Walking the streets with “eat cake for breakfast” emblazoned on the side of your tote bag, can be a simple declaration of your love for cake.
Back in the 90s, it would also be the best way to keep yourself a rung higher on the fashion ladder, for you would not be carrying a grocery bag, but a Kate Spade bag.
Spade, the feisty designer who passed away last week, was celebrated for moulding the quirky design scene of the 90s and showcasing food in her designs, metaphorically and literally, like the famous pineapple bag.
Food has been central to art, design and even to serve up religious sentiment. In the Last Supper, one of the most iconic Christian images, we see Jesus breaking bread with his apostles.
In Hinduism, Lord Krishna’s baby avatar with his mouth and hands smeared in freshly churned butter is a favourite among Krishna devotees.
Food draws its strength from design and art. Any TV food show worth its salt will make sure that the food looks appetising and is plated like a miniature painting.
Food art is fascinating. I remember being mesmerised at the salad counters watching roses being carved out of a blood red watermelons, or an apples being sliced like birds mid flight or tomatoes being trussed up like roses.
According to the Smithsonian Journeys Quaterly, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti was the first artist in the modern era to think of the preparation and consumption of food as art.
In 1932, Marinetti published The Futurist Cookbook. It was not merely a set of recipes; it was a kind of manifesto. There is so much to do with food: the smell, the texture, the visual appeal, it makes for the perfect medium for artists to experiment.
The Japanese do hit the high notes when it having a beautiful interplays of food and art – the Bento box. The single portion meals mostly made of rice, vegetables and meat are arranged to create a landscape or a funny face or an animal face. A good Bento is a thing of beauty.
Art has always used food to tell a story. Any art history book will tell you how food has been as a potent descriptor for political, social or class commentary. Art has always fed on food, from ancient Greece and Rome where feasts were celebrated in literature and painting.
Drawings of food could also be found inside Egyptian pyramids. A slice of life is portrayed with food.
From the luxuriant 17th century still life paintings of fruit platters depicting a life of decadence and decay, to the pop artists usage of everyday food items to make a statement, like Andy Warhol’s 32 Campbell’s Soup Cans, a comment on mass produced food, there is a lot going on with food.
It has been a tool for feminists to make a statement via art installations, and as the Smithsonian reports, used as a “social sculpture”—where human interaction, including eating together, is conceived as an art form in itself.
One of the most prominent practitioners was Rirkrit Tiravanija, who began cooking and serving food to viewers at galleries.
Food is so simple in its pleasures, maybe you have wondered why the first thing you drew with a crayon was a bright red apple, or three cherries hung together.
It was easier for us as toddlers to draw what we liked. To draw what we ate. Food is always a hit. Fashion, art or just on your dishes, there is no iconography that packs as much punch.
Sharon Fernandes is a journalist based in Delhi.