America’s food celebration
Our relationship with food can be complex. For decades, Americans have had broad access to an embarrassment of riches on supermarket shelves. And as such we often take that bounty for granted. Scarcely a century ago a bunch of bananas or a pint of strawberries in the middle of winter were rare and exotic treats. Contemporary America not only has a huge range of exotic foods year-round, but we have cable television networks that broadcast nothing but shows about cooking and food. Some offer merely the spectacle of bizarre foods from distant cultures or competitions in which the audience roots for their favorite chefs based on personality, but never having tasted or smelled a morsel of food. Beautifully photographed, glossy magazines offer us features on the farms and vineyards that supply our tables while endless cookbooks offer us everything from easy-to-follow cake recipes to the sous vide, alginate-laden masterpieces of top chefs, their dishes plated intricately like edible Faberge eggs.
In truth, an alarming number of Americans eat on the go in their cars, or reheat processed foods at home. Though we’re exposed to arguably more food multiculturalism than any other generation, the vast majority of us tend to eat from the same prosaic revolving menu that is fast and easy if not always especially nutritional. Yet we continue to consume vast quantities of food-related media, perhaps to voyeuristically satisfy our unrealized intentions. Our eyes process the sensual experience of food that our mouths and noses have forgotten. So perhaps it is especially fitting for food to become nothing but an aesthetic backdrop for a world of tiny figures, in the same country that in 2011 produced the five volume Gutenberg Bible of cookbooks: Nathan Myhrvold’s Modernist Cuisine, an $800 reference that a fraction of its buyers will use to actually produce food. The components of the Disparity/Big Appetites photographs – toys and food – are among the most common elements in every culture in the world, regardless of language or socio-economic bracket. So perhaps its accessibility is the basis of its appeal. Playing with the language of size disparity, especially with these two extremely familiar components, seems to draw people into a different world.