“Food isn’t even art”
While I’ve been fortunate enough to have never encountered such comments, I’ve heard from older hats around dA than I that this is the sort of criticism they have received when their deviation has gained enough popularity to draw wider attention around the site.
Now, it would be easy enough to dismiss such notions by pointing out that art cannot be defined. It is a fluid entity, forever being shaped, changed, challenged and expanded. Art is usually considered to be anything produced by skill and/or imagination: to exclude an entire medium from it can only do a disservice to this wonderful entity.
But that’s too easy.
Instead, I’m going to take some time to explore all the creative aspects of culinary arts that make it a medium as worthy of the title ‘art’ as any. Not only is food art, it's everything in between.
Food is sculpture
Sculpture is an ancient art form. It began as carving three dimensional images from wood, stone, metal and ceramics, but today is created using a limitless array of materials. While food sculptures certainly wont last the millennia of traditional sculptures, creating something out of perishable material brings about its own challenges. Perhaps the biggest challenge of all is finding someone game enough to be the first to take a bite!
Food is sugar craft
Sugar craft is a huge sub-genre in of itself. Most people are familiar with cake decorating, specifically with fondant. In the last few decades, cake decorating has progressed from regular white wedding cakes with typical adornments, to a boundless medium of expression. It is a medium that is being expanded, challenged and redefined on an almost daily basis. Now weddings and celebrations are graced by cakes that defy belief, and sometimes they even defy gravity. Seasoned cake decorators often talk about witnessing this dramatic shift throughout their career. It is an exciting time to be involved in sugar craft.
While working with fondant is the medium with which we’re most familiar, let’s take a moment to remember the giant breadth of this craft. From blown sugar to chocolate wrapping – sugar craft has it all!
Food is plating
I’ve heard many a person dismiss the art of plating as too sterile, or others criticise it for all looking the same. However, such quick dismissal of this sub-genre does an injustice to it. Plating is a difficult skill to learn, and in turn involves mastering other difficult skills. There are many different styles of plating, varying across cultures and continents. Great plating is more than slapping a small portion of food onto a white plate and calling it a day. Great plating requires an artistic flair and careful consideration of the fine details, from the type of plate used to the colour of the garnish.
Food is fan art
Artists take to a variety of different mediums to express their love for a fandom, and Culinary Arts is no exception. Many have used food to replicate the characters they love. Food art is a great way to showcase a love for a fandom during a celebration, or for a gift for a loved one. I've seen many get excited by great culinary art, but culinary fan art blows minds at a whole new level.
Food is photography
Here is where the crafts cross over with the skill of still life photography. When sharing a culinary creation with the digital world you lose communication with many of the senses that food arouses. You can’t taste or smell the food. You can’t touch it. You can’t hear the sizzle of meat on a grill, nor the crack of perfectly tempered chocolate. All the artist is left with is sight, and a poor photograph will not make you hungry. Photographing food is much more than pointing a camera and shooting. Food photography is a skill in of itself, one that takes time and practise to master.
Food is mastery
Above all else, culinary art is a skill that takes practise. Something that is easy to overlook is the years of practise and learning it takes to be able to make food. When you look at a masterful sketch or painting it’s easy to imagine the many years it took to develop such a skill. But food is so commonplace, it is easier to overlook it. But we encounter food every day. We make food, we have it made for us. We have food delivered to us or we have it packed into containers in which a few minutes in a microwave results in a meal. It’s such a necessary part of our day, of our survival, that over exposure to it can make us blind to the magic.
Making a simple dish requires mastering the basics of cooking and food preparation. Creating something more intricate, such as a sugar craft sculpture, takes many more years learning just how to control the ingredients before you begin to develop your own creativity.
This article is only a brief glimpse at the many art forms food may take. But if you have ever doubted that food could be art, I hope this has given you pause for thought!