I am deep sea diving into art the way many count their money. This is my photograph from Artgiano’s Cheese Shop in Bay City, Michigan. Photography is not my bling but my iPhone was hungry and there were no fights nearby.
The inclusion of this collection in an establishment selling fine cheeses and wine along with local jams and gelato speaks to an idea of celebrating the process of making food and presenting it to the buyer as masterful and worthy of our attention.
It’s so different from the generic black and white government cornflakes box that sat sadly in our rented inner city domicile.
We didn’t really celebrate food as art in the 1980s ghetto and why would you? Smushed greyish green peas in mass production industrial cans, long thick off-brand Velveeta style blocks of passable cheese that tasted like plastic, and ???
There was no Food Network. No one took selfies with their food. People smoked at the dinner table. Food was mainly formality. Even birthday cakes were shitty. Hardly anything was made from scratch unless you had a stay at home mom. There was no Pinterest or Google or Blogs. You only had that bitch, Betty Crocker and who trusted her ass?
The very best food was completely unattainable to the very poor. No matter how many coupons you had on double coupon Friday.
The south side Saginaw neighborhood I grew up in did not have a grocery store. Our food came from the party store (what we in Michigan call convenience stores), the drug store (candy, yo!), and the long line at the Salt St. warehouse where we got our government surplus poor people food like an entire box of honey! Uh, yea! What the fuck are we going to do with this? Local honey may be popular today but back then, we smeared it on bread because what the fuck?
Honestly, food kind of scared me because most of it tasted bad. I have sharp memories of spitting out dry plain pork chop pieces into off brand Kleenex and secretly carrying it into the bathroom to flush it down the toilet.
Seasonings, spices, and herbs were not in wide use back then like they are today to dress up dead meat and make it taste delectable. The art of food was not accessible to all.
We were that family that forced food down children’s throats or else we were sent to bed with nothing. The idea today that kids can eat fast food or can riffle through a pantry for chips is just incredible bullshit but whatever, I’m totes jealous.
Now that I’m middle aged and in a passionate love affair with food as a Pinterest whore, organic CSA farm share holder, Thrive membership buyer, and can choose from four different fully stocked grocery stores in a god damn town that is eons smaller than the inner city I grew up in, I’m spoiled as fuck.
I forget where I came from where no one knew what an eggplant was much less varietal wines, artisan cheeses, or weird ass grains like sorghum and quinoa. It’s true that all of our palates have grown. Variety is bursting from the shelves and heirloom vegetables are enjoying resurgence as specialty.
Food is art, for the upper classes.
Dinner parties don’t lie.
Kraft cheese is for suckers. Or more aptly, Dollar General shoppers, when even Wal-Mart thinks your town or city is a lost cause.
The amount of privilege involved in the art of food is something so obvious and yet, we mistake abundance and popularity with accessibility and affordability. And yet, we all deserve fair trade coffee that tastes like it wasn’t made in the toilet.
I don’t have answers. Sorry to disappoint you. I’m just an asshole who loves food. And yet, this gross inequality separates us all. You don’t need a steak to appreciate the plate. What we need is honest food for honest people to nourish, inspire, and protect. That is the art of food.