Archive for the ‘Food’ Category
Artwork of the day: NY-based culinary artist Victoria Yee-Howe‘s bruise cakes (above).
Created during the artist’s stint in residence at Seattle’s Arabica Lounge, these er, ecchymosis-inspired confections were created, according to a write-up on Edible Geography, by “photo transfers (images printed on rice paper with edible ink) of bruises caused by six past lovers, mining her photographic archive to share her skin’s ephemeral records of damage in equally fleeting form.”
Indeed. The slippage here between the abused female body (as a result of voluntary sexual shenanigans or otherwise), and the undeniably sexual, possessive act of oral consumption (what could be more .. irreversible an act of ownership ?), is too salient to be missed.
A piece on the Art21 blog mentions that Yee-Howe is also the founder of the Chinatown Cake Club (CCC), a private dessert club based out of an apartment in Manhattan’s C-Town, where one can “eat and socialize, watch screened movies, read the paper, or “simply sit in the corner and eat cake until you puke.” Under the auspices of the CCC, Yee-Howe has also created what she calls the Artist Tribute Series, a range of special, dedicated cakes, one of the more striking of which (below) featured David Wojnarowicz’s Untitled (Face in Dirt) of 1990. A guest, who runs the Obsessive Sweets blog, described it as “a devil’s food cake filled with homemade citrus curd, chocolate mousse and covered in vanilla bean frosting.”
Unless otherwise stated, all images in this post from the artist’s personal site.
Image courtesy of Obsessive Sweets.
It does residencies too.
Spanish artist Mariona Vilaseca has been there for the past month, and the fruits of her labour are currently on view at GP’s temporary home at 47 Niven Road (only till August 22).
Mariona likes little things, and she likes repeating them.
The effect was disarming. Particularly winsome were her objects shaped from tissue paper and small wads of cotton wool, which she dyed a brilliant shade of vermillion (below). She remarked that her use of colour was at least partly inspired by the pervasiveness of food colouring she witnessed here — think the oleaginous gleam of blood-red ang ku kueh, or the mounds of tawny yellow rice served up as nasi briyani, or perhaps the various lurid hues that pickled fruit come in — and indeed her little shapes are vaguely reminiscent of foodstuffs. Strung up on a pole, the red lengths of tissue paper rather looked like dried peppers from afar; the swirled balls sitting in an open drawer and the flat pig-tailed squares on a pedestal could almost be pastries of a sort.
And, coincidentally or otherwise, when I was there last night Mariona kept trying to fatten her guests up with baked goods: coffee cookies, beancurd tarts …
The artist is also rather fond of conical forms, which, almost always rendered in black — another preferred hue — resemble mountains. The motif is repeated across a range of media: Indian ink on paper (constituted by reiterated dottings not unlike Seurat’s pointilist technique), small mounds of incense ash moulded into a series of military-like formations (below).
More reiterations below …. and Mariona herself.
ADDENDUM: This post has gotten a couple of comments from Spanish-speaking readers in their own language. Unfortunately, I’ve had to delete these. I mean no disrespect at all – indeed I tend to approve all comments made on this site, even the insolent, unconstructive ones (you know who you are) – but comprehensibility is the minimum requirement I think. Feel free to write in in the language of your choice, but do AT LEAST include a translation in English.
Thank you. Muchas gracias. 谢谢. Terima kasih. நன்றி. ありがとうございます. 감사합니다. Danke schön. Merci beaucoup.
Who knew the TripleOne Somerset mall even existed ?
Of course, the structure hadn’t changed – just its name. For generations of Singaporeans, the Brutalist behemoth on Somerset Rd. was always the PUB building, but these days it’s home to the corporate headquarters of Singapore Power, as well as a teeny mall in the basement.
I stopped by yesterday thanks to a notice in The Straits Times: a small exhibition of Japanese artist Ayako Suwa‘s ‘food creations’ is currently on display in the mall. (The article is reproduced at the end of this post.) Suwa, who rose to fame in her native country for “delivering the concept to the stomach” – i.e. making art for the digestive tract – put together a series of her little food-based sculptures using products popular locally, such as chili, ginseng root, vermicelli, lap cheong (Chinese sausage), rock sugar, as well as different varieties of dried seafood, just to name a recognizable few. Each piece is named for an emotion or a sensation, bearing titles like “A Flavour of Irritation” (below), which consists of a dried pod of some kind studded all over with green beans. In the artist’s own words: “I’m presenting a new way to appreciate food, by adding emotion. If it’s a negative feeling I’m trying to express, it may not have a delicious taste. But as long as the person feels something, it’s a success.”
(Readers will have to excuse the images. Cheap plastic display cases in direct sunlight make for pretty lousy pics.)
Suwa will also be presenting two evenings of her so-called guerilla restaurant in Singapore later this month. (Tickets and details available from Sistic.) A write-up on TimeOut Tokyo describes the performance thus:
What Suwa’s guerrilla restaurants offer is not food as such, but art works that can be eaten. Perhaps they would best be referred to as installations. There is always some kind of concept behind her food and she collaborates with corporations and does custom catering with the idea of ‘delivering a concept to your stomach’. Each time there is some message worked into what she does so that although it is catering, it’s also a performance and an installation that you can actually take part in. There have been many locations for her work. There have been art spaces, starting with a gallery, and city spaces, like the Fukuoka underground shopping arcade. There was also the food area in the underground floor of Isetan department store, and the inside of a store for the brand Opening Ceremony. She has even crossed the borders of countries to bring her new and unusual forms of food to Singapore and France.
The staff who serve the food at Suwa’s guerrilla restaurants aren’t known as waiters but as the ‘cast’, and Suwa casts them to fit the theme of each dish. Their backgrounds are varied; they could be anything from dancers to strippers. The members of the cast may not speak at all, or may have the areas around their eyes completely painted black – their staging is organised to suit and enliven the concept of each performance. For example, when diners are served an ‘emotion’ themed dish at the guerrilla restaurant, the cast simply silently present them with a card which says ‘anger’ or ‘emptiness’. There is a great attention to detail in terms of the performance aspect of service. Suwa explains that, ‘The same food can have a completely different feeling depending on the situation. Who brought it to you, and in what conditions, will influence you.’
(Read the full article here.)
Ayako Suwa performances in Hong Kong and Tokyo.
In the meantime, though, a display of her suggestive installation pieces will have to satisfy. I can appreciate that her interactive dinner works indeed represent a multisensorial engagement, but the pieces I saw on display yesterday hardly seemed to “appeal to all the senses.” While they were certainly imaginative, being embalmed in little plastic boxes with a phalanx of “Do not touch” signs around them didn’t exactly encourage much beyond passive ocular consumption, much less speak to the gustatory or tactile senses, or evoke feelings one way or another. It reminded me of the first time I laid eyes on Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I at the Belvedere Museum in Vienna: otherwise a splendid, sumptuous confection of glittery gold enveloping a wraith-like rendering of Bloch-Bauer, literally a portrait of a woman ensnared by her material surroundings, the work when I saw it then was unfortunately hidden under a layer of protective glass, which of course managed to effectively blanch all surface texture and colour.
It looked like crap.
That seemed to be the problem here, with Suwa’s works – or at least their presentation. Visual art definitely appeals to more than just sight: Viennese art historian Alois Riegl, who popularized the idea of haptic and optic modes of vision with respect to antique relief sculpture, thought of the haptic as a delineation of a figure on its ground by “a distinct sculptural contour, treated as an isolated body in space, and, as such, perceived by the beholder as a tactile and individualized entity.” He formulated the binary as one of long-distance, disembodied vision (optic) and close-range tactile perception (haptic). Riegl’s association of the haptic gaze with tactility was not, of course, to claim that the operation of each sense modality could be isolated in practice, but to raise the potentiality of encoding the sense of the tactile in the visual register – a form of looking that he deemed close to the phenomenon of “normal”, or everyday, vision, Normalsicht. The process of an intimate scrutiny of textural complexity, akin to the experience of running one’s hand over a surface, distinguishing every bump and indentation, is central to this notion of a mode of visuality that is able to conjure the sensation of touch:
Optical visuality depends on a separation between the viewing subject and the object. Haptic looking tends to move over the surface of its object rather than to plunge into illusionistic depth, not to distinguish form so much as to discern texture. It is more inclined to graze than to gaze.
(Laura U. Marks, The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses [Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2000], 162.)
In other words, the haptic entails more than just an appeal to tactility via the mechanism of sight, but implicates the entire sensorium in a synaesthetic act of looking as well. As Maurice Merleau-Ponty put it: “The senses intercommunicate by opening onto the structure of the thing. One sees the hardness and brittleness of glass … One sees the springiness of steel.”
The point of all this is that ocularity gives rise to extra-visual sensations, which is how our eyes function in everyday life – say, artful images of food being quite enough to stimulate the appetite. It’s hard to even try to approximate a fully embodied, multisensorial experience when everything’s tucked away behind layers of glass or plastic. As it is, Suwa’s installation works suffer from the handicap of being an almost purely visual display – they don’t need to have those affects washed out as well.
More unpalatable pictures:
THE TASTE OF ART
Food artist Ayako Suwa evokes emotions with the dishes she makes. By Eunice Quek.
You may not fancy food artist Ayako Suwa’s cooking, but it does not matter to her.
Using food as her medium, the 34-year-old Japanese artist creates art installations and dishes meant to evoke emotions from the viewer and/or diner as it “appeals to all the senses”.
Says Ms Suwa in Japanese, via a translator: “I’m not a chef. It’s not about whether the food is delicious or nutritious. I’m presenting a new way to appreciate food, by adding emotion. If it’s a negative feeling I’m trying to express, it may not have a delicious taste. But as long as the person feels something, it’s a success.”
Readers can get a taste of her work at TripleOne Somerset’s level one atrium. On display are 111 art installations she created using local ingredients such as star anise, rock sugar and curry powder. Her exhibition, which runs till July 24, is part of the shopping mall’s Great Singapore Sale promotion.
Each art piece is named “A Flavour of …”, meant to invite viewers to ponder the emotions associated with each title.
The more adventurous might want to book a seat at her guerilla restaurant, a concept she has presented in Tokyo and Paris. Sales from the dinner event will be donated to the Japan Earthquake Relief Fund. At this two-day affair at TripleOne Somerset on June 24 and 25, Ms Suwa, who is trained in visual design, will present a degustation menu of her edible art pieces, once again using local ingredients.
She says: “Once food is eaten, it is gone. It becomes part of your body but remains in your memory. You wonder, was it a dream? That’s why I came up with the guerilla restaurant concept.”
Each dish’s title starts with “A Taste of …” and she insists that diners do not have to feel the emotion mentioned in its name. She says: “Taste is subjective, I created the food with different feelings. You don’t have to feel the same way. If it is a taste of anger and you feel sadness, it’s okay.”
Of her rather avant-garde approach to presenting food as an art form, which has been her career since 2006, she says her main struggle is communicating with chefs when looking for restaurants to collaborate with.
She says: “My point of view and the chef’s point of view may not connect as chefs focus on the food and taste.
“So I have to explain how the emotions work with the food and also learn about each country’s cultures.”
And it has been an interesting culinary journey for her as she has never tasted Singaporean ingredients even though she visited the Republic in 2008 for a private event.
Says the artist: “Two weeks ago, I visited the markets at Chinatown and Little India to source for ingredients, a lot of which are new to me. There were also many herbs that I have never tasted before.”
Despite working with foreign ingredients, she is confident that her food will connect with those who dare to try her cuisine.
She says: “I can’t force people to try my food, so I want to meet those who are curious and courageous, those who can free themselves and have the desire to try something different.”
(From Food and Feasting in Art [Guide to Imagery series], Silvia Malaguzzi, pp. 177-80.)
Still Life with Melon and Pears (c.1770 ), Luis Meléndez. In the collection of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
Among the many types of fruit that were known to and enjoyed by the Romans, the melon was something sophisticated and out of the ordinary for wealthier citizens and the more demanding gourmets. Apicius mentions melons in his treatise on gastronomy. They are mentioned in the Old Testament (Numb. 11:5) and were eaten regularly by the Christians. They continued to be enjoyed in the Renaissance and 17th century. In the mystic language of medieval exegesis, melons are a symbol of the earthly joys and the pleasures of the flesh. In his treatise De honesta voluptate et valetitudine, Platina claims that there is not much difference between the melons he calls pepones and those he calls malopepones, for although the latter are round and ribbed and the former are smooth and oblong, Pliny himself claims that they are much the same in appearance and flavor. According to Castore Durante, they may be difficult to digest but are thirst quenching and a diuretic. For Filippo Picinelli, they are a symbol of friendship. Because their external appearance is indicative of their inner nature.
Sources: Apicius, De re coquinaria 3.7; Pliny, Naturalis historia 19.67; Rabanus Maurus, PL 112, cols. 1026-27; Platina, De honesta voluptate et valetitudine (1474) book 1, chap. 20; Castore Durante, Il tesoro della sanita (1586, p. 199); Filippo Picinelli, Mundus Symbolicus (1687) book 10, chap 25
Meaning: Sweetness, earthly pleasures, friendship
Iconography: Melon usually appear with other fruit in still life’s from the 17th to the 19th century
Boys Eating Fruit (1645-6), Bartolomé Estéban Murillo. In Munich’s Alte Pinakothek.
[Notes on the painting]
Because wine is made from grapes, and wine is a mystic drink in Christian exegesis, these grapes may contain an allusion to the spirit and its needs.
In the mystic language of medieval exegesis, the melon symbolized earthly joys and the pleasures of the flesh.
The exchange of glances between the two boys may perhaps be interpreted as a silent dialogue about the preference for melons versus grapes as symbols of chosen lifestyles.
A sweet, tasty melon is not only a joy to eat for children and adults alike but also a symbol of friendship, because its external appearance is indicative of the quality of its flesh.
I blogged about vegetables last week. Here’s the flip side.
SPH (that’s the Singapore Press Holdings) recently ran a series of rather er, visceral ads in the Straits Times promoting The Pitch – which is what they’re calling their new “reality contest” for ad agencies to “come up with their strategic and creative best.” And if the promotional campaign for the event itself is any yardstick, the creativity bar sure is being set pretty high. The series of ads (below) feature that mainstay of the dinner table, meat, in all its red, raw, bloody glory, ranging from gruesome slaughterhouse scenes to neatly laid out cuts of flesh all ready for the pan or pot. The creative team behind these carnivore-canny visuals, the local firm Wild Advertising & Marketing, explains their otherwise inscrutable choice thus: “Our business is already fraught with macabre language such as ‘deadlines’, ‘executions’ and having ads ‘butchered’ by clients. Which ad exec hasn’t felt like a lamb being led slaughter – walking into a client presentation being less than prepared.” (See here.)
The maternal unit, who’s spent a lifetime reading the ST and looking at their parade of otherwise uninspired ads, made a point of calling my attention to these novel, if rather grim, eye-catchers.
You can read more about The Pitch at SPH’s website.
As a subject of anthropological and semiotic interrogation, meat has aroused interest since the ’60s at least, when French thinker Claude Lévi-Strauss published his seminal (if a trifle far-fetched) piece, The Culinary Triangle, in the Partisan Review quarterly in 1966. He posited that different methods of cooking meat form a triangulated model, along the three connected pathways of which these various culinary modes could be located, and said to approach either “natural” or “cultural” processes. Umm, right …
The essay in its entirety is available on Google Books.
Even earlier though, French filmmaker Georges Franju chronicled first-hand the harrowing goings-on at a Parisian abattoir in his short documentary, Le Sang des Bêtes (Blood of the Beasts). That’s no misnomer, I assure you. One of the initial scenes shows a horse being knocked out by a captive bolt* before having its neck sliced open, bled – a seemingly endless river of dark blood swirling out onto the dirty cement floor – and then gutted, severed and carved up. As for the rest of it, you’ll have to watch it for yourself (see below), because that’s about as far as I got before my insides started feeling real funny. And I certainly haven’t tried getting any further since. Le Sang is quite enough to make a vegetarian out of anyone who isn’t a trigger-happy hunting enthusiast; a shoutout to my friend, AH, who long ago made the decision to give up meat, and hasn’t wavered, or at least not to my knowledge. These days the film attracts a cult audience primarily from having been made available on the Criterion Collection’s DVD of Franju’s 1960 horror classic, Les Yeux sans Visage (Eyes Without a Face), which is worth a look.
* And any talk of cattle guns is just pointless without at least a nod to the Coens’ No Country For Old Men (2007). I managed to sit through this one only because I’d already shelled out 10 USD for a ticket. Still one of the creepiest, stomach-churning-iest movies I’ve ever seen, bar none.
Le Sang des Bêtes, part 1 of 3. [Caution: very explicit, and not in a titillating way.]
Meanwhile, Franju’s documentary interests were transposed into the realm of deliciously nasty satire by fellow Frenchmen Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro in their wicked 1991 début, Delicatessen. It tells the tale of a charcuterie owner who, in a post-apocalyptic world afflicted by an acute shortage of food, begins to butcher the tenants in his building instead, serving up his neighbours bit by paper-wrapped bit over the counter. The concern for how the human race treats its animalian fellows seems to have been overtaken by cannibalistic complexes, a trend that has persisted in the last two decades. While the specter of cannibalism has been explored in film since the notorious D-grade gore-fest, Blood Feast, appeared in 1963, and in the sci-fi dystopia flick Soylent Green (1973) – not to mention providing a gimmicky edge to The Silence of the Lambs and its sequel – movies like Deli and the Dutch black comedy The Green Butchers leave the horror and sci-fi genres behind to take a droll jibe at our most cherished dietary practices. TGB stars the ever Skeletor-ish Mads Mikkelsen (you can practically see the guy’s skull beneath his skin), who has lots of diabolical fun with meathooks and grinders and marinades, becoming a hit among the grocery-shopping housewives of his tiny town for those oh-so-tasty “Chickadees.” Even more than Jeunet and Caro’s work, TGB lifts the food film to surreal heights as a tongue-in-cheek <lol> investigation of the implications of meat-eating.
Chinese performance artist Zhu Yu shifted the terms of the debate when, as part of a piece simply dubbed Eating People, he staged a series of photographs of himself preparing and consuming what looked to be a human foetus (below). While doubts about the authenticity of his er, meal are rife, Zhu himself is on record as stating: ““Our subconscious tells us that eating babies is not right. But it is not prohibited. No religion forbids cannibalism. Nor can I find any law which prevents us from eating people. So I took advantage of the space between morality and the law and based my work on it.” The piece stirred further controversy when it was shown on BBC’s Channel 4 as part of a program on contemporary Chinese art, Beijing Swings.
What has been termed BioArt deals with living matter and its study, including tissue culture, bioengineering processes, laboratory praxis, and, of course, a whole range of organic substances like meat, animal parts and bodily fluids, representing a new paradigm, beyond the performative, for corporeal engagement in art. Some of it is highly cerebral, literally operating at the interstice between art and lab science, like the SymbioticA collective; others tend toward the deliberately shocking and provocative. The work of female Indian artists Anita Dube and Shilpa Gupta, for instance, were featured at a recent SAM show on contemporary Asian art. Dube’s Silence (Blood Wedding) co-opts actual human bones as part of a series of ornate, florid sculptures, where these remains are transformed through a covering of rich red velvet and fussy beadwork into particularly beguiling, macabre memento mori-s. Gupta, on the other hand, while not actually utilizing biological material, created numerous bottles of simulated blood to stock a grisly pharmacy. Blame (2003) stands as a critique of communal violence in India, as well as global bloodshed such as the war on terror, confronting the viewer with the horrific consequences of these hostilities cloaked in the guise of the everyday, rendering it all the more startling and affective. (Though not without certain misgivings, at least on my part.) Other Asian artists engaged in body art as shock tactics include the infamous Chinese duo Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, whose Body Link and Human Oil utilized actual human foetuses as part of their attempt to highlight the brutality of modern urban life. The artists’ site clearly notes that the materials for Body Link were a “baby cadaver (medical specimen), plastic tubing, needles, and 200 cc of blood”, and Human Oil consisted of “liquefied human fat, one male infant cadaver.” So scandalous, in fact, were the shenanigans of artists like Zhu, Sun and Peng that in 2001 the Chinese authorities banned exhibitions “involving torture, animal abuse, corpses, and overt violence and sexuality”, and any “gallery or alternative space planning to mount a show during the run of the 2002 Shanghai Biennale was required to vet its contents with censors.” (See Richard Vine’s New China, New Art [Prestel USA, 2008], p. 104-5.)
Sun Yuan & Peng Yu, Body Link (2000). Images from sunyuanpengu.com.
Sun Yuan & Peng Yu, Human Oil (2000). Image from sunyuanpengyu.com.
As a sort of subcategory of BioArt, the visual culture of meat and meat-related products has of late been attracting the attention of artists interested in issues like feminism, animal rights, and foodways. Here’s a wonderful snippet from a review of Meat After Meat Joy, an exhibition which showed at the Mahmood Daneyal Gallery in NYC in 2008, which I think serves well as an articulation of the politics and connotations of representing meat:
I sing the song of meat, of its joys and discontents. For text demanded is now text made manifest. For meat is not only murder but also medium. Not merely the flesh, bone and sinew of corporeal existence but also an aesthetic construct replete with its peculiar and innate ontology. Not just tissue but also a symbolic projection of the impolite body into the rarefied space of the contemporary art world ……
Meat is food. Meat is death. Meat is torture. Meat is production. Meat is raw, although it can be cooked. Meat is dissection, substratum, structure. Meat is the bridge between human and animal, a reminder of where we come from, of our shared morphology, and of our place in the food chain. But meat is, above all, metaphor. It drips with larger aesthetic and political implications. It is laced with the gristle of artistic effort, striated by the tendons of semiotic theory and the ligaments of art school curriculum, greased with the lard of unctuous careerism, inflamed in the rotisserie of the contemporary art market, braised on the skillet of critical acclaim or indifference, its physical wholeness challenged by entropy, time and the maggots of eventual dissolution. It is a pungent medium, and should this not be immediately apparent, just give it a day or two without refrigeration.
(Read the full review at post.thing.net.)
Some of the pieces included in the show were the well-known video work My New York (2002) by Chinese artist Zhang Huan, who wore a meat suit down the streets of the city, having evinced a longstanding concern with the human body and its fleshly constituent, as well as the American Betty Hirst, who has incorporated the motif of meat across a broad spectrum of iconographies.
Stills from Zhang Huan’s My New York (2002). Images from Style Tease.
American Flag, Betty Hirst. Image from a review at Eat Me Daily.
Hommage a Meret Oppenheim, Betty Hirst. Image from a review at Eat Me Daily.
Elsewhere, photographer-artist Dominic Episcopo had a one-man show at the Bambi Gallery in Philadelphia, entitled Meat America. A brief notice at The Urban Grocer remarks: “Through this work, Episcopo intended to celebrate his own unabashed love for meat and “the American appetite for decadent and iconoclastic deliciousness.” And for the artist, delicious it was – word on the street says Episcopo and his wife ate all the meat he photographed. Now that’s dedication.”
All images below from The Coolist.
… It’s the end of the post. There isn’t going to be any mention of Her Gaga-ness.
In Act I, Scene 5, of Antony and Cleopatra, the Egyptian Queen, writhing in the throes of separation anxiety, is heard bemoaning her naughty past with Julius Caesar:
My salad days,
When I was green in judgment: cold in blood,
To say as I said then! But, come, away;
Get me ink and paper:
He shall have every day a several greeting,
Or I’ll unpeople Egypt.
These days one doesn’t have to depopulate the Nile Delta just to dispatch a missive, or for the want of some greens. However, if you live in Singapore, as I do, you might have to put up with a rather limited variety of salads, the only native – and by that I mean SE Asian – versions that come to mind being Malay rojak, Indonesian gado-gado, or Thai som tam. Or the little sad-looking bowls of lettuce with freeze-dried carrot slivers and a tomato quarter or two that you get at ‘family restaurant’ chains like Pasta Mania, served with a side of dressing-in-a-packet …
Anything else can be kinda hard to find hereabouts.
Thankfully, with a slew of salad bars having sprung up of late, the situation seems to be improving. The Salad Shop at UOB Plaza on Boat Quay mixes up a mean, green, fibre-rich machine – or any way you want yours done, really. (Props to BX, who first introduced me to the place.)
So this is how it works: everything they have available is printed on layered slips of carbonless copy paper, where you check off little boxes to indicate what you want in your bowl (or takeaway container), before you hand it in at the bar and head off to the cashier’s with a copy of your order to pay up. Ingredients are categorized into main feeds, supplementary feeds and prime feeds. The first are your basics, the second the slightly pricier stuff, and the last, meats and cold cuts. Which is pertinent for your choice of salad size: rabbit (8 SGD), which includes six main feeds; zebra (10), six mains and two supplementals; and elephant (12), which is basically the zebra + a prime.
Before that though, there are six bases to choose from: mixed lettuce; deli leaves; baby spinach; extra base; potato; and cous cous. (Pick one.) Then the main feeds, of which TSS offers an absolute plethora. You have the standards like carrots, celery, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, beans and sweet corn, along with more unusual selections like pickled seaweed, jalapenos (?!), brown rice and almond flakes. Best of all, they also have egg white ! – which is basically a hard-boiled egg, cubed, without the yolk. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I don’t see this around much, either here or in the U.S. Major brownie points, especially from yolk-haters like myself. The supplementals are fancier: apricots, dried berries, avocado, roasted veggies etc, plus a smattering of cheeses (Swiss, blue, parmesan). The meats include chicken tikka, crayfish, prawns, smoked duck, salmon, tuna, parma ham, roast beef, honey baked ham, roast chicken and turkey.
Finally, you decide on your dressing, which, as common sense would suggest, really makes or breaks a salad. So crucial is this concluding step that I’m going to list all the options. TSS offers 23 different dressings, a goodish number of which are vinaigrettes: extra virgin olive oil; balsamic vinaigrette; red wine vinaigrette; dill vinaigrette <shudder>; sundried tomato; pesto vinaigrette; lemon vinaigrette; citrus (?); sweet Thai chilli; chilli lime; mint yoghurt; honey mustard; Oriental; Thai; Caesar; Ranch; Thousand Island; lemon juice; avocado; Blue Cheese; white wine vinaigrette; French; Italian.
TSS also does soup, but I haven’t tried those – an oversight that will be corrected the next time round.
When I was there late on a Thursday afternoon – a nutritional prelude to the ArtScience Museum, more on which in a later post – I settled on this particular er, elephantine combo: on a bed of lettuce leaves, carrots, corn, roasted pumpkin, raisins, olives and egg white, along with grilled zucchini and bacon bits (the supplementals), and parma ham, all tossed in some honey mustard. Which was good, don’t get me wrong, except for two major distractions.
1. Their fault: Iceberg lettuce does NOT work as a salad base. In NYC at least I was used to delis and supermarkets utilizing crunchy romaine stems instead, which tend to maintain their crispness better under the onslaught of the dressing. Iceberg leaves, not so much – they get soggy and wilt. Also, the anemic colour doesn’t look quite as good in a salad mix, plain and simple.
2. My fault: the Parma ham was a bad idea. The briny taste and slimy texture of parma sorta gets lost in a dressed salad, really just ending up as large, chewy tongues of cold meat in your mouth that overpowers the light, chill briskness of the veggies. If you’re the kind who enjoys some yang in all that yin though, like I am, a julienne of honey baked ham works just fine.
Otherwise a nice break from the constant greasy sinfulness of local cuisine.
The Salad Shop
80 Raffles Place, #01-20 UOB Plaza 2, Singapore 048624.
A late Sunday dinner with the maternal unit at the local coffee shop provoked a rather .. interesting episode.
I was at the Indian food store, and decided to ask for some idlis which I saw advertised in fluorescent-lit visuals. If you haven’t had them, they’re delicious. Idlis are a type of South Indian pastry made from rice and lentils, and steamed to moist, spongy, fluffy perfection, after which they’re all ready for a go with curry or some other condiment. Best things ever. In Singapore they’re mostly a breakfast and/or lunch item, a fact which conveniently slipped my mind when I ordered some that evening.
Scrumptious image of idlis from Mahanandi.
The response? Laughter. “No lah brudder, this hour don’t have lah.”
“Your face looks like idli !”
Er, okayy. A rather random compliment, if one wants to take it that way. Or a deviously backhanded jibe. In any case, it certainly called to mind some pretty bizarre images …
… In the end, I settled for two pratas. Which were served up with sides of chicken and veggie curry (good), and sambal belacan (weird). Tasty too, though.
(From Food and Feasting in Art [Guide to Imagery series], Silvia Malaguzzi, pp. 177-80.)
Still Life with Lobsters (1822), Eugène Delacroix. In the collection of the Louvre.
In antiquity, crustaceans were a rare luxury food, and they were also enjoyed at medieval and Renaissance tables. Platina stresses that crustaceans are a tasty but heavy food, and he suggests lightening them by soaking in water and vinegar. They were forbidden by Jewish dietary rules, which allowed only fish with fins and scales, but they do not seem to have particularly worried Christians, who have no rules forbidding their consumption. In medieval exegetical writings, both lobsters and crabs are symbols of the Resurrection. This may derive from an observation passed on by Pliny, that both lobsters and crabs cast off their old shells in the spring and acquire new ones. The Resurrection symbolism is also attributed to the crab by Picinelli. In medieval exegesis, the lobster also represents conversion from paganism, heretics, and flatterers, but also preachers who reach heights of sublime contemplation and then return to virtuous activity, just as crustaceans rise to the surface of the sea only to sink down once again. In the symbolic language of actions, both the crab and crayfish represent instability and inconstancy because of their characteristic walk, with apparently random backward and forward movements. For the same reason, they were thought to represent sin, or even the devil, who was thought to walk backwards.
Sources: Pliny, Naturalis historia 9.95; Rabanus Maurus, PL 112 col. 988; Platina, De honesta voluptate et valetitudine (1474) book 10, chap. 363; Filippo Picinelli, Mundus Symbolicus (1687) book 6, chaps 18 and 20.
Meaning: Resurrection, inconstancy
Iconography: Crustaceans appear fairly frequently in 17th- and 18th-century Flemish still lifes and genre scenes. They also sometimes appear as delicacies in allegories of the sense of taste.
Still Life with Nautilus Cup and Lobster (1634), Jan Davidsz. de Heem. In the Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.
[Notes on the painting]
It seems likely that the various foods brought together in this still life are intended to convey a spiritual message concerning the Resurrection and redemption from Original Sin.
The apple symbolizes Original Sin.
Grapes, as the source of wine, are used to convey the Passion of Christ for the redemption of humanity.
The lobster is a symbol of the Resurrection because it molts its shell every year, completely renewing its appearance.
Still Life with Lobster and Crab (1643), Pieter Claesz. In the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
[Notes on the painting]
The manly beer glass and the feminine pewter pot seem to suggest that this painting contains a message for a man and a woman.
The watch invites the viewer to remember the ceaseless workings of time, which devours all. In this context, it suggests that we should read all the foods represented as symbolic.
The lobster and crab are not simply tasty foods but also symbols of the Resurrection. They remind us that taking due care of the spirit will gain us entry to the realm of divine beatitude.
Banquet of the Officers of the Civic Guard of Saint Adrian at Haarlem (1627), Frans Hals. In the collection of the Frans Hal Museum, Haarlem.
[Notes on the painting]
The man holds his glass upside down to show that he wants it to be refilled, almost as though he were trying to involve the spectator in the painting.
Crab is the main dish at the officers’ banquet. Crustaceans have been considered a luxury dish ever since antiquity.
The Guide to Imagery series put out by the Getty Museum is an unassumingly conceived, sumptuously illustrated, and concisely written set of books. As the title of the collection suggests, they are intended as introductory guides to certain broad, iconographic themes in the history of art: death; eroticism; astrology; biblical figures; food. The GtI books are an unpretentious antidote to the tedious, overburdened narratives that make art history textbooks such a chore to read sometimes – among the chief offenders of which must surely number Thames & Hudson’s World of Art series. The latter books are just about the most poorly thought-out texts imaginable, often trying to encompass too large a topical scope within too slim a volume, in many cases attempting a chronologico-geographical survey that zigzags across both time and space, resulting in little but bewilderment for the uninitiated reader.
(Moral of the story? Either go with a suitably hefty tome which looks like it can do thorough justice to a subject, or stick to a succinct introduction. Anything in between is more likely a miss than a hit.)
I recently purchased a copy of Food and Feasting in Art (above), which is awesome. It’s the perfect book for randomly dipping into, pun intended. A large section is given over to individual treatments of a smorgasbord of foodstuffs, from porridge to artichokes to mollusks to olive oil to coffee. Each item is explicated in a short one-page write-up, with accompanying images as well as brief summaries on textual ‘sources’, ‘meaning’, and ‘iconography’, all in point form, rendering the necessary information in as few words as possible. While this will probably strike art historians as being a gross oversimplification, I think it works out marvellously well for the intended audience – students and lay readers. Let’s admit it: unless one is fully committed to mastery of a certain topic, expending too much mental energy is pretty needless.
In any case, the short entries seem perfect for reproducing on the pages of this blog (with all due respect for copyright). The text is given in full, along with peripheral notes and the images the author chose as illustration. First entry? Potatoes. No particular reason, except that I remember seeing Van Gogh’s Potato Eaters (below) at a MoMA show a couple of years back, and being really taken with it. The unlit, unabashed lowliness of the figures – their features, dress, surroundings – and the warm glow in which the simple dish of diced potatoes and small cups of coffee are bathed make for a very affecting contrast …
(From Food and Feasting in Art [Guide to Imagery series], Silvia Malaguzzi, pp. 214-5.)
Potatoes originated in Peru, Bolivia, and Mexico, where they were grown from the time of the Aztecs and Incas. They were brought to Europe via Spain and Portugal by the great explorers of the second half of the 16th century but at first were used solely as cattle food. The Discalced Carmelites introduced potatoes into Italy, explaining how one eats the tuber and not the fruits or leaves, which are poisonous. Mistakes about this led to a great many poisonings at first, and despite the efforts of botanists to expand potato consumption, potatoes failed to take hold and were considered a source of disease. It was the Germans who introduced the potato to the Western diet, as the famine that followed the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century overcome diffidence toward them. The chemist Antoine Parmentier, who was a prisoner of the Prussians during the Seven Years’ War, came to appreciate their taste and good qualities; when he returned to the court of Louis XVI in France, he encouraged the cooks to use them. It was thus that potatoes entered French gastronomy in the early 18th century. Others around this time tried to persuade the Italians of potatoes’ good qualities, but it was only in the mid-19th century that their use became widespread. Dumas offered a number of recipes based on potatoes, praising them as healthy, nutritious, easy to cook, and economical, and hence excellent for the working classes. According to Dumas, their success stemmed from a revolutionary decree of 1793 when the Paris Commune requisitioned all luxury gardens for growing potatoes.
Sources: Antoine Augustine Parmentier, Examen Chimique de la pomme de terre (1773); Alexandre Dumas, Grand Dictionaire de cuisine (1873)
Iconography: Mostly found in 19th century genre scenes and still lifes with a humble setting
[Notes on the painting]
Potatoes played a large part in the diet of the poor. Once initial suspicions were overcome, many northern countries adopted their use in the 19th country.
In the 18th century coffee had been the drink of the aristocracy, but now in the 19th its use was becoming widespread.