Art and fine foods fill distinct niches

I enjoy food. Quite a lot. I won’t pretend that food is not the highlight of my day, nor will I put up the pretense that I do not spend hours of procrastination time looking at beautifully prepared food on the Internet. For you 30 Rock fans out there, the way I see and think about food is pretty similar to the way Liz Lemon sees and thinks about food.

But I do not think my appreciation or adoration for food extends past my wanting to eat it. This is a viewpoint that I would assume most people hold. We love food because food tastes good. Personally, I don’t think it gets much more complicated than that. However, in a recent New York Times opinion piece, William Deresiewicz writes on the growing demand for aesthetically pleasing food. He argues that Americans are now getting their fill of visual stimulation from fancy ganache, not from Caravaggio or Manet.

As I stated earlier, I do enjoy pictures of nice looking food. However, I mainly browse Buzzfeed or the Pinterests of my Facebook friends because I still have no idea how to work the site so my stomach can live vicariously through the aforementioned pictures. But Deresiewicz writes on beautiful food as though it is a way of living. He argues that the rich and sophisticated now take more pride in their knowledge of fine foods than in their knowledge of fine art. Maybe this is true of the Upper East Side Manhattan-dwelling elite, but Deresiewicz extends his assertion to the youth of America as well. “Food, for young people now,” he writes, “is creativity, commerce, politics, health, almost religion.”

His reasoning behind this assumption lies in his perception that more and more young adults are pursuing careers in the food business. Here, I find him at fault. I know far more aspiring photographers and sculptors than I do cooks. There is a reason why the unemployed artist is such a popular stereotype – there are just so many of them. Deresiewicz directs most of his argument at pretentious which we are, don’t deny it colleges snobs like us and thus seems to be laboring under the delusion that we take no appreciation in the paintings and sculptures that grace the halls of museums. I find that to be absurd.

Granted, knowledge of fine art can be lacking in those high school-aged and younger. However, college is a time where most strive to prove their individualism. At a school like St. Olaf, everybody wants to stand out. What better way is there to stand out than to embrace something that was ignored in high school? Art is adored here; never before have I seen so many Dali posters or heard so many references to Andy Warhol. As far as food goes, most of the discussion seems to be along the same lines of what runs through my own head. I hear much more of “Ahh, that looks so good” and “I would eat ALL of that!” than, “Oh, yes, the juxtaposition of the green in the arugula and the red in the peppers was exquisite. Quite.”

Deresiewicz is probably basing his argument on some large, yet unseen and much more ridiculously food-obsessed than I am, population of young adults. In his closing paragraphs, he details the differences between food and art, and that, though it may be hard to believe, food is not in fact art. To me, these are fairly obvious observations. Of course food is not art. Of course art expresses ideas and emotions far better than food ever could. Of course food does not provide insight into human beings in the same way that art does. But, if we agree that his article is aimed at that previously mentioned population of youth, then pointing out to them that food and art, while both pleasing to the eye, are completely different entities makes slightly more sense.

Mira Sen ’15 senm@stolaf.edu is from Batavia, Ill. She majors in political science and English.

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