What’s food got to do with it?

by Nancy Tingley

What does writing about food have to do with the creative process? Plenty.

This time of year, with the holidays in all directions, food seems to be a major contributor to the festivities, and a binder that brings people together. A gathering of friends, family, or a business gathering usually has something to do with food. It may even unite people from different languages and cultures, with the main commonality to be food. It opens doors, makes people relax, and fills the stomach. It also plays a part with creativity.

I am a graduate of Pacific Northwest College of Art, and my thesis was a cookbook. It was a logical progression to me to join the creative process of art with the binder of food. I was majoring in photography, illustration and design, and the cookbook combined all of these elements. I chose several of my teachers who were all professionals in the field, and went to their homes and photographed them cooking. I illustrated the book and included their recipes. I also had a foreign exchange student include his recipe for lemon chicken. It was a great experience.

Just the process of creating a recipe is a work of art. You need more than just the ability to follow a recipe to make a great dish, you need the creative intuition to know just when the milk is boiled enough, the potatoes are done to perfection, the cake is ready to come out of the oven, etc.

I grew up with my mom cooking all the time. She was a great inspiration to me. I learned that there is more than one way to be creative. You may not have the skill to pick up a pencil and draw, but your creativity may show itself in many different ways. She was a good cook, and could put together most anything and make it taste good. She also showed her creativity in sewing. I learned to cook knowing the basics but also knowing how to improvise when necessary. That to me that is creativity.

I taught my two step daughters to cook when they were young. I knew that they had a creative side when I showed them how to make a basic Norwegian shortbread type cookie called a sandbakkel, and they immediately said, why don’t we add some red food coloring in swirls and some peppermint extract? I never would have thought of that. It turned out good.

I now am involved in feeding the homeless once a week at my church. Each week, when planning the meal we look in the cupboard and see what we have to work with and create from there. Sometimes more people come than planned so we reach farther into the cupboard and do what we can to fill someone’s stomach. Without food our creativity may be limited.

Thanks to Arte Soleil for their part in keeping my creative juices flowing on.

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