Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston



Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Luis Meléndez, Spanish still-life painter

Luis Meléndez (1715–1780) is now recognized as the premier still-life painter in 18th-century Spain, indeed one of the greatest in all of Europe.

Boston's Museum of Fine Arts is hosting an exhibit of this great painter's works--an artist who was not appreciated in his time. He died a pauper.

After taking in all the beauty of his artistry as I passed through the galleries, I wanted to sit down and have a feast of all the gorgeous, sensual food depicted in these incredible oils.  After consistently being rejected as a portrait painter for the royals in Spain, Meléndez was commissioned, in the late 1700s, by the Prince of Asturias, later King Charles IV of Spain to do a series of painting representing the abundance of  foods that was the basis of Spain's cuisine.

Meléndez painted these foods uncooked--fish, hams, beef, and every sort of vegetable and fruit--so that when one looked at the paintings, one had to use her imagination to see how the various foods would be used to make an elaborate and memorable meal.

One thing that impressed me was that the fruits and vegetables Meléndez painted had not been sprayed with any sort of chemical, so when one observes his paintings, one sees the little worm holes and bruises that are natural to the fruits and vegetables.  We consumers are accustomed to seeing the perfect flesh of fruits and vegetable--which would not be natural without chemical sprays and contaminants--but that perfection is not real, and we pay a dear price with our health and in the contamination of the soil and the skins of the fruits and vegetable for this unnatural perfection.

I left the exhibit with hunger pangs--not just for the voluptuous foods on exhibit, but for a time when people were able to consume them without worrying about the toxins that accumulate in our fatty tissues because we demand unnatural perfection and unnatural color in our fruits and vegetables.


Patrick M said...

While it would be nice in one sense to have everything more natural, if it weren't for those chemicals, I probably wouldn't be able to afford (or even get) the fresh fruits and vegetables that I enjoy even in the depths of winter. It would be blocks of frozen, or even just canned crap.

But I may get around to planting a little garden, especially some herbs, and if I haven't mentioned how good my homemade bread is compared to the bagged slice loafs (my loaves look like in the picture)....

Shaw Kenawe said...

Baking your own bread is great! Have you ever read the ingredients for a loaf of supermarket bread? Even healthy multi-grain breads?

Better to bake your own or buy it fresh from a bakery than to buy a loaf loaded with HFCS and preservatives.

Did you know that oranges are dyed orange to appeal to consumers?

Arthurstone said...

Despite protestations from industrial agriculture and the chemical industry crops can be grown and food can reach the table without the wholesale use of preservatives, herbicides and pesticides.

Of course that sort of agriculture threatens their profits...

rockync said...

I love watermelon and that picture has my mouth watering. I eat the stuff all summer and never tire of it but it has to be really sweet and red so I only buy regional/local. Living in the South that means I can eat watermelon for a long time.
As for organic produce, I grow some of my own and try to minimize use of chemicals but find it difficult due to the high prevalance here of blights. So, I do use a fungicide. Bugs I try to deal with in more creative ways.
For cabbage flies I make domes out of harware cloth (actually I use old screen windows to create them). These work very well and even provide a little extra shade for tender cabbage leaves. Growing naturally repellent plants like hot peppers next to more susceptible plants helps, crop rotation, etc.
It's sounds like a lot of work but there is nothing like fresh fruits and vegetables right out of your own garden.
I raised four boys and they ate very well and I had a tight budget. I went to produce stands and farmers markets, bought foods in season and then froze or canned for later use. I also drove over 20 miles every 2 weeks to a meat processing facility that also had a butcher shop (most do) where I bought really good cuts of meat at prices that would have only bought me hamburger in the grocery store.
I still shop these kind of places and I save a lot of money without sacrificing quality and variety.