How Food Can Be Art: A Discussion of Taste (Part 1 of 8)

Last month, I completed a course at Boston University called Philosophy of Food with a paper on the subject of taste.  More specifically, I explored the possibility that food can be experienced aesthetically and thus qualify as art.  I have decided to share this paper but with some caveats.  First, though the paper is lengthy, it is actually much shorter than it needs to be.  Our professor asked for fifteen pages; I had to use a smaller font size to meet this limit, even while simplifying some sections and excluding others.  Therefore, if you feel that certain sections are lacking or do not do justice to their respective subjects, please refer to my references (especially the work of Carolyn Korsmeyer, to whom I am most indebted).   My section on Kant and the section titled “Challenges” are particularly weak in this regard.  For those interested, the two sections that I had to exclude from the final paper are a comparison between functional foods and functionalist architecture and an analogy between food and performance art.

A few more caveats: I am not purporting to be advancing any new ideas in this paper.  I am simply summarizing ideas from multiple sources to offer a coherent defense of my thesis.  I am also not suggesting that food is qualitatively equal to other art forms–only that people tend to approach and respond to food in ways similar to those in which they approach and respond to art objects, whatever the media. Food is clearly different from painting, for example, in the same way that literature is different from sculpture (which, of course, says nothing about their value [learned and not inherent] in relation to one another).  Relatedly, though I try to show how the sense of taste has an epistemic capacity denied it by traditional Western metaphysics, I am not suggesting that it is qualitatively equal to the other senses.  This should go without saying.  Taste is different from sight, just as sight is different from hearing.  But each sense can be a source for knowledge about the world–and through each, then, we can develop a standard of beauty.

Finally, my present thoughts on taste and the definition of art may conflict somewhat (though ever so slightly) with earlier views expressed on this blog.  These present opinions, of course, supersede the earlier ones.



Works Cited

Bordwell, David. “Good and Good for You.” Blog. Observations on Film Art 10 July 2011. Web.

Brillat-Savarin, Jean Anthelme. The Physiology of Taste. Trans. Anne Drayton. London: Penguin, 1970. Print.

Dargis, Manohla. “What You See Is What You Get.” The New York Times 8 July 2011. Web.

Hume, David. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Human Knowledge: Classical and Contemporary Approaches. Eds. Paul K. Moser and Arnold Vander Nat. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2003. 167-84. Print.

Hume, David. “Of the Standard of Taste.” Aesthetics: A Comprehensive Anthology. Eds. Steven M. Cahn and Aaron Meskin. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2008. 103-12. Print.

Jonas, Hans. “The Nobility of Sight.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 14.4 (1954): 507-19.

Jones, Jonathan. “Food Can Be Artistic–but It Can Never Be Art.” Blog. The Guardian 17 May 2007. Web.

Jones, Jonathan. “Food for Thought…Why Cuisine or Couture Can Never Equal Great Art.” Blog. The Guardian 21 Apr. 2011. Web.

Keeley, Graham. “Is Food Art? El Bulli Chef Creates a Stir.” The Independent 16 May 2007. Web.

Kois, Dan. “Eating Your Cultural Vegetables.” The New York Times Magazine 29 Apr. 2011. Web.

Korsmeyer, Carolyn. “Delightful, Delicious, Disgusting.” Food & Philosophy: Eat, Think and Be Merry. Eds. Fritz Allhoff and Dave Monroe. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2007. Print.

Korsmeyer, Carolyn. “Disputing Taste.” TPM: The Philosophers’ Magazine 20 Jan. 2010. Web.

Korsmeyer, Carolyn. Making Sense of Taste: Food and Philosophy. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1999. Print.

McGee, Harold. “Cilantro Haters, It’s Not Your Fault.” The New York Times 13 Apr. 2010. Web.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. Twilight of the Idols. The Portable Nietzsche. Ed. and trans. Walter Kaufmann. New York: Penguin, 1976. 463-563. Print.

Ratatouille. Dir. Brad Bird. Walt Disney Video, 2007. DVD.

Smillie, Susan. “Is Food Art?” Blog. The Guardian 24 May 2007. Web.

Sweeney, Kevin W. “Can a Soup Be Beautiful? The Rise of Gastronomy and the Aesthetics of Food.” Food & Philosophy: Eat, Think and Be Merry. Eds. Fritz Allhoff and Dave Monroe. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2007. 117-32. Print.

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