Art is food for the soul

 'I am rarely happier than when putting a plate of food in front of someone else'  Greenfeast (Cover quote) -Nigel Slater
‘I am rarely happier than when putting a plate of food in front of someone else’
Greenfeast (Cover quote) -Nigel Slater

Art is food for the soul

Greenfeast by Nigel Slater (no affiliate commission). A brand new food book from a cook who writes..

I have always liked Nigel Slater. One of my first successful attempts at cooking was his ‘fragrant, creamy and colourful curry’ from his collection of recipes that he compiled for the Marie Claire magazine. At the time I was enamoured with the idea that a cook might consider the notion of colour in food and how it had an effect on the final result. This was when I was soooo much younger and knew a lot less about the complications of food presentation.

However, Nigel’s words always stayed with me. Not the actual words. I am not one for remembering passages of prose that neatly describe a dish nor directions that systematically list the procedure for production. Nigel’s words somehow evoked personal pleasure; the comfort and reward of work threaded with passion.

When I read the book every recipe is delicious in the evocation of his words. Sure most pages are accompanied by the expected perfect picture carefully executed to display the simplicity of home life whilst providing the aspiration to serving Ambrosia on Mount Olympus. But it is the words that provide the magic.

Greenfeast - each dish is a story

I think to myself …. how many ways are there to describe a steaming, broken new potato with its splitting odour of the deep earth culminating in fresh relief at the touch of the fateful sunshine? It doesn’t matter. For I know that these words will drag me along the journey to initiate my deep, deep desire. Yet, how simply he wields this power.

Every dish of food is a complete story.

Of the thousands of dishes that he has cooked and eaten, every single time he has shared his deepest experience in a most intimate way, with himself. Not just the recipe, but the pleasure, the anticipation, every sensual experience and every word rings with truth. Because this is his job?

Sure, his 30 years of experience may make it easier.

But it is his life, his passion, his call to arms. His waking thoughts are probably to do with breakfast. While he is humming in pleasure over his oats and sweet black currant his mind is searching for new experience in the garden where he hopes the new shoots of mint are ready to be used at lunchtime

You can imagine his walk around the fruit and veg markets to be almost orgasmic in satisfaction.

Greenfeast - beautifully designed to accentuate simple passion

He jots down notes, poetic thoughts and scruffy sketches, just like the rest of us. His passion is so strong and infectious that I am drawn in to his world.

BUT my point is, that his all-encompassing commitment to his own journey is paramount to his material. And I believe his success lies in the total lack of possession he has over his treasure. He shares everything. Despite the fact that it probably required careful crafting and time consuming pondering, what we see is a wonderful, beautiful celebration of a mans passion for something so fundamental to life.

And as artists – should we not be the same?

Are you not also deeply committed to your own vocation and the unique journey that only you can walk?

Do you have trouble really expressing how you feel when you create?

Whether you want to use watercolour to evoke the shrill call of the magpie hacking in to the dawn chorus … or you wish to perform a dance to effect climate change…. maybe think how Nigel might say it…. simply, with complete belief and conviction.

Describe your journey to it. Show no hesitation in the execution… mistakes are simply untrod paths to be mapped and described. Then with all your pride and satisfaction, show the result and know you can retell the story of how you got there.

Say it simply, with truth and the utmost burning love you have for it … it is what you do, what you are here for.

BECAUSE – if you can not truly repeat the quote from Nigel’s new book… well you might be an artist… but you may be lacking the better qualities of being a human being.

Art is food for the soul … tell the story of it.

Nigel Slater - an artist? a creator? a storyteller, definitely

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1 comment

  • Its fascinating to consider the analogy between making art, putting it out into the world and making a plate of food to give to someone.

    The cook intends both pleasure in the sensual experience of eating the food and a very literal physical nourishment. Nigel Slater refers to this moment of “giving” inherent in serving the food as one of great happiness. 2 questions for the artist occur to me; firstly, is there the intention of providing pleasure and nourishment albeit of some psychological quality with their work and if not, then what is being offered when they present their work to the world? Secondly, is that moment the work is given to the world, one of happiness or is it fraught with doubt, uncertainty and anxiety.

    The answers for the artist to these internal questions provide extremely interesting insights into the content of their work and their relationship to it…and so as an analogy it provides a useful yardstick by which to explore what an artist is making and why.

    Art need not be a gift to the world of pleasure and nourishment…but if not, then what is it? If the motivation behind the making of the work is not the happiness received in giving it to others then what is the motivation? As a way of self defining ones purpose and intent, this seems a wonderfully provocative analogy for self interrogation.