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A Hierarchy of the Senses or of the Arts?


robert brown
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Topic proposed by Jonathan Day

“Food cannot express emotion (though a cook may ‘express herself’ and feelings such as love for friends in the act of cooking). Nor can it move us in the way that great art can. … Perfumes and flavours, natural or artificial, are necessarily limited: unlike the major arts, they have no expressive connections with emotions, love or hate, death, grief, joy, terror, suffering, yearning, pity, or sorrow, or plot or character development. But this need not put them out of court.”

Carolyn Korsmeyer, Making Sense of Taste: Food and Philosophy (Cornell University Press, 1999) is quoting Elizabeth Telfer, Food for Thought: Philosophy and Food (Routledge, 1996) and an unpublished MS by Frank Sibley, ‘Tastes and Smells in Aesthetics’.

Accepting, for the moment, that cookery is a form of art, is it at a lower level of hierarchy than other arts? Santayana, for example, claims that bodily pleasures are of a different order to aesthetic pleasures, since the former call attention to our bodies than to an external object, while aesthetic pleasures are outside ourselves, objectified. Mary Douglas, the anthropologist, claims that the display function of food and its occasional dissociation from nourishment is reason to classify certain types of food with the decorative arts. Korsmeyer again: “whatever pleasures food can deliver and however refined cuisine may become, it is in the end just pleasure, after all, and offers less to our minds and imaginations than do more important art forms.”

Cookery is sometimes looked down on because the product is consumed and cannot be recorded or captured. But that is true, to a large extent, of dance or opera, given the limits of today’s technology.

Most chefs I’ve spoken with or read about talk about their work as, at best, craft: the goal is not artistic creation but getting a certain number of plates out, on time and to order. Perhaps it is the enthusiastic home cooks who are the real artists today.

Where, in a hierarchy of the arts, would others place cookery? Is it similar to pottery or rug-making, a useful or decorative art? Or are the chefs who aspire to artistic creation wasting their time and that of their customers?

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“Food cannot express emotion (though a cook may ‘express herself’ and feelings such as love for friends in the act of cooking). Nor can it move us in the way that great art can. … Perfumes and flavours, natural or artificial, are necessarily limited: unlike the major arts, they have no expressive connections with emotions, love or hate, death, grief, joy, terror, suffering, yearning, pity, or sorrow, or plot or character development. But this need not put them out of court.”

Most chefs I’ve spoken with or read about talk about their work as, at best, craft: the goal is not artistic creation but getting a certain number of plates out, on time and to order. Perhaps it is the enthusiastic home cooks who are the real artists today.

Where, in a hierarchy of the arts, would others place cookery? Is it similar to pottery or rug-making, a useful or decorative art? Or are the chefs who aspire to artistic creation wasting their time and that of their customers?

I treat cooking as a living essential and certainly an art. I trained at Sir J.J. School of Art (birthplace of Rudyard Kipling in Bombay, his father was the Dean of the institution) and then came to NYC to study the arts at School Of Visual Arts in Manhattan.

What I created as an artist and what I learned at school and through my artistic persuasion, has also similarly created and taught and inspired me with my cooking. There is hardly any difference in my world between what I do with food in comparison to what I do with paint, ink and pencil. They are all different ways of me expressing myself any given moment in time.

There are artists and then some. Not many labeled as artists consider their creations art. Some do not even consider their art as a form of craft. They either lack that sensibility or perhaps do not know how to give words to their thought. And certainly some do not even think food can be compared or contrasted against the other arts.

I cater, I teach, I cook for friends and family and I share foods I prepare with strangers. My food is accepted by strangers not because of anything I do, but it is what the food shares with them. Every year at the end of Ramadan, I prepare a dessert called Sheer Khurma. I prepare it with the same respect for a tradition that a Indian potter has for the earth and its ability to accept back into it what a potter prepares for function today. My Sheer Khurma is not about food, it is about sharing something ancient, traditional, something emotional and something immediately heart warming. Even before the stranger accepts my package of Sheer Khurma, their eyes are expressing comfort, their mouths are salivating and their words are thanking me for having continued a tradition that is as old as their culture. And all of this even before they take a single bite of this sweet pudding made with vermicelli. Is this not what art does silently? At least the great paintings that leave generations with a lasting impression did nothing different.

Like any art form, the foundation of cooking is based on technique. There is a body of knowledge about the food itself - the vegetables, the spices, the herbs, the sauces - but this information is meaningless unless applied with sensitivity. I use the words sensitivity and knowledge in all of their nuances: knowing when a vegetable like the bitter melon, karela, is perfectly in season; understanding how to remove the bitterness; and, finally being aware of its healing properties. There's a perfect moment to eat karela, just as there's an appropriate time for an Indian raga to be played. There are monsoon ragas, morning ragas, and ragas that are played when the lover has gone. Music, dance, visual arts and food are always respected for their ability to cleanse the soul, and heal.

Cooking (at least Indian cooking that I practice more so than others) has always found a willing companion in art and music. They always seem to go together. Any musical gathering first begins with prayers to the gods and offering of food to them. Just as emotions are a part of music so are they a part of cooking. Thus in India one finds that to evolve ones palate one also studies the appreciation of music and art. In the Indian kitchen one entertains spices or masalas. The seeds, stalks and powders are all found. There are masalas that can set ones palate to receive taste sensations in the most profound ways. There are those that can alter feelings.

And this is only the very basic exploration into what can be a larger thesis for a doctoral study of food as an art form.

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I think that it may be more appropriate to view 'dining' as an art form. The dining experience brings together many of our most lasting arts. We seek out and reward those who provide us interesting, beaitiful, fun, or quirky spaces in which to eat. How many arts or artists would there be without our urge to Dine? Who creates the silver, the implements, the platters, dishes, bowls, glassware etc. the tables and chairs, the rugs, the lights, the outfits/costumes, makeup, hair, mannerisms of those who perform the rituals of the dining room? Could you not say that the food itself is the soprano in the opera? The star around which the cast assembles?

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Topic proposed by Jonathan Day 

“Food cannot express emotion (though a cook may ‘express herself’ and feelings such as love for friends in the act of cooking). Nor can it move us in the way that great art can. … Perfumes and flavours, natural or artificial, are necessarily limited: unlike the major arts, they have no expressive connections with emotions, love or hate, death, grief, joy, terror, suffering, yearning, pity, or sorrow, or plot or character development. But this need not put them out of court.”

Carolyn Korsmeyer, Making Sense of Taste: Food and Philosophy (Cornell University Press, 1999) is quoting Elizabeth Telfer, Food for Thought: Philosophy and Food (Routledge, 1996) and an unpublished MS by Frank Sibley, ‘Tastes and Smells in Aesthetics’.

This paragraph seems amazingly inept, if the author is trying to prove that food is not art. I won't weigh into the art vs craft thing, but Ms. Korsmeyer can't be eating very well. Food can express all those emotions and can move us the way music, painting, etc. do. Ephemeral, yes.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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Food can express all those emotions and can move us the way music, painting, etc. do.  Ephemeral, yes.

Maggie, I agree with this. At the same time, I am struck that the language of cooking (and dining, to chefette's point) can be less than subtle, except in certain cultural contexts where there are shared ideas about what flavours communicate what.

An example of this would be Heian Japan, where there was a broadly shared "language of colour" around clothing and decor, linked to the seasons -- and extending somewhat to food, though it turns out that Heian authors were reluctant to write about something so close to bodily functions.

For more on this, see the work of Liza Dalby: Kimono (Yale University Press), an academic work that describes, in some detail, the "semiotics" of the Japanese kimono, and her recent novel, The Tale of Murasaki which uses colour, clothing, food and decor to describe emotions and narrative elements.

It sounds as though Suvir's background created a similar shared context around Indian foods and flavours.

One more thought: as I wrote this I was struck how often we use flavour metaphors to describe emotions: sweetness, bitterness, sourness, warmth, cold. Perhaps the meanings of at least the basic flavours are common across cultures. Are there cultures, for example, that don't use sweet things to celebrate happy times and experiences?

Liza has a nice website, which includes a section on food: click here for the food section, here for the general overview.

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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Feast and Folly: Cuisine, Intoxication, and the Poetics of the Sublime

"What would it mean to speak of cuisine as a "fine art"? Combining an analysis of French cuisine with cutting-edge postmodernist critique, Feast and Folly provides a fascinating history of French gastronomy and cuisine over the past two centuries, as well as considerable detail regarding the preparation of some of the colossal meals described in the book. It offers a deep analysis of the social, political, and aesthetic aspects of cuisine and taste, exploring the conceptual preconditions, the discursive limits, and the poetics and rhetorical forms of the modern culinary imagination. Allen S. Weiss analyzes the structural preconditions of considering cuisine as a fine art, connects the diverse discursive conditions that give meaning to the notion of cuisine as artwork, and investigates the most extreme psychological and metaphysical condition of the aesthetic domain—the sublime—in relation to gastronomy"

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It is higher then gardening. But it is lower then fine furniture building which incoroprates original design. Start with those parameters  :biggrin:. Actually, the biggest thing going against cooking is the lack of permanence because of it being ingested. That fits tongue and groove with the bodily and not external pleasure argument. That's why I see it as something temporary like gardening. They flowers bloom and then they die. It's cyclical.

It is actually very similar to fashion because that is temporary as well.

Steve, isn't live musical performance (e.g. opera) in some ways even less permanent than cooking / dining?

What would you put at the top of your hierarchy? What would you put at the bottom?

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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I think that it may be more appropriate to view 'dining' as an art form.  

Dining as an art form. Interesting.

It is higher then gardening.

Steve, You must have never gardened, at least in so far as growing food. There are so many variables - the soil conditions, seed viability, weather, etc. No chef that I can imagine has to deal with the vagaries that the small organic (non-irrigating) gardener/farmer does. And still come out with a beautiful carrot, onion, potato, etc.

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Cooking is most emphatically not higher than gardening, nor is the role of chef higher than that of landscape designer or landscape architect, both of whom can be artists. A cook is at best a craftsperson, and that is not a derogation; on the contrary, it can be very high praise.

Perhaps more to the point, the notion of a hierarchy of arts seems inherently problematic, albeit a compulsion of a certain kind. Is there any usefulness in arguing the superiority of poetry over history painting?

On the other hand, a hierarchy of the senses might yield a more engaging conversation. Which renders the better sensation, a Callas aria, a Belon oyster sliding down the gullet, or an orgasm brought about your favorite way?

Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

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On the other hand, a hierarchy of the senses might yield a more engaging conversation. Which renders the better sensation, a Callas aria, a Belon oyster sliding down the gullet, or an orgasm brought about your favorite way?

Excellent set of choices here. Add, perhaps, the fragrance and colour of my rose garden in full bloom, the softness of a baby's skin, a full choir singing Tallis.

Or bacon and eggs!

I would hate to have to choose among your examples. I can't believe there is a heirarchy of the senses. It's too personal, and too immediate to call.

But I really love the triumverate of oysters, Callas and orgasm! I'll start shucking and crank up the CD player immediately.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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The discussion thus far demonstrates the limitations of asking 'is cooking a form of art?', a question that has appeared on eGullet in the past.

Instead of that rather vague question, we’ve had a number of more interesting and nuanced ideas:

  • Chefette’s notion of "dining as art" -- here I am reminded of the 'salons', where the media available to the artist-host combined food, table setting, selection of guests and conversation. Chefette, is this what you were getting at? Or were you thinking of dining as some of eGullet's more passionate seekers of fine cuisine practice it: researching the chefs ahead of time, thinking hard about the dining room and the table one will have, wearing appropriate clothing, photographing the dishes and the room?
    The cultural contexts that make cooking-as-communication possible. Suvir's post provided a lovely example of this. On reflection, I suspect that these shared cultural contexts are more common than we may think.
    A hierarchy of the senses as opposed to the arts. Here, I would think one question might be which senses admitted greater aesthetic range or variation. For many people, for example, the sense of smell seems rather digital -- there are "good smells" and "bad smells".
    Another one would be the extent to which smell or taste allow for detached observation, in the way that most visual art and music does. I still remember one of my children taking his first spoonful of pureed green beans. He was hungry that day, and he looked at the spoon with enthusiasm and opened his mouth in eager anticipation. Then the beans went in, and his face screwed into a mask of upset and rage. 6 years later, he is still unable to take tastes he doesn't care for with any kind of equanimity. And I know a lot of adults in the same condition: if they don't like a smell or taste, there is no discussing it. Does this have to do with smell and taste being "wired" at a low level in the brain -- in the limbic system? Or with their relationships to survival?

I would offer one more issue that seems relevant. This is the extent to which we can reliably describe experiences of the different senses. This depends both on the writer's capabilities and on the willingness of the underlying culture to accept communication about a sensual experience. Here is Adam Gopnik writing about Blue Hill and chef Dan Barber:

Describing food is difficult, not because we can't capture in words things that are sensual--we do fine with painting and pubic hair--but because memorable description depends on startling metaphors, and startling metaphors depend on a willingness to be startled. Nobody did much with landscape, either, until it suddenly became respectable to compare a Swiss mountain to the whole of human destiny. We don't allow that freedom when it comes to what's on our plates. If someone wrote, for instance, that Dan Barber's foie gras with ground coffee beans is at once as inevitable as a tide and as astonishing as a wave, the reader's first response would be to think, quite rightly, that it is not, at all. (And yet it is.) People used to feel this way about metaphors for sex--the English still do. They have just got over Evelyn Waugh writing "I was made free of her narrow loins." But we all still resist "I was made free of his thick loin chops."

(From "The Cooking Game" in the recent food issue of The New Yorker, 19 August 2002).

I suspect that there is more that has been written about the aria and the orgasm than about the oyster. Is that a limitation of the subjects or the writers?

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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I am not sure that we are approaching this discussion efficiently since we have no discussion or definition of what constitutes art, or indeed agreement on 'the arts'. It seems to me that different cultures see, define, and value art and the arts differently. Also, I think we are mixing up concepts such as beauty and art versus artist into this discussion.

Beauty as we all know resides in the eye of the beholder and its temporal duration is insignificant. In many cultures the fleeting nature of many things (a cherry blossom, a soap bubble, a bird song, a drifting wisp of cloud) are considered the ultimate in beauty. Artists capture the essence of beauty and provide us with art.

In my statement about dining as art, I actually started thinking about how many arts most people focus on dining. Especially when we seek or create a special meal. Whether one is cooking a meal for family or friends or going out to a salon or restaurant. Why wouldn't what we create to stimulate, satiate, and sooth the taste buds and spirit not be considered art? Is delighting the sense of taste not as worthy as delighting one's sense of sight or sound?

Also, no one has even brought up what distinguishes an art from a craft or an artist from a craftsman. Then of course there remains the hard fact that not everyone who practices an art is an artist. And then ultimately at what point does anything become art?

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Art is the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the creation of aesthetic objects

An artist is one who practices an imaginative art

An artisan is trained to manual dexterity or skill in a trade

Aesthetic has to do with the sense of perception of or relating to the beautiful

Craft is skill in planning, making, or executing – an occupation or trade requiring manual dexterity or artistic skill

A craftsman practices a trade or handicraft creates or performs with skill or dexterity, especially in the manual arts.

Based on this – the key and essential difference between art and craft is imagination or creativity. I think that cooking can be considered both a craft and an art. It depends on the cook and what they produce.

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Art is the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the creation of aesthetic objects

...

Aesthetic has to do with the sense of perception of or relating to the beautiful

So this pushes the definition on to 'the beautiful' whatever that may be.

It is not clear to me that Art must necessarily gesture towards Beauty. And this definition doesn't include the 'expression of emotions' which we started with - good.

I believe there was a time in western Europe when the preparation of food might have been understood to occupy a position in a hierarchy of Arts - and that would have been the middle ages.

Clearly also Art may have a variable meaning across cultures - which will stymie any hope of a common definition.

Two instances where Food might be construed to have an artistic purpose are with

1. Taillevant and the use of 'Trompe L'oeil' techniques (of which I know nothing) and

2. In the writing of at least Gertrude Stein & Marinetti where the centrality of food in French & Italian cultures is addressed.

I would also be interested in consideration of the aesthetics of food from an Ascetic tradition - Food must surely assume huge significance in a culture of self-denial.

Wilma squawks no more

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I see an analogy to a comment made by the late great Frank Zappa when asked to explain the motivations behind one of his compositions: "Talking about Music is like dancing about Archetecture."

=Mark

Give a man a fish, he eats for a Day.

Teach a man to fish, he eats for Life.

Teach a man to sell fish, he eats Steak

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i find carolyn korsmeyer's position to be laughably academic and ultimately indefensible. of course, i haven't read the bulk of her argument, other than the snippet provided, but i'm glad i haven't. her assertion--that food cannot express emotion--springs from one overriding concept, that the sensory tools of the culinary world are innately limited. korsmeyer also ignores all the ancillary ways through which the culinary world works its magic: alcohol, music, lighting, color, texture, temperature, space, and even people (whether they are one's dining companions or the waitstaff). how or why the food's sensory tools, of course, are never provided. conversely, it was never stated why or how other non-narrative media (e.g., painting, sculpture, architecture, and so on) with which food falls into line with are more expressive. from what little research has been done, it is known that a person can more readily empathize with media that have a narrative, and with good reason: there's a story. it doesn't follow that there should a hierarchy of the arts, which is a ridiculous notion. such a question can only be answered individually.

one of the great intellectual dichotomies of the twentieth century was the introduction of representation v. abstraction, a split i think is tenuous and a bit misleading, since a lot of modern art is both; however, i'm sure a lot of critics would find that, assuming one wants to suggest all things culinary can be artistic, food would fall into the latter category, with some notable exceptions (i.e., kaiseki and its constant evocation of seasonality). i have seen others before me, like fat guy, mention that the culinary arts have yet to develop the kind of abstractions that have graced many other artistic media, which explains why it is lumped squarely within the "craft" peg (which is another intellectual either/or i find absurd). for this reason, if there were such a thing as a hierarchy of arts, then food would be relegated toward the bottom with others that are more functional and utilitarian, like architecture and design (most 14-year-olds i know prefer attack of the clones to eames and nelly to gagnaire).

there has been a lot of great discussions about what constitutes art, and i believe this question is best left up to the individual. others have pointed out that it is to "create" that which is "beatiful" or "aesthetic," yet a lot of art doesn't actively create, nor does it produce something beautiful (i.e., karlheinz stockhausen's idea that the 9/11 attacks were the greatest work of art ever produced [note: i'm not approving of his statement, just referencing it]). in fact, a lot of artists (say, donald judd) weren't even interested in the traditional goals of art (that it should be functional or beautiful or representational or even abstracte).

jonathan day has said that more has been written about orgasms than oysters, but we shouldn't forget that a lot has been written about orgasms attributed to oysters. more seriously, i think he is very correct. within philosophy of the mind, there seems to be very little understanding of aesthetic preference and sensational experience. it then follows that there is very little way to put such things into words. even those non-narrative arts that have a very beefed-up "theory," like architecture, have little to say about how individuals experience the art itself. it is my guess that the most understanding that may come will be from a philosophy that is very much informed by relevant hard sciences (much like what daniel dennett has been attempting with consciousness). mr day also pointed out how sweetness might be a universal metaphor across most cultures, and i think he has also offered a great starting point for understanding how the brain perceives culinary things. there is a lot of similar work being done on cultural metaphors that are believed to be universal by people like george lakoff, but most of this research has little to do with food.

whether or not food should be an art is at best a personal question. if enough people find that it is or can be, then there will have to be a common vocabulary (and probably "theory," which i abhor) developed to describe the sensational experience of food, which is still a long way off judging by the sameness of description within food writing today. how many ways are there to experience the taste of sugar on the tongue, let alone describe it? i only know of one, and i'm not sure anybody is smart enough to come up with two, even three.

ian

ballast/regime

"Get yourself in trouble."

--Chuck Close

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then there will have to be a common vocabulary (and probably "theory," which i abhor) developed to describe the sensational experience of food, which is still a long way off judging by the sameness of description within food writing today.  how many ways are there to experience the taste of sugar on the tongue, let alone describe it?  i only know of one, and i'm not sure anybody is smart enough to come up with two, even three.

Ian's post opens up a rich set of possibilities for discussion on this thread.

As he says, there is one very practical application of the "theory" or common vocabulary that seems so lacking in this field: restaurant reviewing and food writing. The tedious clichés that reviewers rely on have been pilloried elsewhere on eGullet. What I find more troublesome is that there is little likelihood that a reader even of the most carefully crafted review will mentally "experience" the dish in the way the reviewer sought to evoke.

An example: in the France thread I commented on a delicious dish of tripe I had eaten at La Cave, a delightful place in Cannes. The tripe had a lightness and brightness about it that is often missing in such a dish -- in part, I think, because the sauce was a bit thinner than usual, and in part because the cook had gone for a higher acid balance than I had expected. But how best to convey that in words?

We'll soon have more on restaurant reviewing on this forum.

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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I think traditional accounts of art (aesthetics) tend to divide into two camps

1) Mimetic. The praxitelean account of art where imitation (= the same as) is crucial. Into this category falls 'Trompe L'oeil' food and somewhere such as the restaurant St. John in London. If you order woodcock - it arrives as the bird (denuded of feathers but precious little else).

It has a huge historic tradition where such endeavours as the imitation of God and Nature (and emotions) spring to mind.

2) Transformative. Here the key aesthetic category is probably the sublime. Our experience of ourselves in the world is changed by the radical experience of Art. In the 18thC this might be geology (The Alps, A Volcano erupting).

Nowadays it may be those restuarants previously identified as FMJD (acronymising an experience where the last words are jaw-dropper). Food & its experience change the participant.

I think (potentially) high-end Michelin dining might claim this territory. Certainly the accounts of El Bulli suggest that Ferran Adria might incline to this description of his work.

Wilma squawks no more

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then there will have to be a common vocabulary (and probably "theory," which i abhor) developed to describe the sensational experience of food, which is still a long way off judging by the sameness of description within food writing today.  how many ways are there to experience the taste of sugar on the tongue, let alone describe it?  i only know of one, and i'm not sure anybody is smart enough to come up with two, even three.

Ian's post opens up a rich set of possibilities for discussion on this thread.

Seeing as how there seems to be no disagreement that Proust on madeleines is Art, but that madeleines themselves are not. We have to accept that Art is a proxy for actual experience. Perhaps this is why we have a problem with food, because it is sensorially experienced rather than intellectually decoded. Indeed, most of the claims that Cooking is or isn't Art focus on whether or not a message can be encoded within a dish.

Taking this further, it may be reasonable to claim that food, in the proposed heirarchy, is above Art being, as it is, so worthy of Art's attention.

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(Jonathan Day) What I find more troublesome is that there is little likelihood that a reader even of the most carefully crafted review will mentally "experience" the dish in the way the reviewer sought to evoke.

We are at the mercy of the reader and his belief in what he experiences from what he reads, but I think members have rightly thanked Steve Plotnicki, perhaps among other posters, for letting them experience a meal vicariously.

The hierarchies of the arts was a popular subject among my fellow students of architecture. While it was generally agreed that architecture was an applied art rather than a fine art, we often argued that it was a mother art which incorporated the lesser arts of painting and sculpture. When it comes to arranging the fine, decorative, performing, etc. arts, I wonder if it serves any better purpose than arranging society on the basis of birth to the proper parentage.

(Robert Schonfeld) A cook is at best a craftsperson, and that is not a derogation; on the contrary, it can be very high praise.

Perhaps more to the point, the notion of a hierarchy of arts seems inherently problematic, albeit a compulsion of a certain kind. Is there any usefulness in arguing the superiority of poetry over history painting?

But then why say a cook is at best a craftsperson? I believe a cook can be a craftsperson, an artist, both or neither.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I think that it is possible that most cooks (and I am thinking professionals in restaurant kitchens) are at best good craftsmen most of the time since they are making something (hopefully well and with reasonable dexterity) that was previously created either by themselves or another and that they are remaking it many many times. They are not exercising imagination or creativity - so no art, just craft.

Cooks - perhaps Adria and those in the more wildly creative and imaginative pursuit of cooking - who are creating a dish without recipe or precedent could reasonably be said to be artists creating art. When it is written down and recreated by everyone else it is merely craft again.

I am not really sure what Gavin is talking about re: the trompe l'oeil business. It has always been my understanding that this was a form of painting in which the artist strives to make the subject look as realistic as possible (very photographic) to give the eye the impression that the object is really there and could be touched by the hand.

I think that most cooks do not have that many opportunities to exercise their creativity and imagination and to create art in their (professional) cooking. Perhaps pastry chefs get more opportunities than most since their occupation frequently allows them to apply many artistic principles not only in creating desserts, but in decorating and presenting them.

I myself find that pastry has been an excellent outlet for my otherwise constrained artistic inclinations. In pastry I have been a sculptor, a fashion designer, a hat maker, a florist, a painter, an architect, and even an actor who created many desserts/pastries as well.

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But then why say a cook is at best a craftsperson? I believe a cook can be a craftsperson, an artist, both or neither.

Your semantic point is taken. How's this: A cook can be craftsperson. A cook cannot be an artist. A cook cooks. An artist creates. A cook doesn't create. An artist, though, can "cook".

If the discussion progresses towards distictions between cook and chef, food and cuisine, one's point of view might - or might not - widen.

Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

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