yrhong1 https://oss.adm.ntu.edu.sg/yrhong1 Just another Open Source Studio site Fri, 23 Jan 2015 03:24:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.2 Recipes Remembered: A Celebration of Survival ../recipes-remembered-a-celebration-of-survival/ ../recipes-remembered-a-celebration-of-survival/#respond Thu, 25 Sep 2014 10:12:01 +0000 ../?p=66 Continue reading Recipes Remembered: A Celebration of Survival ]]> http://www.mjhnyc.org/recipes/index.html


Here are three survivors’ stories and recipes to give you a taste of Recipes Remembered.

Ruth and Vittorio Orvieto

In Ruth’s words
Ruth’s story is very international. From a childhood in Germany, coming of age in Ecuador and a 57-year marriage to Vittorio, an Italian survivor, Ruth’s life experiences have truly covered the globe.

I was born in Breslau, Germany and had one older brother. On Kristallnacht, my sixteen-year old brother was almost taken to a labor camp, so shortly after that my family shipped him off to Palestine. My father was sent to Buchenwald, and my mother went everyday to the Gestapo to negotiate for his release. At that time they would still let him go if she could secure a visa for him to another country. She secured visas for him alone to Shanghai, but he would not go without us. We scrambled and quickly got visas for the entire family to Ecuador instead. We arrived in Ecuador in 1939; I was twelve at the time. Life was very different for us. In Germany, my father was a successful manufacturer, in Ecuador, he sold butter. Before leaving we had packed our suitcases with items to use for bartering. When we arrived at the docks to leave Germany, the Gestapo confiscated our bags. We arrived in Guayaquil, Ecuador literally with nothing but the clothes on our backs. When I was thirteen, I had to stop school and go to work to help support our family.

In Ecuador, I didn’t consider myself to be German. I had only one dream and that was to get out of there and go to America. I had an affidavit, and I could have gone, but I met and married my husband and we began raising a family. My husband, Vittorio, was born in Genoa, Italy, and left there at nineteen to escape the Holocaust. He often recalled the enormous kindness of the Italian people who helped him board a ship to Ecuador. I always say that was the only good thing Hitler did for me. After my second child was born, I knew I wanted to give my children a better life and a good education. We came to America in 1955, where we had our third child. I never felt German, and preferred to cook the Italian food my husband enjoyed. We were married 57 years and have three children, eight grandchildren and one great grandchild.

Ruth Orvieto’s Gnocchi Ala Romana—Semolina Gnocchi with Cheese
Ruth’s version of gnocchi, crusty, pillowy rounds of baked semolina layered with butter and Parmesan cheese, makes a beautiful presentation and a rich alternative to polenta or baked noodles.

Yields: 4 to 6 servings; Start to Finish: Under 1 ½ hours

2½ cups whole milk
¾ cup semolina flour
4 tablespoons butter; 2 tablespoons cold, 2 tablespoons melted
1 egg yolk, beaten
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup Parmesan cheese

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk till scalding (the point right before boiling, you’ll see a skin begin to form on the top of the milk). Lower the heat to a simmer and begin adding the semolina, ¼ cup at a time. Stir with a whisk to avoid clumping. Once the semolina is completely incorporated, begin stirring with a wooden spoon; the mixture will look like mashed potatoes. On the lowest simmer possible, cook the semolina for 15 to 20 minutes, it will continue to thicken and when you stir, it should pull away from the sides of the pot. It is done when it is very stiff and resembles wet dough.

Take off the heat and stir in 2 tablespoons of cold butter, the egg yolk, salt and half the cheese. The semolina will become very elastic and completely leave the sides of the pot. Clean and lightly dampen a large counter, or a marble slab. Turn the semolina mixture onto the cool, clean, damp surface and using a wet spatula or rolling pin, spread the semolina into a ½-inch layer. Let the mixture cool for at least 20 minutes. The dough should be cool to the touch before beginning the next step.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and lightly butter the bottom of an 11 x 7-inch rectangular baking dish.* In a separate small bowl, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and reserve.

Using a 1½ -inch round cookie cutter, cut circles from the dough and begin layering them in the pan. Start with 24 rounds on the bottom (4 across, 6 down). Using a pastry brush, brush the rounds with the reserved melted butter and sprinkle a little of the remaining cheese on top. Cut 18 rounds for the next layer, and in a pyramid fashion, place those rounds on top of the first layer, (3 across, 6 down). Brush with butter and sprinkle with cheese. Your next layer will be 12 pieces, (2 across, 6 down) and the final layer will be 6 pieces, right down the center; brush with butter and sprinkle each layer with cheese. You will need to gather the scraps of dough and roll them out again in order to complete the layering.** Pour any remaining butter on top and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until the top lightly browns.

*You can also use an 8-inch round or 9-inch square pan, following the same layering patterns. You will need between 60-64 rounds.

**Editor’s Note: If you have a little dough left over and you have layered to your heart’s content, consider making the dough into squares or triangles and frying them up quickly with a little butter. You can enjoy the fruits of your labor long before those 20-25 minutes are up.

Gita Karelitz Roback and Godel Roback

As told by their daughter, Rosy Granoff
Gita’s intelligence and chutzpah were two characteristics that served her well. Even as a child, she was a non-conformist who envisioned a strong Palestine. However, her legacy is here in America, as her daughter lovingly remembers her, as a brave, resourceful woman.

My mother was the youngest of three children, born to a well-to-do family in Baranów, Poland. My Mom, who was just a kid before the war broke out, attended parochial school. She benefited from a very good education, and I am proud to say my mother spoke seven languages. She was also somewhat of a free spirit, very dissimilar to her siblings; shunning materialistic things and pursuing Zionist causes. As a young girl, she would sneak out of her house at night and attend meetings and rallies sponsored by Menachem Begin’s right-wing organization. When the war broke out, she was working as a bookkeeper. Several members of her family were immediately deported to Siberia, and others followed after to find them; they were never heard from again. When my mother was sent to the ghetto, she worked as an administrative assistant for a German officer. It is hard to imagine, but she witnessed her mother being rounded up and taken away. My mother wanted to go after her, but the officer convinced her to stay, explaining frankly that if she left, she would not survive. While in the ghetto, she and her first cousin plotted their escape, with hopes of joining the partisans. Through ingenious trickery, she made arrangements to sneak over the barbed wire and escape into the woods where they joined a small group of freedom fighters. They spent the next couple of years traveling by night and hiding by day. It was in this group, that she met my father, Godel Roback. After the war, my mother and father moved to Rome, Italy, where my two brothers were born. Their plan was to realize my mother’s lifelong dream and go to Palestine. However, a family member from my father’s side offered to sponsor their trip to America and they accepted. My parents surrounded themselves with friends from the war; partisans became the relatives we never had the chance to meet. And while we had a traditional Shabbos dinner every Friday night my mother’s cooking traditions were more American and Italian than Eastern European. A family tradition, which stemmed from the time she spent in Italy, was to have pasta every Sunday night. She and my Dad were married over 40 years, and together they had three children, six grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Gita Roback’s Slow Simmered Sunday Sauce
Gita would begin her sauce with the tireless trio of onions, peppers and celery. Slow cooked herbs, crushed tomatoes, and tomato paste simmered the day away till a robust and aromatic sauce emerged. These same ingredients can easily create a quick sauce; you might sacrifice a little in flavor, but if time is crunching, it’s still far better than store bought. Gita would bathe waiting pasta in the vibrant sauce and serve it alongside thick, juicy rib steaks, which were simply broiled. For a change of pace, burgers made from freshly ground beef and veal and seasoned with grated onion and garlic would be served bunless alongside the spaghetti.

Yields: 3 cups, Start to Finish: At least 4 hours or up to 6 hours, For quick sauce, under 1 hour

1 medium onion, finely chopped (about ¾ cup)
1 medium green pepper, cored, seeded and diced
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped or 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes with their juice
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
1 (8-ounce) can of tomato sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons freshly chopped oregano
2 tablespoons freshly chopped flat leaf parsley plus additional for garnish 2 tablespoons freshly chopped basil plus additional for garnish
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt and pepper

Heat the oil, in a large saucepan, cook and stir the onions, peppers and celery, over medium heat, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, garlic, oregano, parsley, basil and bay leaves. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook the sauce, for at least 4 hours or up to 6. For quick sauce, cook for 30-60 minutes. In the last few minutes of cooking add the parsley and basil. Before serving, remove the bay leaves and toss with your choice of pasta.

In this slow simmered sauce, parsley and basil are added twice. First they are cooked with the sauce to flavor it and meld with the aromatics. They are also added right at the end to appreciate their full flavor. Usually, the fresh spring taste of soft herbs such as parsley, dill and basil is best preserved if they are chopped right before using and added at the very end. With this recipe, you get the slow cooked flavor from the herbs and their vibrant fresh boost at the end.

Ruth Goldman Tobias

In her own words
Ruth Tobias is all about family and community. The day I met her, she was cooking for an Orthodox Jewish tradition called Sheva Brochos—Seven Blessings, when the bride and groom celebrate their nuptials for one week. Ruth is a creative cook and as a result of her internment in Italy during the war, has studied Italian cooking. I devoured her delicious mandelbrot, a recipe that will remain Ruth’s secret. She did, however, share her story and several other wonderful recipes with me.

My parents both came from the same small city in Poland. My father, Avram, left pre-war Poland and headed to Germany to study. Sabina, my mother, came from an Orthodox family and also went to Germany. There they met and married. The mood in Germany was changing, and my father knew they had to relocate. He traveled to Italy to secure passage on an illegal ship to Palestine. In a twist of fate he met a man on the train who convinced him to go to Milan. My father took that man’s advice and together my parents left Germany to settle in Italy. On June 10, 1940, Hitler and Mussolini made a pact and the following day the Allies bombed Milan. Shortly after the bombing, Sabina went into labor and I was born on the holiday of Shavuos, the 12th of June. A year later, my mother and I were sent to an internment camp in Potenza. My father was not home at the time and therefore continued to live in a “safe” house in Milan. Eventually he was arrested and sent to Italy’s largest concentration camp, Ferramonti. After some time, my father was able to transfer to Potenza where we were reunited. Growing up in an internment camp seemed normal to me. There, I played with friends, lived simply but comfortably and remember cooking with my mother. Although we were under the protection of the Italian people, we held on to our Jewish traditions. We baked matzo on a big open fire and observed Passover and the other Jewish holidays.

Shortly after the Germans took control of Italy in September, 1943, our camp was dispersed and we were sent to a small town called Tito where several Jewish families were harbored. I remember the Italians being compassionate, and I am grateful to them for keeping us safe. We could have easily been transported to a death camp, but because of their protective nature, we were spared. The Canadians liberated us and the two things I remember were tasting chocolate and gum for the first time.

I know my upbringing was far from conventional, yet through the disruption and movement, I learned many things. I am very family-oriented because I felt so isolated growing up. I enjoy family gatherings and I cherish the traditions my parents imbued in me. Because of my love for Italy and the Italian people who saved me, I have spent time in Tuscany and Bologna learning to prepare the traditional Italian foods that I did not explore as a child. I prepare both the traditional Jewish specialties as well as my Italian dishes. But mostly, I learned how to look at life. My father always said, “cope with the problems that life brings and be thankful for what you have.” I remember my Dad singing all the time and my Mom maintaining an amazingly positive outlook.

No one goes through life without disappointment; it is how you handle it that makes you who you are. I have tried to pass that philosophy on to my three children and three grandchildren.

Sabina Goldman’s Bursting with Blueberries Tart
There are two kinds of blueberries, those that are shy and drawn and not really worth eating, and those that are so ripe with blueberry flavor that they are ready to burst out of their skin—-those are the blueberries you want for this simply divine tart. Ruth’s Mom, Sabina, added vinegar to the crust, which acts as a stabilizer and adds a subtle bite to balance the buttery flavor. The blueberries bubble and create their own sweet syrup.

Yields: About 8 servings; Start to Finish: Under 1½ hours

For the crust:
2 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter or margarine
2 tablespoons white vinegar

For the filling:
4 cups fresh blueberries
½ cup sugar
? teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups fresh blueberries
Confectioner’s sugar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl, or in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the flour, salt and sugar. Using a pastry blender or in the processor, cut in the chilled butter and pulse or blend to form a crumb-like consistency. Allow bits of butter to remain visible, they melt and create steam during the baking process for a very tender and flaky crust. Sprinkle with vinegar and blend until you have created a soft dough.

With lightly floured hands, press the dough into a 9 x 2-inch spring form pan, or a 9 x 1-inch pie pan with a removable bottom. The crust should be about ¼-inch thick on the bottom; the sides should be a little thinner and come up about 1-inch (you might have some dough remaining). You can refrigerate the crust until ready to fill. In a separate bowl, gently toss the filling ingredients. Spoon the filling into the pan and bake, on the lower rack, at 400 degrees for 1 hour. When the tart cools, garnish with blueberries and a sprinkling of confectioner’s sugar.

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There’s no such thing as a perfect half boiled egg. ../theres-no-such-thing-as-a-perfect-half-boiled-egg/ ../theres-no-such-thing-as-a-perfect-half-boiled-egg/#respond Thu, 25 Sep 2014 08:52:46 +0000 ../?p=63 Continue reading There’s no such thing as a perfect half boiled egg. ]]> Personal blog entry: dated 5 years ago


i have always had a fascination with half boiled eggs…
something about the precision of the timing…
the delicate boiling of water…
and that pleasant surprise when you crack it…

and i do not even eat eggs…

my grandmom always made the perfect half boiled eggs…
for the past 22 years, she has always made it the same way…
when i called my grandmom to ask her about it, she said…
the eggs will tell you when they’re done, they’ll dance…

with her vague instructions i decided to give it a go…
in went the eggs…
and i waited…
and finally, they danced…

when i cracked it open…
it wasn’t perfect…
but it was as close as i ever got…
why am i even talking about half boiled eggs?

because i believe that in life…
there’re only some things you have control over…
for the rest…
you’ll need to wait for it…

sometimes all you need is a little dance…
and maybe some luck…
and for all you know…
when it cracks, you too will crack a smile…

if only you were an egg..

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Smithsonian Guide to Oral History ../smithsonian-guide-to-oral-history/ ../smithsonian-guide-to-oral-history/#respond Thu, 25 Sep 2014 08:50:40 +0000 ../?p=58 ../smithsonian-guide-to-oral-history/feed/ 0 Salvador Dalí’s Beautiful, Mad, Inspired, Rare Cookbook ../salvador-dalis-beautiful-mad-inspired-rare-cookbook/ ../salvador-dalis-beautiful-mad-inspired-rare-cookbook/#respond Thu, 25 Sep 2014 06:39:33 +0000 ../?p=50 dali_lesdinersdegala





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Cooking with Grandma ../42/ ../42/#respond Thu, 25 Sep 2014 06:12:42 +0000 ../?p=42

Screen shot 2014-09-25 at PM 02.09.42

But most importantly… I WANT THAT HAIR!!!

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Chicken Rice in the Border by Bui Cong Khanh ../chicken-rice-in-the-border-by-bui-cong-khanh/ ../chicken-rice-in-the-border-by-bui-cong-khanh/#respond Thu, 25 Sep 2014 05:32:58 +0000 ../?p=37 Continue reading Chicken Rice in the Border by Bui Cong Khanh ]]> sam2

Chicken Rice in the Border
2014 Installation with drawings, artist book, handmade ceramic plates, single-channel video, photographs and food Installation dimensions variable Collection of the Artist

The sense of taste is one almost universally associated with pleasure and worldly indulgence. It is thus easy to forget that taste is also a highly cultivated and culturally contingent sense. With relentless migration over generations, cultures evolve, and with it, our foods and tastes develop and are cultivated afresh, slowly but surely. Indeed, food and taste have as much a colourful and integral relationship with history, heritage and identity, as language and ethnicity do.

In this work, Bui Cong Khanh investigates the provenance of Hoi An Chicken Rice, originally brought to Hoi An by Chinese immigrants as Hainanese Chicken Rice, before adaptation and assimilation into Vietnamese food culture resulted in a uniquely local dish. Khanh – whose family comes from Hoi An, the province with the largest Chinese community in Vietnam – documents and illustrates the evolution of this singular dish with an interactive installation, which includes an actual food-tasting component at the Food for Thought café.*

The artist chose the title phrase “in the border” because for him, the border is an active site – a place where multiple tensions and expressions co-exist and mingle, and generate new meanings – and his hometown of Hoi An can be considered such a place. By exploring a much- beloved dish whose variations can taste at once familiar and foreign, Khanh engages with the cultural and historical memory, as well as the legacy, that resides deep within our taste buds and tongue. (RN)

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Dr. Rhee’s Kimtschi Shop by Hanjo Rhee & Kate Hers Rhee ../dr-rhees-kimtschi-shop-by-hanjo-rhee-kate-hers-rhee/ ../dr-rhees-kimtschi-shop-by-hanjo-rhee-kate-hers-rhee/#respond Thu, 25 Sep 2014 04:58:39 +0000 ../?p=26 Continue reading Dr. Rhee’s Kimtschi Shop by Hanjo Rhee & Kate Hers Rhee ]]> http://www.estherka.com/works/rfl/video

Dr. Rhee’s Kimtschi Shop is a complex multidisciplinary project that functioned as a temporary service, providing a cultural exchange between the artist and visitors to the exhibition. The artist’s position as an ethnic Korean, not only as a foreigner to Germany, but also as a transnational American was used as an effective method to complicate the notion of authenticity. The role of Korean-German Hanjo Rhee, as the rational German scientist, reinforced this idea of identity as multi-layered and fluid.

As an interactive performance artwork, it underscored the usage of ethnic food as an amusing and productive means to talk about the contentious foreigner “problem” in Germany, while using bartering as a strategy to compare and problematize the consumption and dispersion of authentic culture and national identity. The project opened as a temporary pop-up shop for one week in November of 2011 in the project space of Das Gift.

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Chicken Himmel ../chicken-himmel/ ../chicken-himmel/#respond Thu, 25 Sep 2014 04:46:08 +0000 ../?p=21 Continue reading Chicken Himmel ]]>

Chicken Himmel is a existential experimental music Korean food cooking video which humorously investigates birth, death, and love. It is a collaborative work by the Korean Studies Department, a loose collective of artists, musicians, writers, dancers, filmmakers and theater designers: Daniel Glatzel, kate hers RHEE, Jung-sun KimOliver KölleLee Soo-eun and Hyo-Jin Shin.

The song, Bite Me (Love Song to Friedrich Nietzsche), was written and performed by Kegels for Hegel. Bite Me is a satirical love song written from the perspective of a chicken about to be eaten. Bite Me plays with themes of odaxelagnia and interspecies love in order to speak to philosophical debates about domination and the line between humans and animals.

The Korean Studies Department presents Kegels for Hegel’s Bite me in Chicken Himmel, ©2013 estherka single channel video, 6 min. 36 sec.

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Eat your art out: Artists develop a taste for food (BY MATILDA BATTERSBY, THE INDEPENDENT, Thursday 19 August 2010) ../eat-your-art-out-artists-develop-a-taste-for-food-by-matilda-battersby-the-independent-thursday-19-august-2010/ ../eat-your-art-out-artists-develop-a-taste-for-food-by-matilda-battersby-the-independent-thursday-19-august-2010/#respond Thu, 25 Sep 2014 04:31:22 +0000 ../?p=14 Continue reading Eat your art out: Artists develop a taste for food (BY MATILDA BATTERSBY, THE INDEPENDENT, Thursday 19 August 2010) ]]>

The aesthetic significance of a plate of food is usually considered only for the few seconds it takes to bite into it. In fact, when taste and not style is of the essence, a bowl of grey-coloured slop could be just as satisfactory as a tower of carefully constructed haute cuisine, so long as said slop is well seasoned. In the age of culinary pretentiousness (ie now) with chefs like Heston Blumenthal producing food that has been tweaked, preened and garnished with the artistry of, well, an artist, it’s unsurprising that some of it should have found its way into an art gallery.

Feast for the eyes: Antony Gormley's bread based 'Bed' Tate Liverpool
Feast for the eyes: Antony Gormley’s bread based ‘Bed’
Tate Liverpool

Next weekend, a huge multi-level garden of exotic and colourful flowers, with visible roots dripping with soil and insects, and velvety blooms covered in flies and bugs, all made out of icing sugar, cake and marzipan, will form the centre piece at Cake Britain – the world’s first entirely edible art exhibition.

The show at London’s Future Gallery (which is appropriately sponsored Tate & Lyle Sugar), celebrates a nascent British art scene that uses jelly, cake, candy or other fare instead of paint or canvas. Dreamt up by a group who call themselves the Mad Artists Tea Party, and curated by cupcake-maker Lily Vanilli (also responsible for the edible garden), everything produced by artists and confectioners will be devoured within 72 hours of the exhibition opening.

It is not the first time food has been embraced by the art world. A scale model of an Algerian city made out of couscous by Kadia Attia was bought by Tate Modern in May. While wheat-coated semolina granules might be an unusual choice for a permanent installation (particularly as it goes flat as it perishes), Attia is only one of many creatives beginning to straddle the boundary between art and catering.

The “Jellymongers” aka Sam Bompas and Harry Parr, are famous for their elaborate jelly sculptures – notably a bright translucent copy of St Paul’s Cathedral that would have impressed its architect Christopher Wren. They’ve taken ideas from the 18th century about performance dining, with very original results. The pair recently made Occult Jam at the Barbican Gallery in July, as part of the Surreal House exhibition. They stewed jams using weird ingredients such as wood from Nelson’s ship the Victory and a speck of Princess Diana’s hair. For Cake Britain, the duo are planning “a doughnut-centric performance” with ideas from kitsch digital artist Jason Freeny.

Artist Cosimo Cavallaro's "Absolute Pressed Ham"
Artist Cosimo Cavallaro’s “Absolute Pressed Ham”

Gloucestershire-based “food obsessed” artist, and maker of the world’s first chocolate room, Prudence Emma Staite, is another big British name involved in Cake Britain. During the election, she produced accurate pizza portraits of the party leaders out of dough, basil, mozzarella and pasata. She’s paired up with artist George Morton-Clark for Cake Britain, although details of their “marzipan and icing-sugar” creation are being kept strictly under wraps. Morton-Clark, whose paintings are rather morbid but use cartoonish colours (ideal for cupcakes), discussed a range of ideas with Staite. “She never came back to me to say, ‘Oh no, you can’t make that in cake’,” he says. “In fact, she thought of ways to make it bigger and better.”

There is a pair of liquorice men’s brogues by Andy Yoder in Saatchi’s collection. And Antony Gormley’s Bed made from bread is currently on display at Tate Liverpool. Food is used by many artists because it is a useful and playful medium with which to represent something else. Choosing liquorice to make a pair of shoes, as in Yoder’s case, seems wonderfully appropriate as the dark, shiny confection is a stylised approximation of shoe leather. But Yoder, Attia and Gormley would most likely be appalled if someone viewing their work was to take a bite out of it. There is a stark dichotomy between artists who use food because it is an interesting material, and those for whom the eating of the art is simply the fulfilment of its purpose.

Staite, for example, wouldn’t be satisfied if people didn’t eat her work, which is designed to tantalise the taste buds as well as the eyes. “I really like seeing people eating the art,” she says. “It’s like a final journey. I often spend months making something and then it’s put on display and chomped up. Eating Obama’s face made out of cheese is just so much more interesting than having a normal block of cheddar.”

She’s trying to combat, what she calls the “ready meal culture,” by making bold statements with food to get people to consider its consumption more carefully. “The art is about putting the magic back into eating. So that when someone sees a life-size chocolate sofa they’ll think ‘wow, that’s amazing’. So that next time they eat chocolate, instead of just gorging on it and throwing away the wrapper, they’ll take a bit more time to think about their food.”

Bompas agrees that food art should be safe to consume, but says there is a fine line to tread when playing with the aesthetics of the edible as sometimes it can just be really bad taste (no pun intended) mucking about with food. He says: “Where do you find most food that looks like other stuff? At the low end: chocolate willies for hen parties, teddy-bear-shaped ham at Tesco etc. That’s why the element of skill is so important. If you get it wrong then it becomes really disgusting.”

Bompas & Parr at Alcoholic Architecture Greta Ilieva
Bompas & Parr at Alcoholic Architecture
Greta Ilieva

But playing with sensorial norms, and the added dimensions of taste and smell, can provide endless possibilities. Vanilli, who along with Alexander Turvey, is responsible for the edible garden at Cake Britain, recognises this. “The garden is going to be a little bit macabre, with beautiful flowers covered with insects and flies that you can eat. The idea being to play with perceptions, creating things that look repulsive but taste delicious,” she says. There is an element of performance and synaesthesia with such an approach. It aims to trick the viewer into a cerebral sense that what they’re looking at is inedible; meanwhile, their mouths are made to water by the sweet smells it gives off.

The fact that if the art goes uneaten it will go mouldy, lose its shape, attract flies, and end up as a stinking mass of nothing, is part of its draw. The intransigence is vital because if one didn’t eat it and enjoy it then all its beauty would be lost anyway – or the food (like Gormley’s bread, which was soaked in paraffin) will need to be treated with something to fix its appearance in time, making it inedible.

Eating art is satisfactory because it uses taste, touch and smell as well as being a visual feast. Eighteenth-century exponent of haute cuisine, Antoine “King of Chefs” Carême, famously remarked: “There are five fine arts – sculpture, painting, poetry, music and architecture – and the confectioner is the only artist to have mastered four of the five.” Just add to that a willingness to watch your mastery chewed up and swallowed by the ravenous hordes, and you have all the ingredients necessary for a food artist. Perhaps something of Blumenthal’s will make it into the Tate Modern next.

Parts of Canadian artist Cosimo Cavallaro's controversial sculptures are on display in his exhibition "Chocolate Saints...Sweet Jesus"
Parts of Canadian artist Cosimo Cavallaro’s controversial sculptures are on display in his exhibition “Chocolate Saints…Sweet Jesus”

Cake Britain, Future Gallery, London WC2 (020 3301 4727) 27 to 29 August


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Visual Art – Food as the Medium, Past and Present ( July 29, 2013 by Emily-Jane Hills Orford) ../visual-art-food-as-the-medium-past-and-present-july-29-2013-by-emily-jane-hills-orford/ ../visual-art-food-as-the-medium-past-and-present-july-29-2013-by-emily-jane-hills-orford/#respond Thu, 25 Sep 2014 04:18:20 +0000 ../?p=10 Continue reading Visual Art – Food as the Medium, Past and Present ( July 29, 2013 by Emily-Jane Hills Orford) ]]> All living creatures consume nutrients in order to survive. All humans eat food; in fact, most of us even enjoy it. Historically, food is a part of our biological makeup. It defines who we are, our cultural background (historically and in the contemporary sense) and our physical makeup. Consequently, it stands to reason that food should (and does) appear in the visual arts throughout the centuries. After all, art is about life and so is food. But food as medium?

Why not? Just about everything else appears as artistic medium. In 1917, Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) used a urinal for a work he called Fountain. Found art, collages using objects from real life, has defined the complex fragility, as well as the wastefulness of humanity. Why just represent something when you can use the actual object as the medium, to enhance the message?

Visual Art – The Medium

“The medium is the message,” wrote Canadian philosopher of communication theory and art/literary theorist, Marshall McLuhan in 1964. This famous quote has been used repeatedly since the 1960s to define the theorist’s conception of a work of art: literary, visual, theatrical – anything created by humans. When food becomes the medium in the visual arts, what is the message? Art relays some sort of message, doesn’t it?

Is the artist commenting on the the contemporary human diet, or ridiculing mass-production of processed foods? Is the artist providing us with social commentary on human desecration of the natural world, using drama and stagecraft to create a lasting impression of the destructive side of humanity? Perhaps the artist simply admires food, as both subject and medium.

Nineteenth – Century Realism

Stark realism? Certainly food as the message can be blunt, sometimes brutally so. But “stark realism” was an art history label long before twentieth and twenty-first century artists started using ‘found’ and real objects as the medium. Gustave Courbet’s (1819-1877) work was sometimes defined as stark realism.

As Jonathon Jones wrote in an article for the Guardian, Courbet’s “stark realist masterpieces foretold the alienation of the modern age” (“The Master of Menace”). Certainly, his still life images of food, like his Still Life with Apples, Pear, and Pomegranates (c1871/2), provide a vivid re-creation of all the blemishes and realism of the subject itself.

The Impressionists and Post-Impressionists of the nineteenth century favoured still life imagery in their works. Édouard Manet (1832-1883) preferred still life’s as subjects for his paintings. The artist once said that “a painter can express all that he wants with fruit or flowers.” 

Manet’s choice of still life reflects his view on the fragility of life and how brief it is. Manet viewed life with joy and excitement, and he reflected this in his still life paintings as well as other subjects. After all, food, the very essence of a still life painting, is metaphorically what we see and feel about life. It is more than what we enjoy in the culinary exercise of preparing and eating.

Manet’s Still Life With Fish (c1864/1868) depicts the raw essence of food awaiting preparation. The fish lies on the table, limp, its life depleted. Both eyes and mouth gape open, and the tail is turned upwards in an awkward death stance. Manet is telling the viewer that all life is fragile; all life is brief. In the end, we all lie with a vacant look, our mouths gaping.

Manet's "Still Life with Fish" (1864) at the Art Institute of Chicago depicts life's raw fragility.

Historical Metaphor or Political Metaphor?

Metaphor of life, or politics of life? Food as an artistic medium can represent both and much more. Food speaks about who we are, when we live, and how we live our lives. Yes, there is definitely politics in food. The artist chooses food as arts medium, as its message, for obvious reasons.

Still life images have often depicted recently killed animals – carcasses, bloodied, sometimes dripping blood over the surface on which they were posed. Paolo Uccello’s (1397-1475) The Hunt in the Forest (c1470) shows the brutality of the masses as throngs of hunters descend on their single prey.

Paolo Uccello's "The Hunt in the Forest" (c1470) in the Ashmolean Museium, depicts the aggressive brutality of man on the hunt for helpless prey.

Courbet also painted the hunting image. The Quarry (1857) is one of his many hunt-related paintings. Courbet loved to hunt and loved to paint images of his hunt. Often, as in The Quarry, he featured himself as the hunter – a blatant message of his power over his prey, of humanity’s power over other life forms. It’s almost pompous in the artist’s crude, cruel, imagery.

As Fred Leeman writes in “The Painter as Prey” (DBNL), Courbet’s hunting scenes “are full of pathos, showing vulnerable, wild animals entirely at the mercy of their attackers. … in The Quarry, the slaughtered roe deer is shown hanging by its hind leg from a tree while, under the watchful eye of the hunter, the hounds wait to be thrown the entrails…”

The artist’s message: the brutality of the kill, for one, but also the wasteful side of the hunt, which metaphorically and categorically documents humanity’s wastefulness. The carcass would be left on the artist’s table for days, its composition not to be disrupted until the painting was complete. Consequently, the dead animal would serve no further purpose than to be an object in a painting.

Israel Hershberg's image of a single cow's tongue on a bare table in an empty space speaks volumes of life's brutality and fragility.

Contemporary Artists and Food as Art

The carcass as still life is a medium with a message in much the same way as twenty-first-century artists have used rotting meat dumped on a gallery floor as a message to convey the wasteful aspects of our society. Similarly, artists have created real life objects using raw meat, as in theMeat After Meat Joy exhibition at the Daneyal Mahmood Gallery in New York in 2008, where meat artists like Betty Hirst used raw meat and lard to create dishes, shoes, and even the flag of the United States of America.

Exhibition curator Heide Hatry, quoted in the Meat Art Gallery Showexhibition review, stated that meat artwork challenges both the artist and the viewer “to investigate the paradoxical relationship meat has to the body.”

Food as medium? Or food as message? What about culinary artists? A true chef doesn’t just create a masterpiece to tempt the palette: his/her display of the masterpiece is, in itself, a creative exercise. The food is the medium. The message is self-indulgence – pure pleasure to the tastebuds.

But as art? As Mark Federman writes in “What is the Meaning of the Medium is the Message?,” we “know the nature and characteristics of anything we conceive or create (medium) by virtue of the changes – often unnoticed and non-obvious changes – that they effect (message).”

Israel Hershberg (born 1948) placed a cow’s tongue on a table, positioned it in an empty space, painted the image, and gave it the title Cow’s Tongue #74. The message? For Hershberg, his art defines himself. He is quoted in an interview with Larry Groff (Painting Perceptions), supporting

“the idea that a work of art should be a time capsule in which a painter deposits his most cherished, formative painterly desires – in the Joycean sense, of being forged in the smithy of one’s soul – the direct, unmediated experiences and communions we have had with great works of art.” What is he “depositing” in images such as Cow’s Tongue #74?

Food, be it subject matter or the medium itself, provides the viewer with a message that is culturally affected by the time period in which it was created as well as the time period in which it is viewed. It makes us wonder what the art historian will think hundreds of years from now when she or he looks at images of rotting carcasses, actual rotting carcasses, like Jan Sterbak’s Vanitas: Flesh Dress for An Albino Anorectic,that have been used as the medium and not just the image.


Federman, Mark. What is the Meaning of The Meaning is the Message? (2004).  Accessed July 25, 2013.

Gauvreau, Donovan. The Long History of Food in Art. (1999). Empty Easel. Accessed June 26, 2013

Groff, Larry. Interview with Israel Hershberg. (February 1, 2011) Painting Perceptions. Accessed July 26, 2013.

Jones, Jonathon. The Master of Menace. (Oct 30, 2007). The Guardian. Accessed July 25, 2013.

Leeman, Fred. The Painter as Prey: Courbet’s Hanging Roe Deer in the Museum of Mesdag.(1999). Stichting Digitale Bibliotheek voor de Nederlandse Letteren. Accessed July 25, 2013.

Liedtke, Walter. Still-Life Painting in Northern Europe, 1600-1800(2003). The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accessed June 28, 2013.

McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. (1964). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Meat Art Gallery Show: ‘Meat After Meat Joy’ [Food Art]. (2008) Eat Me Daily. Accessed July 26. 2013.

Meat-dress Sculptor Wins Governor General’s Art Award. (Feb 28, 2012). CBC News. Accessed June 30, 2013.

Smith, Roberta. Art Review; Food: Subject, Symbol, Metaphor. (Sept 16, 1994). The New York Times. Accessed June 26, 2013



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