Saturday, September 5, 2009

In Which K Gets A Bit Philosophical About Art

You know how I've been up to my pilgrim elbows in baking lately. I've been using my truly unquenchable enthusiasm for culinary good (or is it evil)? Between hand made ice cream (wait for it, the photos are coming), sable (the best shortbread I've ever eaten), pate brisee and quiche to puff pastry, croissants, pies, crumbles and candy, well, let's just say we spend $40.00 a week on butter.

Really, what I need is a little bakery, but till that happens - and I get to indulge my love of cooking and food styling for a fee - I'll talk to myself while baking the next gorgeous thing / pretending the people at home are writing down the recipe during the commercial break.

I've had a lot of time to meditate on the nature of this creative hiccup. Really, short of yoga, nothing in the world is more meditative than baking. What it lacks in directly facilitating the healthful mold of one's physical form (a la yoga) it surely makes up for in molding a little piece of gorgeous "something" out of nothing. And if you give half of everything you make to neighbours, then your physical form may well be left unscathed - we can only pray :-)

I don't think of myself as a visually creative person. Sure, I like art and design and style and fashion and all the beautiful things, but I don't see myself as a visual creator. For me, artistry has always come in the form of words (such as they are). Put a paintbrush in my hand and my offering is a rather wan splash which I'm likely to advise is abstract, ok? By contrast, I've always loved to cook and seem to be able to affect some appealing outcomes albeit, till recently, not for many years.

The beautiful thing about my life right now - one of the many awesome things - is that I'm old enough to recognize that these are the good old days. I waste very little of my time second-guessing my creative urges - or concerning myself with the perceived inadequacy that impinged on my every creative undertaking in my youth. I lived many years locked in the vice grip of "being blocked" because I didn't understand that the best way to express thanks for the gift of joy (that comes of making things) is to actually make things.

Every post I write, every pastry I assemble, comes out of the ether - a little piece of imagination brought to life. I'm doing what millions of others have done - continue to do - each day, and so I'm connected to them and to every creative act that has preceded mine. It's pretty deep when you get down to it. (Never mind how science-y exciting it is to learn that you can make just about anything out of butter, flour, water, eggs and salt.)

I can't tell you what a thrill it is for me to start with a pile of paste and assemble it into something delicious or beautiful or - when the planets align - both. I may not be able to draw a picture or make a dress, but I sure can put together a lovely pie. It's self-sustenance meets pragmatism meets science meets art all at once and in a rush!!

Why do you cook? How does it imact you - as joy or necessity? What's the best thing you make and how does it make you feel. Dare I say, dish? :-)


  1. I agree food is a creative indulgence. I cook all the time to create colour masterpieces, tastes and textures and I did lol ref your butter bill!

  2. I cook out of necessity otherwise I'd be eating too much takeout junk. Or eating what my mom makes and we don't have the same tastes. So there's not much love for cooking and it's not something I excel at either. Maybe if I wasn't cooking for one with recipes that leave lots of leftovers, I'd like it more.

    The way you feel about cooking is kinda similar to how I feel about knitting. I can't draw or write songs (I wish! love music). But I can handle knitting. My favorite thing I've made so far is a felted jacket last spring.

  3. I cooked a lot on my blogging break. Are salads cooking? Well, I was making some really interesting salads and to me that is cooking. Now that I am working on a project my kitchen is empty. Poor He-weasel had two frozen pizzas this week. Will I ever get balance? Maybe not.
    p.s. I am hoping you will publish your Pilgrim book of recipes.

  4. I do like to bake--but I have to be alone in the kitchen. No C-lings; no Mr. C to interrupt the serenity of the activity.

    I also find embroidery, rug-hooking, and quilting to be meditative and, obv, creative.

  5. Since I've been know to drink the sweat of great unwashed and eat their dreams, it's fair to say Imelda doesn't cook. However (despite my lack of comments) I've been enjoying (and looking forward to) your daily bake-offs.

    In fact by just reading about these sugary delights I'm certain I've developed adult diabetes.

    ps If my 50mm lens caught sight of you, lets just say the results would land us in haute water and Mr K wouldn't be happy.

  6. I used to bake and I loved it. It calmed me. Your descriptions of baking make me very happy. I will probably bake again some day, but at the moment it is fraught in my head and I need other creative outlets.

    I love cooking and love to cook. Although when my creative energies are being occupied elsewhere I easily forget about meals and preparing them for others.

  7. im lucky that i dont have to cook. but ive started to take a teensy tiny interest in it. but overall it's not something i enjoy doing at all.

  8. My husband and I both enjoy cooking... we love to bring a variety to the table and to our son, by having reflections of our heritage. Japanese cooking from me and Italian and Jewish cooking from my husband. It's definitely an art in its own right... and it makes me happy that our son will grow up eating so many different types of foods.

  9. The planet-aligned cooking is my favourite, where you glide about the kitchen manning various pots and pans, bending over housewife-style to peer at a perfectly formed dessert in the oven, wearing an apron but not spilling anything on it, and everything is made from scratch...those cooking moments are few and far between, but they are so, so good.

  10. Although I was briefly inspired by Julie & Julia, I have to say that cooking and baking are much more a chore than a joy for me. I much prefer baking if I had to choose (and worked as a pastry chef at an Italian bakery in another life), but if I could afford one luxury it would be a personal chef!

  11. Kate: My husband is starting to get stroppy about it all. But the food shopping is his domain...

    Raven: Have we seen that knitted jacket? Who needs to cook when you have such a practical creative outlet to sustain you!

    Bel: Salads are definitely cooking. Especially if you live in California :-) Yet another thing to add to your list of things to like about that place!

    Miss C: I hear you. COoking wih the kid is not optimal, though I know I need to let her try so she will learn. It's where I see my perfectionism in high relief. My husband is teaching her to cook - french toast etc.

    Mattie: You are too adorable! Pls. know I have dedicated my caramel post to you :-)

    Mardel: Thank you. You know I completely agree about being derailed in my urge to cook when things get a certain kind of stressful. That's probably when the good food would be most useful, ironically...

    ~h: A little interest can develop over time. Let's see where it takes you.

    Aya: Great comment. Your son is totally lucky to have access to so much culinary culture!

    Iris: Totally my fave kind!!

    Janet: Is there nothing you can't do??? I wanna hear more about the chef times.