I've always considered food to be a visual art medium . What could be more pleasing to the eye than a freshly baked, flaky slice of apple pie? Golden brown roast turkey, towering wedding cakes and rustic artisan cheeses and breads are all examples of foods created to look almost too pretty to eat. Month after month the covers of food magazines give us a fresh gallery of food related art to enjoy.
Not only do cooks use talent and technique to create visual masterpieces in the kitchen, they create performance art as well. From the orchestration of the menu to the gathering of the ingredients to the final presentation on the dinner table, each step of the preparation is a tile of the elaborate mosaic of the meal.
Yes, food is an effective art medium.
I got a kick out of learning that food will be at the center of performance art at the upcoming statewide Arts Summit at the Oregon Convention Center. The focus of the Arts Summit is 'Setting the Table: Collaborative Solutions for Arts Organiza-tions' and will involve artists, arts managers, supporters and advocates from all over Oregon. They will be treated to an interactive lunchtime performance by Kate Ali of Dexter titled 'Dining Dynamics.' Ali, a 2008 Oregon Arts Commission Visual Arts Fellow will have 30 to 36 artists and art leaders attempt to eat lunch while their forks are tied to one another, creating a push- me-pull-you effect.
Seven pair of diners will be seated at each table and each diner's fork will be connected through a hole in the table to another diner down the table. The connection is only long enough for one person to eat at a time, engaging all 14 guests to communicate and cooperate in order to eat.
Just watch - I bet the exercise will trigger unique and memorable table conversations as well as provoke creative solutions to benefit artistic works around the state.
Kathryn Jackson, Work for Art Manager with Regional Arts and Culture Council, informed me about another creative way local people are combining food and art.
The people at Sunshine Dairy Foods have entered into a unique partnership with Work for Art to support arts and culture in our area. The dairy will donate one percent of yogurt and sour cream sales to Work for Art, which will then be matched dollar for dollar by a special public fund and passed on to arts and culture organizations.
Work for Arts supports over 75 arts organizations in Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties. They support arts education programs to provide opportunities to students and teachers in both urban and rural schools and community centers.
Jackson tells me the partnership with Sunshine Dairy will be ongoing so get in the habit of buying the Sunshine brand yogurt and sour cream. They are available at New Seasons Market and Mac's Deli.
With every art form, practice makes perfect. That coupled with determination and innovation will elevate novices to the artist level and finally, to the master level of competence. Cooking follows the same progression: Begin with the basics, graduate to more difficult technical tasks and before you know it -voila! - one day you are creating masterpieces in the kitchen.
Lakeridge freshman Collin Gilbert and Anton Caudaro are beginning cooks today, but I trust they will be masters of the kitchen in a short order, if their success with Taco Soup is any indication. This recipe from their Food and Nu-trition class is quick, simple and delicious - a real winner and easy to turn into a masterpiece with a crisp green salad and warm corn bread and hon-ey.
Bon Ap-petit! Try some-thing new.
Anton and Coliln's Taco Soup
Yield 3 to 5 small servings
¼ lb. ground beef
2-3 tablespoons taco seasoning
1 tablespoon ranch dressing mix
1 cup stewed or diced tomatoes
½ cup corn
½ cup kidney beans
½ cup black beans
½ cup pinto beans
¼ cup water, more if too thick
¼ large onion, chopped (optional)
1 tablespoons green chilies (optional)
Toppings: Cheese, olives, green onions, sour cream, Fritos or tortilla chips
In a large frying pan, brown ground beef (and onions and chilies if using them); stir and break up meat as it cooks. Drain grease from meat. Put browned meat/onion mixture in a large saucepan.
Add taco seasoning, tomatoes, kidney beans, black beans, corn and water. Heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally; to keep mass from sticking to the bottom of the pan. May be served at this time, but flavor develops if allowed to stand.
Serve over corn chips in a bowl. Add toppings.
Lakeridge Food and Nutrition class recipe.
Randall welcomes your food question and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-635-8811 or by email at [email protected]