Thursday, May 22, 2014

Cocktails, Beautiful Things, and Everyday Food

Mint juleps are a favorite hot-weather drink of mine.  They're an ice cold, aromatic dance between fresh mint and good bourbon--and they are just so beautiful!  (Look at this picture and tell me you don't already feel slightly refreshed.)

Cocktails are fascinating to me, and I think there are a couple reasons why this might be.  First (and most importantly, perhaps), cocktails are ways to make art out of your favorite kind of liquor.  It's a way to add a touch of class to your beverage, and they're interesting and aesthetically pleasing.  This, then, leads to my second reason for being intrigued by nice cocktails--that it says something about the way people think about what they consume (and how much they're willing to pay to consume beautiful things).

Granted, mint juleps don't take much by way of supplies and are relatively cheap to make.  However, there are hundreds of cocktails that either have several ingredients and are very labor-intensive to make or that consist of one ingredient--a top-shelf liquor of some sort--poured over ice.  Regardless, we are still willing to pay a pretty penny for drinks that are aesthetically pleasing, and this is curious to me.  Interestingly, though, we aren't often as inclined to pay a little extra (or even put a little extra effort into) fresh, locally grown foods.  Why is that?

I think much of the problem revolves around our culture's idea that food is just fuel, and not something that should be revered daily at each meal.  I don't think many people have a vibrant cosmopolitan or a crisp, austere old fashioned every night, and so we think of these drinks as more special than food.  

But I would like to look at food like I look at a nicely made cocktail--beautiful, rich, and aesthetically pleasing.  If we think of food as our chance to create something beautiful every day, we can turn even a couple ingredients into something we are truly proud to eat.  And, just like many of the best cocktails, a bit more labor will be required than if we were to just slop things together and gulp it down.  But the end result, I think, is a piece of art that will help us develop a greater appreciation and reverence for the everyday food we eat.


  1. Thinking of food as a creation is a great way to appreciate it. When I cook for myself, I sit down and take my time eating it; each bite is a little creation of flavors that I make and remake until I'm full. Thinking of food this way helps us connect with it and appreciate that it is not just something to keep us alive but something that fuels and nourishes our bodies and makes us be the best we can physically and mentally be. The power of food is often underestimated and we need to realize how many great things can come to us if we fuel our bodies with the right stuff. Taking the time to prepare dinner or drinks makes us appreciate the dishes because we took the time and effort and thought to create such things. This time and effort makes things so much more enjoyable and connects us with the food we are putting in our bodies.

  2. I believe that seeing food and the process of preparing it as an art makes perfect sense in the society we live in today. I mean, would any of us even think about turning on the Food Network if the creations made by these chefs didn't turn out aesthetically pleasing? Watching someone prepare a meal, or a nice cocktail, is kind of like enjoying an art show. Both are drenched in different forms of culture and reveal small pieces of the creators' lives to the world through their finished product. After this class I definitely appreciate the quality and beauty of food more than ever and I know I will start trying to take the time to understand where and how my food is produced and handled.

  3. This is an excellent way to apply Wendell Barry's ideas to food. Have you heard of the Slow Food movement? It's a sort of response - obviously - to the Fast Food movement, that calls for just what you0 are talking about; slowing down and really enjoying food for what it is - in your case, a sort of beautiful, edible art.
    I like this idea, and your idea too. I think it would be awesome to be able to slow down, to take a break from this fast paced society, and to enjoy slow-cooked food, meaningful food, and meaningful conversation with friends and family. That is the intersection between food and society.