I posted a dish last week about beets and how good they are for you. Their sweet flavor and soft, creamy texture inspired me to include them in this week’s dessert recipe. I also don’t do this very often, but besides today’s vegan banana ice cream, I wanted to talk a little about the relationship between food, art, and creativity. Highly philosophical, I know. But trust me, there’s a method to my madness.
After putting it off for weeks, I finally got around to A.) cleaning out my DVR and B.) watching Artifact. I’ll admit that I still don’t quite get the title of the documentary, but regardless it’s a compelling narrative. The story of the failing music industry is by no means new news—but to see it from the perspective of a commercially successful band like 30 Seconds to Mars is pretty illuminating.
It wasn’t the political or economic implications that really drew me in, but rather seeing a band on a creative journey. When we see a live show or listen to a great song, we can’t help but get lost in its perfection. We don’t think about the 800 takes it took to get it ‘just right.’ We don’t think about the vulnerability it took to write the lyrics. In other words, we spend so much time marveling in the music’s brilliance we forget about the perseverance it required to achieve that brilliance. Artifact takes a macrocosmic idea like the demise of the music industry and explores it through the microcosmic lens of an influential alternative rock band.
How Food Is My Art
By watching the journey Leto and his band members embark on, I realized this same attitude to the musical arts also applies to the culinary arts. Chefs spend years in culinary school learning hundreds of techniques and ingredients, only to spend even more years working their way up an incredibly steep culinary ladder. They experience the same pressures and trends that actors, musicians, and visual artists feel. And, let’s save the best for last, often times they’re totally broke. It’s not just the struggling artist I worry about, but also the struggling chef.
I realized my food was my art when I started approaching food with the same methodology as an artist. Over time my kitchen has grown into my studio, my ingredients are my paint palette, and my knives are my brushes. I treat each dish like an art form, thinking about color, texture, and overall composition. Sometimes I start cooking and I know exactly what I want to do and it turns out exactly like what I envisioned in my head. Other times I create a really random, but awesome dish. Sometimes my food just flat out sucks. Sometimes it’s not me cooking, but rather the food telling me what to do. And like all artists, sometimes I struggle to get and stay inspired.
What Exactly IS Creativity in the Food World?
Artifact also touches on other elements of the music world, most notably the definition of creativity and the creative process. The interviews kept coming back to two predominant themes: vulnerability and timelessness. And while I definitely agree that vulnerability and timelessness are important, I think this definition eclipses a lot of the other essential components to creativity.
Almost no one, for instance, mentions the degree to which problem solving skills are required for creativity. Take a structure like Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water. Most architects of Wright’s era would have built that house in a way so the resident would see the waterfall as part of their view. But Wright thought differently. He wanted residents to hear the water while inside, forming a soothing and tranquil white noise. As a result, he dumped all of his creativity into designing a house that could tolerate a unpredictable force of nature like a waterfall and how it would fit into the house’s foundation. Wright’s unique approach to solving an architectural problem is what lends such a creative design.
When I’m in the kitchen, I’m also using a ton of different problem solving skills. Just the other day I had to make gluten free turkey meatballs on the fly after I realized I was missing a key ingredient. Moreover, as a natural foods chef, I’m always struggling to find healthy alternatives and substitutions for various ingredients. Learning about the paleo diet, vegetarianism, veganism, gluten free diets, and all sorts of healthy eating plans has forced me to be really creative with my ingredients and preparation methods. Most people overlook using soaked cashews in place of sour cream or squash in place of pasta. But did you ever realize it was one pretty creative chef who solved that food dilemma?
The other issue I have is with the role of timelessness in the culinary arts. Sure, there are timeless recipes, restaurants, chefs, and other figures in the food world. But to call certain foods timeless is kind of an oxymoron. Food by definition has a very short life span. Even when you buy fresh produce from the grocery store for dinner that night, technically that food is already decomposing. Unlike an album that you can play on repeat, a food experience is quick, short-lived, and washes over you before you even realized it happened. I think that’s part of why food isn’t up there with rock concerts and summer blockbuster hits. Sure, things have gotten better in the last ten years to the point where if I hear someone call themselves a foodie, I’ll punch them in the face. But food still isn’t that accessible from a cultural and nutritional perspective, and that’s something I really hope this next generation figures out.
But enough about famous rock bands and hard-to-follow philosophies. I know you guys just want to eat some ice cream. Check out my post on saffron if you’re interested in knowing more about the world’s most expensive spice!