Elizabeth Telfer is absolutely correct in her classification of food as a simple and minor art. Of course, as Telfer points out, food is limited by its transience (24) and that it is considered differently because of “the usefulness of food and drink” (21), but I think she tries to work around this to prove that it does not matter, rather than differentiating food for nourishment and food for an aesthetic experience. She talks about the aesthetics of food (10), but she ignores that there is an element of eating that is purely based on the aesthetic pleasure. People do not go to upscale restaurants for nourishment. They do it to experience the artistry of food, to enjoy tastes that are different than the tastes of fast food or store-bought food.
Food can easily fit into the paleoanthropsychobiological mode of interpretation coined by Ellen Dissayunake (1). This is why different cultures have different food, and that food is closely related to a person’s perspective of that culture. For example, I was fortunate enough to travel to Italy last summer, and along with the architecture and visible art that I saw, my most memorable experiences were the aesthetic pleasure of real Italian food. The way the narrator describes the food-making process in the second presentation, “Slow Food,” captures this idea. The crepes made by this family are dishes that can only be experienced in this area (the basil only grows around their town and the olives are freshly grown) and can be appreciated with a cultural, societal, and biological background. This perspective also accounts for why people have vastly different tastes. This touches on the psychological and biological part of the analysis.
Even when reading Telfer’s descriptions of food, a physical response was evoked in me. My mouth salivated and I had to stop to make something for myself to eat. The reason that food counts as art is because my home-cooked meal did not live up to the aesthetic pleasure I craved. Chefs are artists who can create something that is appreciated in a similar way to other modes of art.
I also agree that Telfer is correct to classify food as simple and minor art, only because as she says that "a work of food art will not be around very long to be contemplated" . However, she also says that "memory is needed for subsequent analysis" of any work of art and that all the critics are aided by written notes. Anyway, "a dish of food is more transient than other kinds of performance, because we cannon reliably record the performance of a cook." That is why it is a minor art, besides for the fact that major arts cannot survive without state subsidy. Elizabeth Telfer also states that usefulness is not an obstacle for food to be treated as art because architecture, for example, is concerned with useful objects and is also considered a traditional fine art.
I don't think that Elizabeth Telfer ignores the aesthetic quality of food. She says that food can have a regular pattern: "food does allow of systematic, repeatable, regular combinations" and a form that resembles timbre in music. These arguments show that food constitutes works of art in the evaluative sense, and therefore involves aesthetic pleasure.
My opinion is also that food fits into the paleoanthropopsychobiological classification of Ellen Dissanayake, especially because of the fact that it includes all human societies. However I disagree that people have vastly different tastes because, even you say that you enjoyed food from another cultural, societal and biological background. Another point is that Japanese and Chinese food is popular worldwide. It is also a theme for discussion about the actual differences between cultures.
I agree that chefs are artists especially because the recipes they follow need interpretation, which is a part of creativity.
Jason Keller says:
I don’t necessarily agree with Elizabeth Telfer’s assertion that food is limited because of it’s transience. Specifically her claim that “it limits the contemplation that is possible – (because) a work of food art will not be around very long to be contemplated.” (Tefler p. 24) I think that much of what is excepted as legitimate art, though physically long-lived, is similarly transient if only in our minds. What I mean by that is that I can go to a museum and be moved by a great work of art but it’s only for a small moment of time before, inevitably, I must leave. At that point, while the work of art itself may continue to exist, it has effectively been consumed from my perspective. In much the same way, we experience and consume food. If we’re lucky, we experience something special, something extraordinary that moves us, something that maybe has a similar emotional impact as that work of art in the museum. I understand that I could go back and view the artwork in a museum again, whereas the food is gone for good, and this is the point that Tefler is trying to make, but the time I would realistically devote to such a pursuit is likely to be minimal.
Certainly I could display a work of art in a place where I can contemplate it daily, but I’m also not convinced that it simply wouldn’t become an after thought. So yes, transience certainly can affect our perception and ability to contemplate a subject, but it’s not enough of a factor, in my opinion, to discard the idea of food as art.
Tefler, E. (2002). Food as Art. In Neill, A. & Riley, A. (eds.) Arguing About Art: Contemporary Philosophical Debates (2nd ed., Chap. 2). New York, NY: Routledge.
I agree that major arts are also transient, if only in our minds, but Elizabeth Telfer says that: " It is true that we can now record most kinds of performance, and that some performances may as a result gather the stature of permanent works of art. But a dish of food is more transient than other kinds of performance, because we cannot reliably record the performance of a cook." However, as well as other critics, food critics also take notes during the process of evaluating food as a work of art.
Some people argue that "there cannot be an art of food: appreciation of the arts requires a cultivated understanding, but everyone eats, so there cannot be an art of food." It is true that everyone eats, but not all eating is aesthetic activity, only eating with attention and discernment, which needs practice. Also, the art of food is easier to appreciate than arts which require a lot of background information.
My opinion is that food is art, but as Elizabeth Telfer says, a minor and simple art. Food cannot shake us fundamentally or express emotion like music for example, but people should not label things as art before enjoying them and letting them speak for themselves.