading non-profit experimental theatre People’s Branch Theatre. For more information: and


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