Food and Art

Food defines us as individuals, communities, and nations, and has been used for centuries as a means of art and expression. From eBooks written by key scholars to digitised image collections, this carefully curated Featured Content brings together the wealth of material available through Bloomsbury Food Library, and provides a crucial gateway into the fascinating relationship between food and art.

Feast and Fast: The Art of Food in Europe, 1500-1800

UK Winner of the Entertaining category of the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2020, Feast and Fast (2019) explores food-related objects, images, and texts from the past in innovative ways and encourages us to rethink our evolving relationship with food. This richly illustrated book showcases hidden and newly-conserved treasures from the Fitzwilliam Museum and other collections in and around Cambridge. It teases out many contemporary and controversial issues - such as the origins of food and food security, overconsumption in times of austerity, and our relationship with animals and nature – through short research-led entries by some of the world's leading cultural and food historians. Click here to read more.

Semiotics of the Kitchen: Feminist Food Art

At the turn of the twenty-first century, the 100-year-long Home Economics project was reconfigured as critical art practice. Recipes become scores, orchestrating the performance of food. Marking a break from both domestic computing and Home Economics studies, second-wave feminist artists of the 1970s turned many assumptions from both of these fields upside down. Lindsay Kelley explores this further in this chapter from Bioart Kitchen (2016). Although the feminist movement shunned recipes and cookbooks, food and eating were central concerns. Feminist art responded to both Home Economics and domestic technology by developing tactics shared by food activists and ecofeminists. The kitchen became a political space capable of effecting change and mobilising resistance.

Food and Museums

Will Cotton is a contemporary artist whose whole career revolves around his preoccupation with sweets and desserts. He connects a very traditional method of representation, realistic paintings on canvas, with contemporary discourses of desire, pleasure, the culture of fantasy, air-brushed beauty, and celebrity. The tradition goes back to Dutch seventeenth-century still lifes, many in the Vanitas style that often boasted exquisite depictions of exotic fruit such as peeled lemon, ripe peaches, half-eaten berry pies, oysters, and rare birds—all objects of pleasure and symbols of indulgence. In this chapter from Food and Museums (2016), Nina Levent interviews Cotton to discuss his inspiration, his process, and some of his recent projects.

Changing Perspectives on Food as a Creative Medium

Several chefs today offer culinary creations that prompt a multisensory experience: an emotional response sparked by a combination of flavors and textures, experienced intimately by each diner. In this chapter from The Handbook of Food and Popular Culture (2018), Yael Raviv will focus on exploring food as a medium for art (rather than a subject) and will examine the role of chefs at the intersection of food and art, within the larger narrative of food as a creative medium. Beginning in the 1930s, Raviv explores the role of food as a medium in certain avant-garde movements and looks at their influence on later work in the studio and the kitchen.

Merrymakers at Shrovetide painting

Bloomsbury Food Library provides access to a rich variety of images from leading galleries and museums around the globe. This painting by Dutch artist Frans Hals (ca. 1616-17) depicts Vastenavond (Eve of Lent, or Shrove Tuesday). Known elsewhere as Mardi Gras, the occasion is celebrated with a carnival devoted to foolish behavior and popular foods such as pancakes and sausages. The suggestion that the central figure is a boy in drag is supported by the hairstyle, which looks peculiar for a woman of the time. He is flanked by two familiar characters of the comic stage: on the left, Pekelharing (Pickled Herring), and at right, Hans Worst (John Sausage).

Cover of Global Brooklyn: Designing Food Experiences in World Cities (2021)

Author in Focus - Fabio Parasecoli

Fabio Parasecoli is a well-known voice in the field of food studies, and is a Director of the Food Studies PhD Program at New York University. His research explores the intersections among food, media, and politics, in particular in the fields of food heritage and intellectual property. A member of the Bloomsbury Food Library’s own Editorial Advisory Board, Parasecoli has written or edited extensively in the field of food studies. Click here to discover the works by Fabio Parasecoli , which are made digitally available through the Bloomsbury Food Library.

Parasecoli'sacclaimed Bite Me (2008) considers the ways in which popular culture reveals our relationship with food and our own bodies and how these have become an arena for political and ideological battles. Drawing on an extraordinary range of material – films, books, comics, songs, music videos, websites, slang, performances, advertising and mass-produced objects – Bite Me invites the reader to take a fresh look at today’s products and practices to see how much food shapes our lives, perceptions and identities.

Parasecoli is the editor of a number of titles, such as Global Brooklyn: Designing Food Experiences in World Cities (2021). Co-edited with Mateusz Halawa, it brings together a collection of essays that explore ‘Global Brooklyn’ a new transnational aesthetic regime of urban consumption, shaped by many networked locations where consumers participate in the global circulation of styles, flavors, practices, and values. This book follows this phenomenon across different world cities, arguing for a stronger appreciation of design and materialities in understanding food cultures. Attentive to local contexts, struggles, and identities, contributors explore the global mobility of aesthetic, ethical, and entrepreneurial projects, and how they materialize in everyday practices on the ground.