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Life's a Mitch: Let them eat art


Mitch Mackowiak is the Thresher Opinions Editor and a Lovett College senior

By Mitch Mackowiak     1/25/17 8:00am

I saw a cheesed bread-triangle from a pizza chain the other day and thought, “That’s not food. That’s abstract art.”

Dr. Seuss landscapes would welcome the outlandishly bulbous proportions and vibrant colors of today’s eggplants, peppers, corn, tomatoes and berries. Cultivated watermelons beg to be opened so much they sometimes explode when ripe.

Slice their taut, smoothed skins to find a more dazzlingly uniform inside. The war on seeds is almost complete. One finds them an annoyance instead of a fact in fruit. Uncultivated bananas are half rock-hard seeds, half inedible flesh wrapped in a fat, squat package with a thick rind. You hardly think of seeds when eating a cultivated banana, its more lithe proportions all the instruction you need to know how to grasp and eat it the way us monkeys do. The careful ritual of eating a banana is performance art worthy of a museum.

Wayne Thiebaud is right to deny himself as a pop artist. His diner counters serrated with cake and pie slices are totally naturalistic. Of course you paint fruit and vegetable still life arrangements in novice art classes. You can track the fascinating feedback loop of fruit cultivation and the painterly still life tradition back to ancient Roman wall painting and mosaics. You probably rarely see wax fruit nowadays because people eat it by mistake.

Was green eggs and ham visionary? Dan Barber feeds his chickens red peppers so they lay eggs with red yolks. Would it surprise you if factory egg farmers lay paint swatches beside randomly sampled yolks to ensure the ‘perfect’ golden yellow? Several regions in Europe each prefer a different shade of orange-yellow yolk.

Where else did Walter de Maria get the idea for his High Energy Bar than a stick of butter? Candy bars are admirable but crudely assembled compared to the real candy, cultivated fruit.

Grocery stores are so much more popular than museums because you can touch the art. Maybe art museums would grow crowds if they offered carts and baskets you could reverently carry or wheel around with you, and grocery stores could display their art better if they encouraged their patrons to be quiet.

It would be a shame to ignore the monumental effort spent crafting the ingredients you eat. Out of many strategies for savoring, I often default to eating slowly to contemplate each food’s bland, one-note flavor and texture. Tastes like art.

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