Category Archives: Projects

Symmetry Breakfasts — Breakfast as an Art Form

One morning back in 2013, Michael Zee made breakfast for himself and his boyfriend, Mark. When he plated the meal, he noticed it was symmetrical, and took a picture of it with his IPhone.

That was the first of several hundred symmetrical breakfasts.

Zee, who was teaching at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, started posting the pictures to his Instagram feed, where they went viral. As I write this, he’s published images of 1,297 breakfasts, and has acquired almost 700,000 followers.

He still gets up by five every morning, to prepare an often elaborate and always beautiful meal. His breakfasts are literally works of art.

(Me, I’m not a morning person—I often get less done in a whole day than some people do before breakfast. If I have any breakfast at all, it’s either a warmed croissant with lots of Irish butter, or cereal with cream (real creamnot skimmed milk, not 2% milk), and some combination of blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, golden raisins, and bananas, which some judgmental people have been known to describe as my “wake-up dessert.”)*

Last year Zee published a book called SymmetryBreakfast, which contains both gorgeous pictures of meals, and 100 of the recipes that produced them. You can see the full collection of Zee’s images on his Instagram feed at  Symmetrybreakfast.

All the photos here were found on the web.


*Ummmm, butter and cream. Gotta keep those cholesterol levels in the “Who wants to live forever?” territory.

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The Naked Man at the Met Gala (Mildly NSFW — Brief Nudity)

“Art Is Anything You Can Get Away With”

That quotation is frequently attributed to Andy Warhol, and it certainly sounds like something he would have said, but it was Marshall “The Medium Is the Message” McLuhan who actually coined the phrase.

Sometimes, for some artists, Art Is Anything…whether you get away with it or not.  Take Russian artist/provocateur Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich, for instance.

Here he is doing a performance piece called Os Caquis (The Persimmons), outside the School of Visual Arts in Rio de Janeiro in 2015.


That’s Pavlov-Andreevich, sitting naked on a tall plywood chair at the entrance to the museum. His assistant is offering very soft persimmons to the visitors, who are invited to throw them at the artist.

The goal?

“By the end of the performance the artist and the podium will all be covered in the orange pulp from the more or less successful attempts of the visitors to hit the artist.”

Ah! That explains it!

And then there’s Fyodor’s Performance Carousel-II, a hard-to-describe collaborative performative installation he orchestrated last year in Vienna.

This is all leading up to what happened last Monday night at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


The Background

The Met Gala is the big annual fundraising event for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. It’s an evening packed with celebrities—this year’s honorary chairs were Katy Perry and Pharrell Williams—and with the very, very rich.

Vogue editor Anna Wintour—the presumed model for the “Miranda Priestly” character in The Devil Wears Prada—is a trustee of the Met, and oversees the annual 700-person guest list. Those not on the list can buy individual tickets to the Gala for $25,000.

It was only $15,000 until 2014. They raised the price to keep out the riffraff.


Enter Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich

Fyodor’s most famous—maybe notorious is a more appropriate word—performance piece is called Foundling. Over the past two years, he’s staged it, uninvited, at art-related events in Venice, Moscow, London, and São Paulo. On Monday, 1 May 2017, he completed the five-part performance art project at the Met Gala in New York.

Foundling is easy to describe:  Fyodor gets completely undressed and curls up inside a clear plastic box. He’s tall, and it’s a tight fit. The box is then sealed and transported to the event du jour. The artist’s assistants deposit the box, and the naked artist within, at the selected site.

Here’s how it went down in New York:


The Aftermath

Despite the fact that the Gala attendees and staff shown in the video were amused rather than disturbed or offended, Pavlov-Andreevich was arrested on a bunch of bogus misdemeanor charges, including  public lewdness, criminal trespass, and disorderly conduct.

So much for New York’s celebrated reputation for sophistication and tolerance for eccentricity—the police were never called in at any of the previous four performances of Foundling, and Fyodor has never been arrested anywhere else.

The box remains in police custody. “If anyone cares about the box’ fate, it’s under arrest as well,” Pavlov wrote on Facebook.

Free Fyodor!  And free the box, too!  

Je suis Pavlov-Andreevich!


All photos and videos came from the artist’s website, linked above. It’s well worth a visit.

2016 Cookery Project — Second Half Review

I saw an ad a few weeks ago for a novelty Christmas present. It was a 2017 day planner, with spaces on each daily page for progress reports on self-improvement projects, exercise schedules, diet notes, and financial budgeting. That is, it had that stuff for each day until about the third week in January. The rest of the pages were blank.

It was a day planner for realists.

That hit way too close to home. My own traditional New Year’s resolutions—develop a wine palate, learn French, walk more, play Internet less—tend to go down in flames early in the year.

This year, though, I did stick with one of those goals through the entire 12 months: The 2016 Cookery Project.

I learned a lot about food and kitchen skills in 2016. Despite—or maybe because of—any number of stove top disasters, the quality of my meals at home improved dramatically, far beyond what I’d expected when I started the project last January.

Back in July, I posted pictures of some of the things I’d made during the first half of the year. Here are some from he second half:

2016 Cookery Project — Peach and Bleu Cheese Toasts

Peach and Bleu Cheese Toasts

Peach and Bleu Cheese Cheese Toasts

Lunch today came from a recipe in Bon Appétit.

A few years ago, if I’d read a recipe that told me to blanch and shock the peaches, I probably would have stared at the page for a few moments, before thumbing through the cookbook until I found something more within my comfort zone, like a recipe that began “Take one can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup.” But now I know the things I know….

So I blanched and shocked the peaches, then peeled them over a bowl, to catch the peach juice. I added a little olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and honey. Meanwhile, I cut two thick slices of Country White bread and toasted them under the broiler. When they started to singe at the edges, I brushed them with olive oil, and scattered bleu cheese and watercress—my favourite green these days—on top of them. Then I topped that with the peaches and some of the sauce.

It sure beat Cream of Mushroom Soup.

2016 Cookery Project — Bean and Bacon Soup

Bean and Bacon Soup

Bean and Bacon Soup

Well, summer’s over.  It’s time from richer, heavier soups.

I based this Bean and Bacon Soup on a recipe from Cooking Classy, which has become my go-to source when I’m looking for something new and interesting to try.  With a few substitution–black beans and kidney beans instead of navy beans, Monterey Jack instead of shredded mozzarella–I already had most of the ingredients on hand, so this was an easy one.

Tasted great, too.

2016 Cookery Project — Sausage, Pinto Beans, and Kale

Sausage, Pinto Beans, and Kale

Sausage, Pinto Beans, and Kale

One of the first food blogs I followed, long before I got serious about actually seeing what I could do in a kitchen, was Adam Roberts’s “The Amateur Gourmet”.  He started posting in 2004, and for more than 10 years, he kept me entertained with stories of restaurant visits, notes on the larger foodie scene, details of his life and adventures, and, of course, recipes.  He’s moved on now.  About a year and a half ago, he got a job as a staff writer on the sitcom The Real O’Neals, married his long-time boyfriend, film director Craig Johnson, and stopped updating the blog.

It’s still online, though, and Roberts writes with a considerable amount of charm, so I occasionally go back and read his old posts.  That’s what I was doing when I came across his recipe for Chicken Sausage, White Beans, and Kale.

I’m using the word “recipe” loosely, because he doesn’t follow the usual format of first listing ingredients and quantities, then describing steps and durations.  Instead, he presents it as a narrative, and assumes the reader can fill in the blanks.  I couldn’t have done that when he posted the entry in 2014, but now, after gaining a lot of experience that comes from trial and error, I was able to breeze right through it.  Progress!

I read somewhere that to become truly proficient at something, you need to practice it for 2,000 hours.  I still have a lot of work to do.

2016 Cookery Project — Autumn Roasted Veggies with Apples and Pecans

Autumn Roasted Veggies with Apples and Pecans

Autumn Roasted Veggies with Apples and Pecans

Once again, I turned to Cooking Classy for a recipe, and was sold by the photography on the site.  I followed the instructions, and the results were quite good, but I made a lot of notes on changes I’ll make if when I cook this dish again.  The recipe, for instance, “serves four,” but resulted in enough food to serve eight.  Or 10.

The vegetables were brussels sprouts, red onion, and butternut squash*.  I’d never worked with butternut squash before, even though I’ve become addicted to  butternut squash soup lately, and I was surprised how difficult it was to cut and peel.  To this, I added two sliced apples: One Honey Crisp (sweet) and one Granny Smith (tart).  I spread the ingredients in a single layer on a baking sheet, and topped it all with melted  butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon juice.  I baked it for 40 minutes—I’ll reduce the time to 30 minutes when I make it again—tossing it once and adding pecans and  dried cranberries a few minutes before I took it out of the oven.

A happy result.  With that combination of colours—orange, green, brown, red—it looks like Autumn, doesn’t it?


*Isn’t butternut squash a fruit, rather than a vegetable?  I’m too lazy to look it up, but I think the seeds-inside = fruit law puts it in the same category as tomatoes and cherries.