All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt. ― Charles M. Schulz
Having seen three boys through their toddlerhood, I’m rather convinced that playing with our food is inherent and instinctive. From the moment they stopped nursing, all three boys found interest in seeing what all they might do with their food before it went into their mouths. Can it be stacked? Will it fit up my nose? How does it look in my ear? Hey, this makes my hair look cool! You know, this feels very cool on my toes. Wow, look how much of this fits in my diaper! No matter how many times it happened, it wasn’t until they were school age that they reluctantly stopped playing with their food at every meal. I won’t say they don’t still play around on occasion; I’ve seen what a certain Marine tries putting between a couple of crackers.
I am of the opinion that playing with our food is one of our earliest forms of creative expression. Before we’re allowed to play with craft dough or color with crayons, there’s food—food that is soft and often comes with sauce. Baby food spreads quite well, especially across a white highchair tray, or mom’s linen table cloth that’s been handed down for five generations. Daddy’s clean, starched shirt is the perfect canvas for a mixture of strained peas and smashed carrots. Here is where we first begin to express ourselves, to experiment with blending colors and textures, and seeing just exactly what all we can do with these things called hands and toes. As incredibly frustrating as it is for the parent who has to clean up both the baby and the artwork, the lessons being learned are crucial to our early development.
What this episode of playing with food taught me, though, is that the possibilities for expressing one’s creativity by merging food with the human form. The seven examples you’ve seen this week are only half of what we’ve shot, and I’ve developed plenty of ideas over the past five years should I decide to ever expand on the concept. I’ve not even started playing with pasta or vegetables. Wet sauces are so numerable they could probably host their own exhibition. I did give momentary thought to trying something with ice cream, but given our experience with chocolate I don’t see that working out quite so well. Anything that spoils, melts, or sours quickly isn’t a good choice.
Of course, we could always just work with baby food. We already know its artistic potential, and for all I know it might just help someone get back in touch with their inner child. Although, if that inner child is a brat then perhaps it’s better that it just stays put away. The world doesn’t need more politicians. What the world needs is the freedom to take what is in front of them and use that to express themselves, whether it’s through food, or cloth, or digital electronics, or even tree bark. Art doesn’t start with the exotic, but creates exotic from the ordinary. I can’t think of a better place to start than with food.