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


In conclusion, we have seen how the sense of taste (along with smell and touch) was debased throughout the history of philosophy as a lower sense, a position that left knowledge and beauty unattainable to it. We then looked at how this erroneous position, exemplified by Kant, could be countered using the gastronomical insight of Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin and the empirical philosophy of David Hume. Taking up the philosophy of Hume in particular, we were able to examine the similarity between food and art and between sensory taste and aesthetic taste. These similarities were illustrated in the contemporary example that compared the cultivability of a taste in cilantro to the cultivability of a taste in slow cinema. Finally, we looked at potential challenges to the analogy between taste in food and taste in art. These challenges included the sensory limitations found in individual palettes, potential physical dangers present in food and in the act of ingestion, and the idea that food cannot have meaning beyond its instrumental value. In regard to the last challenge, we not only demonstrated the wide assortment of aesthetic meaning that food can carry, but we also showed that certain foods can even suggest death.

Thus, to return to the question of our introduction: should Ferran Adria have been invited to participate in the Documenta art show? Because the arguments against the idea that food can be art ring hollow under careful scrutiny, the answer must be yes.

Coincidentally, in 2007, the same year that the inclusion of Adria in the Documenta art show caused such a stir, Pixar released the film Ratatouille, written and directed by Brad Bird. The film tells the story of a rat who wants to be a chef. In the end, he succeeds, winning over his toughest critic, Anton Ego. Curiously, Ego does not say that he was surprised that a rat could become a great chef; instead, he uses language that can also be used to argue for Adria: “Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere” (Ratatouille). Indeed–even from the kitchen.


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