The Art of Barbara Edwards
Like Artist Like Chef
Barbara Edwards has been preparing the hors d’ouvres for Art Space Vincennes First Friday receptions for two years now. Many visitors have gotten to know her unique approach to creating recipes, her elegant presentations and the home-style serving of her food. Listening to her descriptions of how she developed certain recipes, I am reminded of how the artist works with color in the studio.
For instance, Barbara determines the “subject”. Often it is deliberately tied with the content of the exhibition that we are featuring (which she researches) or a theme she has selected on her own, perhaps based on her heritage of cherished Northern Italian recipes. She has also worked out variations of dishes related to the ethnicity of the exhibiting artists (such as Asian, South American) or the season. She often tests out a dish she is considering several times, serving it to her husband Jerry and daughter Emily until they are all satisfied, before serving it at a reception. Most artists also arrive at a work of art through some trial and error, relying on theory to solve problems until the form—how should I say it—dings? clicks? works? hums? Okay, satisfies the senses!
Like a colorist who uses analogous colors, Barbara might combine similar tastes that work well together. Just as blue and green have a peaceful relationship, so might the dip that would accompany a particular combination of fruits. Then also, like an artist who uses complementary colors (opposite colors on a color wheel), she might add some dramatic contrasts of tastes for a serious effect. As red and green suggest Christmas and yellow and violet Easter, she deliberately combines hot with cold, salty with sweet, etc. And there are also the happy mediums, like the triadic colors red, yellow and blue, and happy foods, especially in the desserts. She considers the colors of food on the table, the colors and materials of the serving dishes, the arrangement of plates on the table, and finds interesting utensils with which to serve the food.
Like an artist she is concerned with getting the best of materials. There is a difference in end result if an artist uses only house paint, rather than high quality oil paints. Barbara uses organic and farm fresh produce and meats if they are available. Her food has a signature taste, created by use of a home-made seasoning mix that she invented and that we in Vincennes just don’t find anywhere else.
Like a clay artist, who arrives at a special formula for glazes and heats them to just the right temperature, she will find sometimes rather obscure ingredients and combine, cook and serve them with careful attention to temperature. The result is a unique and powerful final product.
Barbara’s dream is to open a catering shop or small restaurant. We, and the many people who have enjoyed her food at our openings, think this would be a great development. Barbara’s cuisine would be a different, welcome addition to the many fine restaurants already here, and the slowly but surely growing mix of interesting places to meet and eat in our community.