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Disliking before eating?

An essay published in the Fukui Shimbun-Newspaper, on 19 August 2015

I'm the type of person who basically will eat anything, and find it all delicious. I regularly tell my three children, "Don't be picky." But when I look across the globe, there are some foods that even I can't stand. For example, the "Filet American." It's finely chopped kneaded raw beef flavored with herbs and spices, and is sometimes served as part of Belgian cuisine. It looked just like an uncooked hamburger, and I couldn't even start to eat it.

In Japanese, the literal meaning of the word that translates to prejudice, or disliking something before knowing its true value, is "disliking before eating." But knowing the true value of something is not an easy task. Even if we know we must try something to understand it, our bodies and minds refuse certain things.

On the other hand, I hear stories all the time where a dish that someone disliked in their childhood became their favorite food after growing up. Looking back at my own experience, my taste in many things, not only food, has changed over time. Perhaps, the divide between like and dislike is an extremely slight one.

Last year, I visited San Francisco for an international printmaking conference. There, I got to see an exhibition by Wayne Thiebaud, one of the most widely known American painters. Thiebauld is famous for his pieces that feature desserts as motifs, like pies and cakes, but there are not many chances in Japan to learn about him. Before, I thought that I could not come to like his pop style which seemed to me to just embody America as a country, and so his work was of no interest to me. However, when I reflected upon this, I realized I had only known his works through the Internet or some books, and I had never seen a collective of his works; in other words, this was the first time I was seeing the originals.

In fact, the greatest thing about Thiebauld's works is the color of his shadows. At first glance they may all seem black, but when you look closely, one call tell that many different colors are layered to create a distinct tone. Having turned into a huge fan of Thiebauld's works, I bought some books of his paintings to look more deeply into his fascinatingly beautiful pieces. Turning the pages, everything looks so different from how I perceived them before, so much so that I can't imagine how I was looking at them before.

A friend of mine, a recording engineer whom I recently have been working with on exhibitions, told me an interesting story. He works with many people whose jobs revolve around "sound," but he says many musicians are careless when it comes to sound machinery, such as stereos. His guess is that because they are so experienced with live sound, even if the playback quality is low, they can access the memories they have of high quality sound and listen to good music through their memories.

The importance of experiencing something "live" or "raw" holds true for not only visual art, but also the performing arts such as dancing or music. It enriches your artistic life long after the actual experience.

Though it may be contradictory since I did mention before that I can't eat raw meat, but as someone who works in the arts, I would like for more people to know about the power of live experience.

The facade of Paul Thiebaud Gallery, San Francisco (CA)

Photo (c) Shichio Minato

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