Elizabeth Telfer, Food as Art


        Most think that while food/drink can produce aes reactions (aes exp), they cannot be an art form or involve works of art

        Telfer thinks food can be a work of art and type of art form, but it is minor rather than major art


        Anything viewed: Anything can be viewed aesthetically: Can be aes reactions to most anything, including pieces of machinery

        Non-neutral: Aesthetic responses are non neutral

                  (Urmson) Not neutral responses, but a species of pleasure

        Aes not = Pleasure: Are aes reaction a species of pleasure? (No)

                  Telfer: Aes reaction need not be favorable, and even when it is, pleasure is often not the right way to characterize it

                    -        Intrigued by pattern of clouds

                    -        Excited by lightening

                    -        Awed by the falls

                    -        Pleasure is not a good way to describe these feelings

                  Judging presence of aesthetic value is not nec based on pleasurable response

                    -        In “Terrible Beauties,” Korsmeyer makes a distinction between aesthetic value that sometimes presents itself as pleasure but other times other things, like arousal of discomforting emotions, or being riveted by something; or the experience of the sublime isn't pleasurable (as it might involve fear); "aesthetic pleasure is better understood as a kind of affective absorption"

                                      Descriptions of the suffering of loved characters in novels.

                                      Art genres that emphasize the grotesque, the shocking, the morbid, the horrifying, and the ugly

        DI: Aes reaction are disinterested

                  Telfer takes this to mean: non-instrumental

                  Not aes reaction if we react favorably to a play because

                    -        Earn money for us

                    -        Teaches fine moral lesson

                    -        Successful venture for a playwright we know

                  Must appreciation play for its own sake and these are instrumental valuings


        Aes and sensual appearance: In simple cases, an aes reaction if based solely on how object appears to the senses

                    -        More complex cases (app of a novel) not necessarily sensual

                  Food example: Aes if like way cottage cheese contrasts in flavor and texture with th rye bread; not aes if pleased with combination because low-calorie and high fiber.


        Need intensity to insure that non-instrumental liking of sensual phenomenon is aesthetic

                  Weak “that’s nice” reaction doesn’t merit name aes

        Intensity need not involve

                  Actively paying attention or concentrating (can’t do this with short-lived lightening flash)

                  Nor analyzing what seen/heard (enjoying blue sky)


        Objectivity often involved

                  Object is warranting or meriting or deserving of one’s response

                  Has qualities others would (and should) appreciate too (or come to appreciate)

                  Aes judgments (often?) claim to be valid or well-founded and are such that it makes sense to argue about them, even if the arguments often can’t be resolved

        Can make aes judgments in absence of non-neutral reactions that usually go with them

                  Landscape that normally would delight leaves me indifferent today, but still see it as beautiful (it’s the kind of thing that ought to delight people and normally would delight me too).


        Summary: Aes reactions are



                  Have a degree of intensity

                  And often accompanied by judgment that claims a kind of objectivity


        Can be aes reactions to food:

                  There can be aes reactions to tastes and smells (of food) in all the above ways

                  Dist liking taste and smell of food from approving of it instrumentally (nourishing)

                  Distinguish the person who enjoys her food but does not notice what she eats from person whose awareness is more vivid; only later aes exp

                    -        Former lacks, latter has intensity? Or is it awareness/notice?

                    -        Is this how she distinguishes food/eating that is aesthetic from non-aesthetic food/eating?

                  Can also have objective judgements that not only do I like the food, but believe taste is a fine one which other people ought to like too

                    -        Even if some don’t like it at present

                    -        Or even if I don’t

                    -        So get detachment from non-neutral (positive in this case) reaction

        Taste in ice cream, paradigm of non-objective? Not even an aes response because of this?

                  Taste in ice-cream is standard example of non-rational, nonobjective preference

                  If food taste is objective we loose this contrast (between rational/objective and non-rational/non-objective judgments)

                  Are folks who don’t like chocolate or coffee or wine having a mistaken reaction?

                  More objectivity in other art forms than food?



        Works of art

                  Not all objects that give rise to aes reactions are works of art

                  Works of art are man-made (even if just putting it in a gallery and giving it a name)


        Two senses of “works of art”

                  Classifying: about how the object is regarded

                  Evaluative: does it merit the label “work of art”?


        Classifying sense of work of art:

                   Something is a work of art if it is intended or used wholly or largely for aes consideration

        Urmson: Work of art is an artefact if primarily intended for aes consideration

                  If maker intended it to be looked at with intensity and for its own sake then it is a work of art

                    -        Pile of metal pipes in museum: its art if it was so intended

                  Primarily” (some utilitarian uses okay): Allows for objects to be made for aes app but also utilitarian uses (a chair is art if maker primarily intends it to be looked at, rather than mainly sat in)

                  Telfer extends the classifying sense to allow something being a work of art even if its maker did not intend so, if its use is primarily aes

                    -        Buildings or bowls from native peoples


        Evaluative sense of work of art

                  Claim about whether the object is worth aes attention; Does it merit or repay aes consideration?

                  Sure “Metal Pipes” were intended by maker and gallery owner to be looked at, for own sake, with intensity, and public will probably oblige, but that’s not a work of art, it’s a pile of junk

        Does not follow that all works of art (in this evaluative sense) are good ones

                  Something could be a work of art (in evaluative sense), even if not very good

                  As long as it deserves to be appraised aes, although it might be found wanting


        Is food art in classifying sense?

                  A thing intended or used wholly or largely for aes consideration

        Answer: Some is and some isn’t

                  Run of mill food is not

        But many meals intended by their cooks to be considered largely in this way (aesthetically)

                  Savored, appraised, thought about, discussed

        Many eaters consider them in this way

        Although they have instrumental uses like nourishment and reliving hunger

                  Some are such that this is not the main point

        Meals claimed to be works of art are too complex and long-drawn out to be seen simply or mainly as feeding

        Cook not satisfied if eaters don’t notice what they eat

                  Cook aims to produce certain kind of pleasure, that depends on discerning appreciation of flavors and how combined and succeed one another

        Cookbooks show desire to design dishes, courses and whole meals which present patterns of harmonious or contrasting flavors and textures: they are designing a work of art


        Question: Some dishes clearly are works of art in classifying sense but do they merit aes attention (are they works of art in evaluative sense?)




        Food, not art (in evaluative sense), but craft?

                  Because it is not creative and art must be creative?


        Art/Craft distinction: A distinction in kind of work (not products of work)

                  Art is original creation

                  Craft is carrying out instructions, following a convention or employing a technique

                  E.g., Architect who designs church is artist, masons and woodcarvers who carry out his instructions are craftsmen


                  Painters and composers often follow conventions and use technique; create according to a set of rules that define a genre (e.g., sonata form)

                    -        Does this make them craftsman?

                    -        No, because unlike exact instruction of mason, conventions leave room for choice, so there is some creativity here


        Distinction based on degree of creativity?

                  If lots of creativity will be art, if modest amount will be seen as craft

                  Where no room for creativity (as with mason), the person is a craftsman and not an artist at all–a technician

                  So-called crafts of pottery and furniture making (are really art) because leave plenty of room for creativity alongside convention and use of technical skill


        Blend of craft/creation in interpretation/performance as well

        Are interpreters artists?

                  Interpreters include:

                    -        Performance artists, who take instructions and carry them out using techniques

                    -        Piano player, actor, or cook following a recipe

                  One idea is that composing and writing are creative, while playing music and acting are interpretive

                    -        As if interpretation is not creative and therefore not art

                  But interpreter is like a composer or writer using a genre with strict convention

                    -        Not exact plan, so choices have to be made and they have to be creative

                  So each performance is a work of art (to some extent)


        Cookery an art or a craft?

                  If degree of creativity is criterion, some cookery can qualify as art

        Cook who creates a recipe and assembles it in an ordered and structured way for the purposes of aes response is a creative artist

                  Even producing variations on someone else’s recipe is creative, like a jazz composer arranging a standard tune

        Even those who produce the dishes (rather than create the recipes) can be artists

                  If recipe is rigid and cook follows it completely with no creativity, then no artistry involved

                  But usually there is a good deal of flexibility (“season to taste” “a pinch of ginger if desired”), choices about combinations and sequences of dishes in a meal

        So the cook is normally a “performing artist” rather than a technician

                  So a particular cook’s version of a recipe is an interpretative work of art, like a musicians performance of a piece of music

                    -        Will require some technique too (make white sauce w/o lumps)


        Is it true that skill and technique take one away from artistry?

                  Portrait painter: If (pure) technique is craft, not art, then a good portrait painter/drawer is a technician and not an artist

                  Pure creativity with no skill or technique likely to produce bad art (evaluative sense) or none at all?

        Original recipe and actual dish (performance of the recipe) can be works of art if regarded aesthetically

        Central analogy: compare the creator of a recipe to a composer and the cook who follows one to a performer


        Some say there is not an art of food like there is the art form of painting or poetry

                  Since food is treated as art, it is art in classificatory sense

                  Must be saying it is not art in evaluative sense



        One: Too usefulness: nothing useful deserves to count as a work of art

                  But traditional art forms include architecture and it concerns useful objects

                  Usefulness is relevant to art in that to appraise an object aes is to consider it in abstraction from its usefulness

                    -        Is this true? Building?

        Two: Too bodily: Not art because app of food is too physical, bodily, and thus crude and disgusting and these senses are not worth dwelling on

                  See and hear at a distance (nobler senses) but taste only what actually touches our bodies and this is too crude to be art.

                  Taste and smell are too bodily and to cultivate their more physical kind of perception is to concentrate on unworthy objects

                  We should try to get away from the body and focusing on these bodily senses is disgusting


        Three: Lacks complexity: Not art because not sufficiently complex

                    -        Limitation is either in us or in the food (or both)

                  Food and drink do not repay being treated as works of art

                  Taste and smell senses can’t achieve the finer discriminations that eye and ear can (which can also recuperate more quickly and are sensations that are easier to remember)

                  Why no “taste symphonies or smell sonatas?” (Beardsley)

                    -        Symphonies/sonatas are very complex and taste/smell lack this complexity

        Reply: (Claims of limitations are exaggerated)

                    -        To extent this is true, it does not show that food is not art only that it is simple art form

                  But it is not true that taste and smells don’t allow for fine discriminations

                  Although our sense of smell is less than other animals

                  We can still recognize huge range of different smells and tastes

                  We can develop and train these capacities (wine taster)

                  If our culture paid more attention to tastes/smells, people would cultivate a palate

                  A discerning diner–like an expert listener–can pick up the reference if a flavor in the savory recalled a note in the hor-d’oeuvres

        Concerning the supposed limitations in the tastes themselves (as opposed to in us)

                  Is it true that tastes cannot be arranged in systematic, repeatable and regular combination?

                  Not true no sequences in tastes: arrange sequence from sweet to sour, least to most salty

                  Diner eats a rotation mouthful of duck in orange sauce, new potatoes with cream and garlic; then broccoli

                    -        systematic, repeatable and regular combo

                  Not claiming that form in food can be as complex as form in music, but there is definitely form here in combinations of tastes:

                    -        Salty biscuit, spread with unsalted butter and topped by anchovy or olive

                  Balance and climax in food too: Cook planing a dinner does not put most striking dish at beginning, leaving rest for anticlimax

                    -        “However humble it may be, meals have a definite plot, intention of which is to intrigue, stimulate and satisfy”

        Concludes: no limitations in tastes themselves or in us that prevent food from being a work of art in evaluative sense, though it will be simpler


        If food deserves to be treated as simple art form, what follows?

        Arts are important in our lives

                  State spends resources to support arts

                  Education tries to inculcate some kn of and concern for arts

                  Individuals cultivate aesthetics and regard someone with no regard for them as defective, philistine, and boorish

        Should art of food find place among these?


        Should people cultivate art of food?

                  Some do think that one should cultivate art of food, eat elegantly and discerningly, “take trouble” with one’s food

                    -        Critique of fast food culture

                  Part of being civilized; person who thinks it does not matter what one eats is “at best boorish” (crude insensitivity)

        Even if agree that everyone should cultivate the arts, does not follow that everyone should cultivate this (or any) particular art

                  Some people will get no meaning from some art form and so can’t force all to cultivate one particular art form

                  Given time/resources are limited and that food is a simple and also minor art form, reasonable for person w/o much time/money to focus on the major arts first and leave food out as an art form in his life (even while realizing the aes claims of food)

                    -        But we all eat and cook everyday and so it can come in to some extent


        Should state subsidize art form of food so it would be less expensive and so that everyone could indulge in it?

                  No; money is limited; subsidize major art forms first

                  Also, unlike opera which might die out w/o subsidy, the art of food will survive without subsidy


        Not all eating is an aesthetic activity

                  Aesthetic eating, eating with attention and discernment food that repays attention and discernment

                  Might take practice and some instruction

                  But art of food is easier to app than arts which require lots of background knowledge

                  Art of food as a people’s art


        A MINOR ART

        Because simple? (No)

                  It is not true that only complex things (and not simple things) can support sustained aes contemplation, for aes contemplation need not be analytical (distinguishing between and paying attention to different parts)

                    -        Abstract sculptures of simple shape can sustain non-analytical kind of aes contemplation

                    -         https://www.cofc.edu/hettinger/images/Bird_in_Space.jpg


        Because transient?

                  Food art is minor because it is nec transient, can’t have meaning, and can’t move us

                  Transience makes art less important as

                    -        Not around long to be contemplated

                    -        Can’t speak to different generations and so can’t get stature

                                      Can a recipe speak to different generations?


        Lacks meaning?

                  Food has meaning in the sense that it, e.g., can symbolize a nation’s way of life and traditions

                  Food does not have same kinds of meaning as major art forms

                    -        Some arts (unlike food) are representational–painting and literature–they tell us something about the world and ourselves and see these in light of ways depicted in rep arts

                                                                                           But some major arts don’t represent: E.g., music does not rep the world

                  And music has meaning in that it can express emotion (and communicates), and

                  Food does not do this (express emotion)

                            Cook can express emotion, but the food can’t, whereas music can

        Food can’t move us in way music and other major arts can

                    -        Lacks a earth shaking quality (and this constitutes a limit to the significance it can have to us)

                  Great building can move us w/o expressing emotion

                  Good food can elate us, invigorate us, startle us, excite us, cheer us with a kind of warmth and joy

                  But can’t shake us fundamentally (as shown by tears or fear)

                  Not in awe of good food and hesitate to apply the word beauty to it, however good it is

        Problem of paying too much attention to food as art

                  Treating eating as precious

                  Treating it as of more aes importance than it has

                    -        “Avoid looking for Schubertian profundity in a folk song”

                  This could make us disappointed

        Still we should not ignore what can be a satisfying and rewarding aes exp.

                    -        And miss other values in the occasion of eating (social values)