Food as Device

Anybody who knows me knows this passage. I am constantly quoting it:

[H]eld accountable for nothing, life fades into nothingness. Automatization eats away at things, at clothes, at furniture, at our wives, at our fear of war. […] And so, in order to return sensation to our limbs, in order to make us feel objects, to make a stone feel stony, man has been given the tool of art. The purpose of art, then, is to lead us to a knowledge of a thing through the organ of sight instead of recognition. By ‘enstranging’ objects and complicating form, the device of art makes perception long and ‘laborious.’ —Viktor Shklovsky, “Art as Device” (Theory of Prose pages 5–6)

Experimental chef Grant Achatz, speaking in an interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air:

If you think about eating, you know, we do it two, three, four times a day since we’re born, basically. And the act of eating, the mechanics of eating, become very monotonous. So literally you’re either picking up a fork or a spoon, and you’re eating from a plate or a bowl, with the same motion every time. And so if we can break that monotony, then we get you to take notice of the moment, and now you’re thinking about the food, it’s making you feel a certain way. (8:50–9:22)

The entire interview is well worth listening to.

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Style as Imitation

Leonardo #1, page 17 (1987) (detail; First Publishing reprint). Art by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird.

1.

My father, who once trained as a baker, taught me when I was a kid how to bake an apple pie. I don’t know where he got the original recipe from; I highly doubt that he invented it. Certainly he didn’t invent the idea of baking pies. And he didn’t invent the idea of baking an apple pie.

He was very clear about certain instructions:

  • always use Granny Smith apples;
  • always use ice-cold water;
  • touch the dough as little as possible.

Since then, I’ve baked several apple pies, and over time I’ve modified the recipe slightly, but it’s essentially the same (and I never violate his prime instructions).

When I make a new apple pie, I’m not doing anything new.

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