How do you express your artistic self?
While a lot people look for sweetness and richness in their gelato, I look for fruitiness and freshness. After surveying multiple gelato shops in Italy, there were nine that I used for comparison. Before eating each gelato, however, I made it my best effort to take a photo of the product. With all of the different colors and cone sizes, I couldn’t help but be amazed by the artistic value. With that being said, I believe the pictures I took represent a form of art. I especially enjoy looking at this type of art through different forms of social media, such as Instagram. On this IPhone application, there are numerous accounts solely dedicated to publishing pictures of food from all over the world. Instagram exemplifies a form of representation. In terms of food marketing and advertising, companies will strategically post on Instagram in order to evoke a feeling of desire within their consumers to want to eat their food. More often then not these advertisements have to be appealing to the eye or in other words – they must be artistic. In this essay I will use my own pictures and experiences with gelato to argue that pictures of food can be considered a part of one’s artistic identity and moreover that the publication of these pictures of food can create emotions and cravings.
Food as Art
In Elizabeth Telfer’s article, Food for Thought, she argues that food is a form of minor art. In my opinion, however, I believe that food is a form of art without a minor or major label attached to it. I believe more specifically that pictures of food can be considered a form of art. One of Telfer’s main arguments for why food is a minor art is because it’s transient. Moreover because it’s transient she believes, “A work of food art will not be around very long to be contemplated.”  While this claim is partially true due the act of consumption, it is also partially not true due to the photographic solution for this. As Telfer also states, “many meals are intended by their cooks…to be savored, appraised, thought about, discussed.”  An example in opposition to this claim comes from the part of this essay where I contemplate the different gelatos I tried throughout the month here in Italy. In order to do this I reviewed the photos I took of each gelato and thus thought back to my food experiences at each different place. Overall by taking photos of food, consumers like myself are able to continue discussion about their food experience once the meal is over by using those photos to provoke their memories and experiences.
Identification through Instagram
Social media is making a tremendous impact on today’s different cultures, societies, industries, and businesses. One major social media platform used is Instagram. Instagram is a fun way for users to share a collection of their photos and videos with their friends or with the general public. Currently there are over 75 million daily users, with 50,000 of those users uploading 5,000 photos each hour around the world.  Posting pictures on Instagram has become a way of representing a person’s artistic expression. With this in mind, Claude Fischler discusses in his article, Food, self and identity, about how food is a central component to identity. Therefore I think an Instagram post of food is no different. An Instagram post of a certain meal or dish represents a lot about a person’s culture, personality, beliefs, interests, etc., simply based on the pictured food he/she chose to share with their followers. By looking at the various accounts on Instagram solely used for the publication of food, a person can learn a lot about the different ways of life and different diets people from all over the world use. For example accounts such as @thecakeblog or @trophycupcakes post delicious photos of just desserts. While an account like @cooksmarts represents a food lifestyle of mainly healthy, vegetable dishes. Fischler also points out that “food and cuisine are a quite central component of the sense of collective belonging.”  One example of this collective belonging can be found when an Instagram post creates discussion in the comments amongst users, which allows for more voices and opinions to be heard.
Marketing a Desired Art
Many companies display their food on Instagram in the form of art in order to entice their consumer’s appetite and desire. Sharman Russell addresses this technique in his article, Hunger: An Unnatural History. He claims after seeing a commercial for Olive Garden, “a chemical message from your cerebral cortex to your nerve cells in the lower brain, which in turn sends a message to the stomach and pancreas, stimulating their production of enzymes, acids, and mucus.”  From there he says the process continues until the “body has been primed” with the desire to eat that food.  This statement contradicts with one of Fischler’s statements that consumers “might retort that sight and hearing also require a physical link between thing perceived and the organ of perception.”  My personal experiences align with Russell’s beliefs because there have been countless times when advertisements, whether commercials, posts on social media, or posters/billboards, have influenced me to crave that certain food. Companies will strategically present the photos of their food in a very artistic manner in order to entice their viewers. Part of the reason for this commonly desired response comes from the fact that “appetite is a desire, born of biology, molded by experience and culture.”  After viewing an Olive Garden commercial, it can trigger a good memory and subsequently generate a feeling of desire to re-experience that memory again. Whether eating the food in the moment or while looking back at it through the form of a picture, food has the ability to bring out a multitude of different emotions. They can bring a person happiness and excitement from the familiarity of their associated taste, as well as excitement from the unfamiliarity and an urge to try new foods. These posts, however, can also expose feelings of sadness from the deeper and personal connections or memories associated with certain foods.
The Taste of Beauty
Out of the eight gelatos places I visited, my favorites were Edoardo in Florence, De’ Coltelli in Pisa, and Caffetteria Gelateria dell’olmo in San Gimignano. At Edoardos the ice cream is biological, which means that it is free from additives, coloring, preservatives, or any chemically synthesized productive factors. From this place I tried the melon and strawberry with champagne on a cone. I could taste the fresh, natural ingredients with every lick. My favorite part, however, was hands down the cone. In fact this was the best cone I’ve ever had because unlike a lot of generic ice cream cones these cones were homemade and had a rich, buttery texture.
Similarly at De’ Coltelli, they also only use fresh fruit and organic ingredients. They do not use synthetic fragrances or dyes. Unlike the other gelatos places, at De’Coltelli we did a sampling of some of their flavors. The very first thing we tried was called Granita. This was a lot different from a gelato due its semi-frozen consistency. Because I liked the sampling of this so much, I ended up getting a cup of it in the melon and strawberry flavor. On top there was a scoop of their fresh crème. The combination of the refreshing fruity flavors with the sweet, rich crème was so satisfying.
Lastly I really enjoyed the gelato from San Gimignano. The consistency of it was very thick yet fluffy. In the photo of my raspberry and melon gelato, you can very clearly see this texture. The sorbets are made with freshly chosen local or exotic fruits every morning. Without the use of any dyes, the colors were still so naturally vibrant.
After trying all three of these fantastic places, it was hard for other places to compete. For instance, Caffe Terzani in Panzano had very good gelato, but the cone tasted a bit like plastic. Meanwhile in Volterra at L’Incontro, I was so excited to finally find a mango flavor, but unfortunately I was not impressed with its bitter and artificial taste. Ultimately as I look back at my pictures of my gelato, I am reminded of my experiences at each place. By looking at my photos, viewers can learn about myself. For instance based on the photos, it can be understood that I solely like the fruity flavored gelato sorbets.
To sum it up…
As soon as I arrived in Italy I knew I needed to take pictures of everything we ate because I wanted to be able to look back and remember the experiences. Luckily because the food in Italy, especially the gelato, is very beautiful on its own, it was easy to create art through this taking a photo. As an expression of my artistic identity, I posed my gelatos in front of beautiful backgrounds in order to add to the overall representation of the picture. Moreover I consider pictures of food art because of their ability to provoke emotions. One of these emotions being desire. Many companies will advertise their food in a very artsy manner in order to visually sell their products to buyers. Companies will use forms of social media, such as Instagram, as a mode of this communication. Instagram in general is a way to communicate and express one’s identity. Although I’ll the gelato here in Italy, I know I will always have these photos and similar photos on Instagram to keep the memories alive until the next time I return.
Gelateria Caffe della posta (Bulgaria)
La Chiccheria (Marina di Grosseto)
(All photos were taken by Lola Zavras)
Fischler, Claude. Food, self and identity. New York: Columbia University, 1988.
Russell, Sharman Apt. Hunger: An Unnatural History. New York: Basic Books.
Smith, Craig. “By the Numbers: 170+ Interesting Instagram Statistics”. Last Modified June 11, 2016, http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/important-instagram-stats/.
Telfer, Elizabeth. Food for Thought. New York: Routiledge.
 Elizabeth Telfer, Food for Thought, (New York: Routiledge), 58.
 Telfer, pg, 46.
 Craig Smith, “By the Numbers: 170+ Interesting Instagram Statistics”, last modified April 2016, http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/important-instagram-stats/.
 Claude Fischler, Food, self and identity, (New York: Columbia University), 1988, 280.
 Sharman Apt Russell, Hunger: An Unnatural History, (New York: Basic Books), 17.
 Russell, pg, 17.
 Fischler, pg, 52.
 Russel, pg, 24.