Cooking is an activity, which has established its existence since the beginning of human gathering food to satisfy hunger. After centuries of evolution, cooking became a form of artistry expression rather than being perceived simply as the mean of satisfying hunger. The phenomenon dated back to 1651 AD, France when the publication of the book, Le Cuisinier Francois by La Varenne is released. It only became a world-wide phenomenon after Marie Antoine Carême, the recognized founder of La Grande Cuisine, displayed his culinary talent in a feast for the Prince Regent of England, Tsar Alexander I, Talleyrand, Louis XVIII and M Rothschild and presented his perception of culinary presentation. Carême made connection between confectionery and architecture, by mimicking architectural forms in his presentation of food. He embellished his cuisine with elaborated ornaments and heavily decorated pedestals and vessels. Carême took considerations of the symmetry, proportions and aesthetics of the composition as referenced to the architecture then. At that time, presenting the dishes as an art, crafting each dish requires a significant amount of time. Therefore, the delicacies presented are usually cold when it is brought to the table. Eventually, Felix Urbain-Dubois, a mid 19th century culinary student, presented his cuisine hot by having the food served to the diner individually by servants. This event further spurred the phenomenon of the culinary world.
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Simply by the stunning artistic composition of the food on the plate, the complacent diner is being attracted to its existence. By the composition of the food, it is not literally just the visual means. It is in fact the whole presentation of the food, from the colourful visual composure, to the harmonious aroma that diffuses in to the air, like perfume that lingers in the mouth. It is all these sensorial experiences that created such delightful excitement.
By plating food in an artistry manner, the chef aims to present the cuisine in the utmost seductive fashion by composing the visual, taste and smell of the food. As plating of food is all about delighting the senses of the patron with the very first impression on the plate, there is no particular plating style that dominates, though many different presentation styles are exhibited to diners by chefs.
Architecture as an embody of human existentialism, is a projection of the advancement and lifestyle of the society. It should reflect the pneuma of the environment. Hence, in this modern era of ours, should architecture, like cooking, evoke haptics and advocate tactility, so as to embody the spirit of our time?
Architecture is the expression of the time and essence of a society by the means of its design elements. Its use of materials, which is in an intimate relationship of human senses with tactility, would reflect the image of the era. Similarly, cooking deals with the sensorial aspects of human, this would be, inevitably, a substantial reference. Hence, the essay seeks to explore the relationship of gastronomy and architecture through the medium of tactility.
The art of plating food is a branch of cooking that deals with the presentation of the dishes from the chef. Food, which is served to patrons of the restaurant, has to cover all the sensorial aspects in a manner of excellence. In other words, the food has to taste good, look good, smell good and sound good (from introduction of the cuisine made by the chef or waiter).
This form of artistry composition is very much like the art of seduction. A well composed plate of cuisine would excite the diner. Firstly, like Robert Greene mentioned in his book,
The Art of Seduction, the method teasing makes it entrance to the diner by the aroma of the dish. Secondly, the consumer is drawn to the colours on his plate. The delicate formation of the dish in different layers of colour and texture serves as a visual seduction.
Similarly, like the situation of Mélite, in Jean- François de Bastide's book, The Little House: An Architectural seduction. It is a narration of a plot of seduction by involving Trémicour, the host, Mélite, a guest, and a building. Trémicour challenges Mélite to visit his little mansion after she has frustrated his otherwise irresistible advances: "they called wager and there she went."
Always on Time
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The calculated procession through the house, alternating interior and exterior spaces of shifting illusions and delicious luxuries, structures the progress of the couple through the various stages of the seduction.
"The walls of the boudoir were covered with mirrors whose joinery was concealed by carefully sculpted, leafy tree trunks. The trees, arranged it give the illusion of a quincunx, were heavy with flowers and laden with chandeliers. The light from their many candles receded into the opposite mirrors, which had been purposely veiled with hanging gauze. So magical was this optical effect that the boudoir could have been mistaken for natural woods, lit with the help of art. "(pg 75-76)
The most remarkable aspect of the house is the "proto-functionalist" adaptation of the decoration to the specific purpose of each room. From the above excerpt from the book, architectural features are emphasized in the structure of the narrative: a series of episodes with highly differentiated and precisely described settings. Mélite savours their distinct "tastes" with increasing pleasure an abandon, propelling the plot with her incremental loss of inhibition, just like the plating of food as a visual seduction.
In the narrative, when Mélite's body engages in a most tactile activity, her mind disconnects from the external objects of sensory assimilation to withdraw into an idealizing interiority. The sensuous experience of matter in eating does not interfere with the reflecting consciousness that remains indifferent to its taste. In the little house, food is indeed tasteful as long as it is assimilated into decoration and consumed as spectacle. Hence, tactility in architecture seduces just like how food can seduce simply by enticing and teasing the senses.
However, in the Charabento, packed lunch made to look like characters of cartoons or animations, of the Japanese culture, interviews made by the author, Christopher D Salyers, Food Face, states that the parents make Charabento, to make their children eat. It is no doubt that this visual attraction is similar to the idea of the mentioned seduction. But, the main sense that is seduced is the sense of sight. The other senses act as only a secondary element.
Putting this in the context of architecture, indeed, like mentioned, our society has been seduced mainly by the sense of sight. In his book, The Eyes of the Skin, Juhani Pallasmaa, mentioned that he "had been increasingly concern about the biasness towards vision, the suppression of other senses, in the way architecture was conceived, taught and critiqued, and about the consequent disappearance of sensory and sensual qualities from the arts and architecture."(2005, p10)
The text by Bastide holds the notion of blurring the distinction between beautiful, the desirable and the edible.
The notion that architecture could inspire lustful design is totally foreign today.
For example, a completely different sensation is evoked when one strokes the naked hand across a marble column as opposed to running it across a Miesian I beam. The ethical stance of both the modern and the postmodern theories aims to produce buildings that, that looked good during the time, over a predetermined life span. In this sense, they produce products that are similar to another set of products generated under the charm of modern times: the edibles produced by fast food chains. They look like the real thing, but they have been designed to be gulped down. They are feast for the eyes but there is no possibility, no reason, to take time and pleasure to taste them. In other words, the limited temporality of contemporary architectural production has obviated the search for tactile pleasure in architecture, thereby halting the production of tangible architecture.
Removed from its tactile roots, taste becomes a confusing, unnecessary and meaningless tool. Taste complicated the solution of design problems, the only sphere to taste was the realm if gastronomical artifacts, where a negation of the tactile dimension of aesthetic enjoyment was quite impossible. Limiting taste to the process and the place if eating renewed its position in architecture; again, the dining room becomes a phenomenological origin of architecture.
Culinary taste could transform all previous relationships between arts-and aesthetics of the senses. The application of gastronomy would no longer serve as mere metaphor for the arts, but must take place among muses.
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The intersection of food and architecture also finds expression in the performative spaces that the preparation and consumption of a meal imply. Like the table itself, food stages events, congregating and segregating people, food becomes an architecture that inhibits the body.
The old woman has an aquiline, Sevillian nose, sharp eyes, a firm mouth and grey hair. The white cloth on her head and shoulders falls in soft folds on the coarse material of her dress. She has the suntanned, loose-skinned hands of her age but one of them holds an egg carefully and the other delicately points a small wooden spoon, ready to drip a little oil in which we can see eggs setting, their yolks and whites clear in the pan. An unsmiling peasant boy is carefully dripping in more oil and the old woman watches him anxiously. The miracle of the painting is the exact and loving recreation of oil, eggs and earthenware, the shine on the brass pots, the shadow of a knife on a china dish, the feeling of flesh and cloth. Forget all concerns about blessings to terrifying events occurring beyond the grave, this picture celebrates the significant moment when the eggs start cooking and another spoonful of oil has to be dribbled in.-John Mortimer, When there's a will, Chapter 5, pg36
Despite its undeniable occularcentrism, the aesthetic discourse of the enlightenment repeatedly appealed to the mouth in order to demonstrate the immediacy and perspicuity of aesthetic apprehension: "we taste the stew, and without even knowing the rules governing its composition, we can tell whether it is good. The same holds true for paintings and other products of the intellect that is intended to please us by touching us."
-Dubos, Reflexions critiques, 225
Taste is not content with seeing, with knowing the beauty of a work, it has to feel it, to be touched by it." "-François Marie Arouet de Voltaire, "Goût," in Diderot and d'Alembert, Encyclopedie, p.761.
Such comparisons were commonplace and consistently converged on the tactility of taste. The gustatory analogue stresses the immediacy of apprehension in taste, the direct sensory contact with matter. - (Voltaire, "Goût"," 761). It projected a virtual tactility onto a visual mode of apprehension that operated at a distance from the object of its assimilating faculty. This distance - spatial and conceptual - is momentarily abolished in the virtual tactility of a latent, for example, ideology, carnality. Thus implying haptic sensation in optic discernment, taste could naturalize and describe its aesthetic assimilation in a kind of tactile vision, combining the immediacy of touch with the distance of sight.
'Ornament does not heighten my joy life or the joy in the life of any cultivated person. If I want to eat a piece of gingerbread I choose one that is quite smooth and not a piece representing a heart of a baby or a rider, which is covered all over with ornaments. The man of the fifteenth century won't understand me. But all modern people will. The advocate of ornament believes that my urge for simplicity is in the nature of mortification. No, respected professor at the school of applied art, I am not mortifying myself! The show dishes of past centuries, which display all kinds of ornaments to make the peacocks, pheasants and lobsters look tastier, have exactly the opposite effect on me. I am horrified when I go through a cookery exhibition and think that I am meant to eat these stuffed carcasses. I eat roast beef" - adolf loos (ornament and crime)- 1908
It is not by deliberation that man judges whether a spirit is a devil or an angelâ€¦ it is rather by sensitivity and an intuitive understanding that he is persuadedâ€¦ just as we immediately recognize the taste of bread and wine with our tongue. --- Tommaso Campanella ( theologia of 1613-1624)
A good meal piques the imagination, conjures memories, and conveys ideas. Often, it does so through surprising combinations, placing flavours in resonance with each other and with their settings to provoke the complacent and astonished the alert diner. To discover this kind of pleasure demands not only appetite but also attention.
Proust finds that far from existing in an empty space, it has attached itself to a place that takes shape and grows in his consciousness. It is not an immediate sensation of taste or of satiated hunger that interests Proust in these experiences, but the rich, pleasurable evocation that the aroma and flavour of the tea and Madeleine bring about. From them he raises up the room the house, and the village with all of their characteristic, odors, colours, textures.
Lighting is one of the few things that ought to be designed to favour the details of a space. It is meant to enchant, dazzle and also probably deceive, like those in spaces of The Little House.
The little house's supper stages a scene of transubstantiation: stone comes alive or the cannibalizing gaze of an excited goût, while food is petrified into an architecture of "the highest elegance and in the best of taste"
As quoted from Rodolphe El Khoury in the book eating architecture, "When objects of beauty comes to life in the intimacy of aesthetics rapports , the pleasure of taste can equal the pleasures of love with the theory of love. The equation is most often noted in the case of gustatory sensation, Gastronomy and erotism have overlapped ever since the tasting of the forbidden fruit, but the oral proclivities of eros were particularly pronounced in the eighteen century, when the libertine was typically known to match sexual excess with gastronomic indulgence. "
Jorge luis borges said " the taste of the apple, lies in the contact of the fruit and the palate, not in the fruit itself.." hence similarly, this act of seduction in space is not about the texture. It is about the coming together of the textures and our senses.
"Most noble of all the arts is architecture, and its greatest manifestation is the art of the pastry chef." Antonin Carême
Modernist art and modern cuisine have a central trope in common: invention. Indeed, even simplification is a mode of invention. If there were to be a theory of cuisine, it would constitute a theory of exceptions, nuances, refinements.
Similarly, architecture as an embody of existentialism should be a projection of tactility. Not only should architecture enable us to perceive and understand the dialects of permanence and change, it should also create an atmosphere of intimacy and warmth. In addition, architecture should play the role of a sensory icon that the human body could relate to. By means of tactility, gastronomy and architecture fuses and becomes a single dimension which would allow for spaces to encompass physical, sensual and embody essence.