Can food be art? To rephrase the question (or perhaps it is a slightly different question?) – can art be made from food?
Without further ado I give you the information which led me to ponder on the food-as-art question, and look forward to your comments and opinions. From The Pastrycook and Confectioners Guide (London, 1889) by Robert Wells:
Your butter must be tough, waxy, and as white as possible; old firkin butter is best, made from poor land; for this kind of work, wash it well in spring water, then work it on a marble slab, and put it again into fresh spring water; as the water gets warm, remove it for cold.
To Ornament a Tongue as a Dolphin.
Boil an ox tongue and lay it straight, except at the tip end, which you must bend a little; when cold, pare it neatly, and fix it upright upon a dish with a bit of butter; then model butter in the shape of the head and mouth of a dolphin, and fix it to the thick part of the tongue; make also the fins, eyes, teeth, &c., after which model a tail and fix it to the tip end; vein it neatly with a very small pointed skewer, anf fix two currants in the proper place for the eyes. You must use skewers to fix the butter.
To Ornament a Tongue with Flowers.
Boil a tongue and lay in in a small hair sieve. When cold pare it neatly and set it on your dish; force butter through the squirt; run some of the wires on the tongue to represent the stalk, and place leaves on each side; model rosebuds and roses – or any other sort of flowers your fancy directs – and fix them in different parts of the tongue. This will make a neat supper dish if well executed.
The book does contain “real” recipes too, so here is another way to use up some butter:
Princess Beatrice Cakes.
Take 1 ½ lbs. of butter, 2 lbs. of castor sugar, the yolks of 20 eggs and the whites of 10 eggs, 1 ¾ lbs. of flour, and the grated rind of 4 oranges; cream the butter and sugar together, add the yolks and the grated rind of the oranges, have the whites of the eggs well beaten. Then add the flour and stir all gently together; put into hoops nicely papered, and bake in a moderate oven; ice them over when cold, and pipe them with icing coloured with a little carmine.
Wow, that's a lot of butter on that tongue-dolphin. I suppose from what was said about old butter being best, you weren't expected to actually eat the butter; it would have been a sort of subtlety, or illusion food, like haslet.
Unfortunately, I don't think even butter flowers on a nice boiled tongue would persuade most of my friends to eat it (sigh). Although flowers would probably be easier for us artistically challenged types than a dolphin head!
I am with you on all points there, korenni!
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