Food

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Art Food

Mammoth Straw Creatures Populate Japanese Farmland in the Annual Wara Art Festival

September 13, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images courtesy of Wara Art Festival

If you visit Japan’s Niigata Prefecture during the region’s annual rice harvest, you’re likely to find enormous tarantulas, eagles, and dinosaur-like creatures stalking the bucolic landscape. The towering sculptures are part of the Wara Art Festival, a summertime event that displays massive animals and mythical creations fashioned from the crop’s leftover straw.

Traditionally, the byproduct is used as livestock feed, for compost that revitalizes the soil, and to craft household goods like zori sandals, although farmers increasingly have found themselves with a surplus as agricultural technology and culture changes. This shift prompted a partnership between the people of the former Iwamuro Village, which is now Nishikan Ward, and Tokyo’s Musashino Art University (known colloquially as Musabi) in 2006. At the time, Department of Science of Design professor Shingo Miyajima suggested that the unused straw be used in a collaborative art project between the university and local farmers, resulting in the first Wara Art Festival in 2008.

Today, students design the oversized characters—you can see previous year’s creations in this gallery—and artisans from Nishikan Ward construct the wooden armature and thatched bodies. The monumental figures stand as high as 30 feet, looming over the green landscape in a playful celebration of local culture.

Although the festival paused in 2020 because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it’s back for its 13th edition at Uwasekigata Park. This year’s motley cast includes insects, animals, and even legendary monsters like the Amabie, all on view through October 31. (via Hyperallergic)

 

 

 



Food Photography

Odd Apples: A New Photo Book Celebrates the Strange and Enchanting Fruit

August 26, 2021

Grace Ebert

Pink Pearl, native to California, mid-1900s. All images © William Mullan, shared with permission

Lumpy, spotted, and exposed in succulent slices, the apples highlighted in a new book by William Mullan aren’t those you’d typically find in a grocery store. Instead, the Brooklyn-based photographer focuses on rare specimens like Pink Pearls, the aptly named Knobbed Russets, and speckled Black Oxfords that he sources from farmer’s markets or rural roadsides. These sometimes hard-to-find varieties are the subject matter of his portraits that spotlight the stunning, strange diversity of the species.

The humble fruit has a long history of religious and cultural significance and of course, is also a commodity, a characterization Mullan hopes to complicate by celebrating their unique beauty. “Due to their heterozygous nature, every apple tree that grows successfully from seed will be a brand new apple tree, with traits coming from the seed parent and the pollinator parent” (aka pollen from a nearby blossom). Combined with the fact that the species has 42,000 to 44,000 genes, which is nearly twice as many as people, thousands of different varieties have been produced, creating “a splendid array of aesthetic and flavor characteristics: from apples with red and pink flesh, to apples shaped like stars, candles, and toads, to apples that taste like licorice and strawberry shortcake,” Mullan shares.

 

Knobbed Russet, native to Sussex, England, 1820

Published by Hatje Cantz with design by Andrea Trabucco-Campos, the updated edition of Odd Apples contains 90 images and was designed to feel like “a walk through a magical orchard,” one that captures the breadth of the species. A few of Mullan’s favorites include the dry, sour-cherry flavor of the endangered Niedzwetzkyana or the otherworldly, neon flesh of the oblong Kandil Sinap. While some of his subjects were cultivated relatively recently, others, like the lemony, vitamin C-packed Calville Blanc D’Hiver, date back to the 1600s. “Some of the best apples are really like, right off the roads and highways, along farm fence lines and inside city parks,” he adds.

The Odd Apples project originally began in 2017, with a smaller 32-page book published in 2018, and Mullan continues to shoot all of the images in his apartment or the studio at Raaka Chocolate, where he works as the brand director. Focusing largely on the color and texture, the enchanting portraits are imbued with meaning beyond the fruit’s physical qualities, and each is paired with a written profile. “Their character would spark something in my head, usually a mood or something from pop culture,” he tells Colossal. “Every portrait is an attempt to really capture the mood, expression, and character of that apple but also my interpretation of that and therefore all the experiences I’ve had in my life, too.”

A special, limited edition of Odd Apples, which includes a Hidden Rose print, is for sale on the book’s site, and it’s also available for pre-order on Bookshop. You can follow Mullan’s fruit and flower-based photos on Instagram. (via Creative Boom)

 

Top left: Black Oxford, native to Paris, Maine, 1790. Top right: Malus Sieversii. Bottom left: Kandil Sinap, native to Anatolia or Crimea, date unknown.Bottom right: Api Etoile

Niedzwetzkyana, native to Kyrgyzstan, date unknown

Hidden Rose

Left: Grenadine, native to California, mid-1900s. Right: Calville Blanc D’Hiver, native to Normandy, France, 1600s

Scarlet Surprise

 

 



Food Photography Science

Striking Macro Photos by Levon Biss Crack Open Dried Seeds to Reveal Their Gnarly Insides

August 24, 2021

Grace Ebert

Coco de Mer. All images © Levon Biss, shared with permission

Within the vast collections of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a trove of dried specimens that once were juicy seeds and fruits primed for reproduction. Now gnarled, fractured, and blanketed in tiny, dehydrated bristles, the individual pods have been preserved as part of the carpological archive at the Scottish institution, a resource photographer Levon Biss (previously) spent hours sifting through in preparation for a stunning new series of macro images.

Spanning from the rampant clusters of the Ko Phuang to endangered rarities like the Coco de Mer,  the photographs reveal the inner details otherwise enclosed within the specimens’ shells. Texture and subtle color differences are the basis for most of the shots, which frame a cracked or sliced pod in a manner that centers on their unique components.

 

Kurrajong

The botanic garden’s collection is global in scope and boasts about 100 individual pieces per species, meaning Biss sorted through hundreds of thousands to choose the final 117 that have culminated in his new book The Hidden Beauty of Seeds & Fruits. Initially culled based on aesthetics, the resulting selection encompasses all processes of seed dispersal, along with information about morphology, location, and history. “I tried to make sure all methods were included in the overall edit so that the work becomes an educational tool, not just pretty pictures,” Biss tells Colossal, further explaining the research process:

Each specimen is contained within a small box, and sometimes, you would find a handwritten note on a scrap of paper where the botanist provided a visual description of the surroundings where the specimen was found. Some of these specimens are over 100 years old, and reading these very personal notes made me wonder what the botanist had to go through to find that specimen. What were their traveling conditions like? What did they have to endure to bring the specimen back to Edinburgh? Reading these notes gave me a connection with the botanist and was certainly one of my personal highlights of the project.

On view in the same space as the original specimens, Biss’s photos are up at the Royal Botanic Gardens through October 31. The Hidden Beauty of Seeds & Fruits, which is published by Abrams, is available now on Bookshop, and you can find prints from the series on the photographer’s site. Keep up with his biological snapshots, which include a striking collection of iridescent beetles, on Instagram.

 

Ko Phuang

Left: Firewood Banksia. Right: Dutchman’s Pipe

Bofiyu

Field Manioc

Left: Rosary Pea. Right: Sandplain Woody Pear

Candlestick Banksia

 

 



Craft Food

Crocheted Penne, Ravioli, and Spaghetti Recreate Pasta as Fiber-Rich Renditions

August 23, 2021

Grace Ebert

All photos © Normalynn Ablao/Copacetic Crocheter

Normalynn Ablao swaps starch for fiber in her crocheted pantry staples. The California-based crafter shapes penne, coils of spaghetti, and stuffed tortellini, creating piles of yellow pasta from tightly looped yarn. Whether crocheting individual macaroni or ricotta-and-sauce-filled lasagna, the textured designs have a compelling resemblance to their edible counterparts.

Ablao shares an extensive archive of patterns for baked goods, snacks, and other fare on her site and Etsy. You also might enjoy similar fiber-based food by Lucy Sparrow, Kate Jenkins, and Trevor Smith.

 

 

 



Art Design Food Illustration

Lifelike Sculptures by Diana Beltrán Herrera Recreate Flora and Fauna in Intricately Cut Paper

August 12, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images © Diana Beltrán Herrera, shared with permission

Colombian artist Diana Beltrán Herrera (previously) adds to her growing collection of intricate paper sculptures with new plant and animal life. From her studio in Bristol, the artist and designer recreates lifelike reproductions of turacos, monarchs, and various species with nearly perfect precision. Innumerable fringed strips become feathers, faint scores mimic delicate creases in petals, and layers of bright paper form brilliantly colored plumes, creating a colorful and diverse ecosystem of wildlife from around the world.

Prints, jigsaw puzzles, and cards are available in Beltrán Herrera’s shop, and you can see more of her recent commissions and personal projects on Behance and Instagram.

 

 

 



Food History

An Ancient Snack Bar Lined with Elaborate Frescoes Opens in Pompeii

August 11, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images via Pompeii Sites

The ancient thermopolium (aka hot food stand) that archaeologists unearthed in Pompeii late last year opens to the public this week. Showing the extent of the snack bar’s impeccable preservation—much of its structure, equipment, and vibrant decorations remain intact—new photos from the Regio V site offer a rare glimpse into life in the Italian city that was buried by volcanic ash from Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D.

Elaborate, colorful frescoes depicting on-menu fare like chickens and hanging mallards line the L-shaped bar, with an array of large, earthenware vessels scattered around the space. Embedded within the counter are storage wells called dolia that would have held warm dishes and drinks like wine, duck, fava beans, a paella-style dish of pork, goat, bird, fish, and snail, remnants of which were found last year. According to a release from the site, middle- and lower-class residents rarely cooked at home and were the likely patrons of this small spot, which was one of nearly 80 around the city.

Although this thermopolium originally was discovered back in 2019, archaeologists didn’t return to resume excavation until 2020. Starting August 12, visitors are welcome to stop by every day between noon and 7 p.m., and you can watch the video below for a closer look at the relic. (via The History Blog)