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Is food considered a minor art?

Elizabeth Telfers Food as Art argues and classifies food as a minor art. An art is called as
minor if is simple in its form. But Telfer adds a layer to these determining factors. According to
her, simplicity is not the only reason why food is called as minor but because it is also: (1)
necessarily transient, (2) cant have meaning and (3) cant move us. She gives a lengthy
yet meaty reasoning to support her claim.

First argument revolved around transience. This word came from the root word transient, in
which the Merriam Webster dictionary (2015) defined as not lasting long, or staying
somewhere only a short time. Telfer mentions that a work of food art will not be around very
long to be contemplated. Moreover, it cannot speak to different generations and, as a result,
cannot get a proper stature.

Her next reasoning lied on the food lacking meaning. She used this in a sense that food does not
have the same kinds of meaning as with major art forms have. It did not represent anything else,
just like literature, a typical painting or a musical piece. She compared the food to music;
wherein the latter can express emotion, while the former cannot.

Telfers final evidence as to why she considered food as minor art is its capacity to move. She
used the term move not to signify motility, but in the context of stirring emotions, feelings, or
passions of (Merriam Webster, 2015). Food, according to her, lacks an earth shaking quality,
wherein a great building, for example, can move us without expressing emotion.

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January 26, 2015



Undoubtedly, Elizabeth Telfer has laid the foundations precisely and concisely to prove her
argument that food is a minor art. With the points that support her reasoning, she has produced a
groundbreaking work that might leave some people thinking.

But aside from points that is perfectly agreeable, her work also had parts in which can be easily
be attacked by arguments.

Her first reasoning of transience might be something that is a weak argument. In the film Jiro
Dreams of Sushi, Jiro Ono, teaches his children and his other apprentices, the way on how to
properly prepare sushi. From the market until it reaches the customer plates, everything is
learned from him. This is a clear attack to Telfer claim of [food] cannot speak to different
generations. Yes, the one speaking is Jiro himself, but what he passes down to his children is
certainly the recipe or food, not something about himself. Telfer heralds music as a major art, but
isnt it that music is treated as the same way? For a starting musician, a teacher passes and
teaches the musical score first before a composition is played.

The next reasoning of meaning may find its way also to a black hole. Emotion is Telfers main
criterion as to how an art depicts a meaning. Referencing to the same film as stated above,
Yoshikazu, Jiros oldest son, considers a sushi (or any other food in that sense) is good if it
creates an umami feeling to the one who is eating. He explains that the diner typically
experiences umami (deliciousness) if after eating the food, he/she closes his eyes and mumbles
Hmm! In another state, if you try serving beef to a Muslim, he or she might be angry to you

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since cow is considered holy to them and cannot be eaten. These are precisely some of the
emotions a food can bring us.
The third reasoning by Telfer, in which a food cannot move us, has loopholes as well. The
famous clich goes as A way to a mans heart is through his stomach. In this sense, someone
can, probably, easily put the man in to his favor if he finds a food delectable. In other words, it
can move or arouse emotions from the food. Food writer Yamamoto, in the movie Jiro Dreams of
Sushi, also described his dining experience to Jiros as like a concerto. Contextually, this means
that he was moved by how delicious the meal is, and further defined it as nothing short of a

Although not all food is considered an art, it is improper to generalize every food existing (as
what Telfer did) as minor. This statement follows the same with other visual and representational
art, in which food can reach to a level of being major art.

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