Wednesday, January 16, 2008

100 Plates of Pasta

In '96 I spent a year abroad in Italy - Siena for a summer and Bologna for the school year. While I freely admit that very little studying actually occurred during my study abroad, I did make time for cooking and for painting. About half way through my year I hit upon the idea of combining the two, in a what was supposed to be an epic painting project, but ended up more of a study in food photography. My idea was to paint every single plate of pasta that I ate for half a year.
I figured, how hard could painting pasta be? I thought I would spend 6 hours after every dinner painting what I ate.
I quickly discovered that it took 30 hours to paint a pasta painting, not 6. And while I ended up painting only 3 and 1/2 pasta paintings, I did photograph nearly every plate of pasta I ate. I stood on my chair in restaurants, playing the bizarre American tourist. I took pictures of all noodles, be they lasagna, tortellini, or ramen. Sometimes I forgot til the end of the meal, so I have some pics of empty plates. I even have details on each photo scribbled in a journal, including the name of the dish and who cooked it. In the end there were 108 pics but I can only find 91.

A couple interesting "life imitates art" things happened during this project.
One was that midway through, I became overwhelmed by the number of paintings I was still promising myself to paint. So, logically, I stopped eating pasta altogether. I subsisted on beans, rice, etc for a couple weeks before I said to hell with it, and went back to eating pasta.
The other was that I became much more keenly aware of food presentation, and I would alter my dining lighting, use more attractive and contrasting ingredients, and even use food coloring in my pasta sauce to make the red more vibrant.

Here is a link to my Picasa gallery of pasta. The photos range from pretty to pretty gross, some in candle light and some under fluorescent. One of my favorites was the blue and green fettuccine with a bright pink salmon and cream sauce.