We don’t usually think about appealing to our sense of taste when it comes to art. That’s because eating is life and death. That’s nature at its most primal. Our sense of taste is based on survival–with the exception of mushrooms, most natural poisons or sickening substances (waste, vomit, etc) taste bitter or smell incredibly unpleasant where nutritious foods like meat and fruits are savory and sweet. For better or worse, we have mastered food so much that we can even make disgusting slop like a ready made microwave meal, processed fast food or artificial soda taste good.
I have a bowl of white chocolate, milk chocolate and peanut butter chips. I’m gonna use them for baking over the next few weeks. Sugars and spices like these are the prize for which mankind endeavored to circle the globe ~500 years ago. These are the true treasures of the world, not a big wooden box of gold, silver and gems, but precious life-sustaining nutrients formed into the most delicious little morsels of sugar imaginable. The beauty of jewelry has its place and the fact that we can forge it is a testament to our resourcefulness. But the way we can take the plants and animals of the world and create artificial products like this out of them is truly something amazing.
Most other species, even many people, are consumed with the desire for food. All they can think about is how to attain their next meal, and when they get it, they’re so grateful they don’t even care what it is. And here we are, so well off that we don’t need to gobble our spoils right away. We can afford to be greedy and say “that cocoa tree and peanut isn’t enough. What if I modified it like so…” and create things like chocolate chips, peanut butter and the cookies I’ll be using them for. This represents humanity spitting in the face of nature, but in an endearing way. Taking the universal drive for life–to find food–and turning it back on itself. Ask any starving person, or grant animals the ability to speak, and I’m sure they’d pick this bowl of modified sugar over a chest of coins any day. That’s power, man. That’s beauty.
In a way, it’s like a Roman Triumph, parading the booty of the plant, animal and fungal kingdoms before your counter as your new pawns, and thereafter manipulating them as you see fit. Who would have ever thought so many wildly different ingredients, from all walks of life and all across the world would taste so good together? Who would have ever thought that one creature, humanity, would have so much power over other organisms that we can not only choose what we want to eat (instead of just whats around and we can hunt) but also that we can create wholly new substances like muffins to enjoy. I feel like I need a slave whispering in my ear “Remember, you are mortal” when I’m baking, because this is such an empowering feeling. And it’s a power we can all enjoy in the comfort of our own homes.