I love eating grapefruits in the winter, I think they are just one of the prettiest fruits. Maybe it’s the ruby red – the way it entices and sparkles in the light, or simply the anticipation of that tart juicy flavor just waiting to be scooped up and tasted. While I have had more time to think about food photography than actually do food photography lately (thanks, injured eye), I have spent considerable time wondering why such foods are so beautiful to us, and what makes food beautiful, in general.
Why are we as a culture so obsessed with photos of food and documenting our food? Dennis Dutton explained the ideal Pleistocene landscape as inherently beautiful to our tastes in his Darwinian theory of beauty (the link goes to a really cool TED talk) – essentially we find beautiful the things that would be safe and reassuring to our prehistoric selves. He describes scenes of grasslands with trees, water nearby, paths to follow, maybe animals and other people too. But I have to wonder, if food is not also inherently attractive on that prehistoric level as well – if a little tended garden (probably a foreign element to our nomadic ancestors), or a pot on a fire of a hearty stew wafting into the air would have ruined the beauty of such a landscape? (ok, maybe a pot of stew brewing away would have been a bit ambitious for our pleistocene ancestors, but this is just a thought experiment….).
I think it is obvious our primal attraction to food – food is after all, very essential to survival. But today’s food culture goes well beyond “eating to live”, and instead has elevated food to a medium of art. We have TV shows, commercials restaurants, cookbooks, food blogs ( 😉 )and virtually every culturally important event or holiday that we may celebrate, devoted to the pleasure of preparing for the experience of food. And if food is not to be eaten, it is at least to be admired.
But what makes food beautiful to me? It’s the memories. I made this salad a few weekends ago on a sunny afternoon while my baby girl crawled around playing with daddy and her toys, and then pulled herself up to lean against the couch and skype with my mother. It was just a good day, filled with joyful thoughts of our family, together, and happy. And when I see these photos of this salad, I think back to that day, and it brings a smile to my face.
For me, there is a beauty in the simple pleasures of taste, but for me the most beautiful aspect of food is the memories it brings forth. These brilliant grapefruits are a cheery spot in the harsh chill of winter, and make me think of my baby girl, who always brings a smile to my face
Grapefruit and Mint Salad
- 1 grapefruit, supremed
- 1 cucumber, diced
- your favorite lettuce, chopped
- a few leaves of mint, chiffonaded
- your favorite balsamic vinaigrette dressing
- Mix the ingredients together and enjoy!