Tag: white bread

Edible things are a staple of art, but that doesn’t mean they are simply food. They can also be religious and political symbols, signs of wealth and class, and, today, key markers of identity.

An old but powerful idea distinguishes between art (which is permanent, eternal and lasting) and things that can be consumed (food, wine and other sensual pleasures). Another aesthetic school argued that if you desire something with your body or with your own pleasure or status in mind, then it can’t be art at all. True art is above such supposedly crass things.

I asked Tom Sietsema, The Washington Post’s expert on food and dining, to explore some key works of art that raise these and other issues. I enjoy a good meal, but Tom sees food with the refined eyes of a critic. We looked at six iconic paintings and prints, beginning with a curious “feast of the gods” by the Renaissance master Giovanni Bellini and ending with a harrowing image of hunger from one of the darkest chapters of the 20th century.

It quickly became clear that many more distinctions were necessary to make sense of how images of food operate in art. There is food and then there is eating. There are essential differences between, say, caviar and a cheeseburger. But there are hierarchies to how and where we eat, too. Do we savor delicacies in a restaurant? Or feast on comfort foods? Or gorge on empty calories in squalid seclusion? It is also difficult to disentangle drinking from all of this, which raises questions of disorder, violence and sin.

Many centuries-old ideas about food seem quaint to us today, especially religious moralizing about gluttony, which has been reinvented in a new discourse of the

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