Interview with Julia Sherman - Salad for President
Earlier this month I interviewed Julia Sherman, the salad enthused artist behind the blog Salad for President. She interviews different creative people around the world and then collaborates on a salad with that person. She has installed salad gardens at MoMA PS. 1 in New York City and at The Getty in Los Angeles. She is currently working on a cookbook with Abrams. I am inspired by how her projects and interviews fuse the analytical with the culinary. The fusing of these two areas is something I aim to achieve in my own projects. Our interview addresses not only the beauty of a good salad, but how art and food collide.
(Moonbeam) What does “Salad for President” mean?
Well, I want to encourage people to take even the small things that they do seriously. So, before salad was my whole world, I was just really into cooking and gardening as a hobbyist you know. I am using the presidential slogan as a way to say,“there is value in your everyday work, habits or obsessions.”
(Moonbeam) Why salad?
This just happens to just be the way that I like to eat. A vegetable based diet evolved when I began to garden and started to grow things for myself. So almost as a necessity, I had a crazy amount of vegetables, and the best way to honor them is it to keep them in their most essential, unadulterated state. I think that a good salad should be an expression of the best things about the ingredient. I’m also always entertaining lots of fellow artists, and people drop in spontaneously. Salad is an aesthetically pleasing way to make food for a large group. I also like to cook food that feels healthy and generous. Everybody feels that food can be abundant, but not super heavy or overwrought, and kind of straightforward.
(Moonbeam) What are three essentials that you always have for salad making?
Sherry vinegar, shallots, and really good olive oil. I would say the rest of it is always changing because I eat seasonally. If you have that, and honey, you can make a simple vinaigrette.
(Moonbeam) Where and how does food intersect with art?
Well, it’s no secret that artists love cooking. My favorite cookbook is the MoMA Artist’s Cookbook. I don’t know if you’ve seen it but it’s very cool – it’s just a bunch of artists making recipes. And it was done in the 60’s and the food is incredibly gross, but there are recipes from people like Salvador Dali and Warhol. Artists have always had an interest in food, so art and food intersect there. For a lot of artists I find that the conversations they want to be having amongst their peers happen around the dinner table and in the kitchen, as opposed to in the studio or in a gallery. The further and further you get into your professional career, it gets harder and harder to have those conversations. Sometimes it takes a bottle of wine and a big dinner to get people going. I’ve always found that to be true. I don’t consider the salad that I make art, but my identity as an artist doesn’t begin in one area or another. I’m always thinking like an artist and I’m always stretching my creativity across planes. I think most artists feel this way, and I think they find it kind of odd that they have to confine their practice to a single medium or outlet. I think cooking is really appealing to artists because its about the material first and foremost. Every day you’re reinventing something when you make a meal.
(Moonbeam) Do you think food can be considered art?
I think anything can be considered art; its about how the artist frames it. When I go to a restaurant I don’t consider my meal a work of art, per se, but the older I get, I just don’t care about drawing these lines. I’ve transitioned in my life from thinking that a work of art is the highest valued form of expression, to valuing dinner and the work of art equally. So its not important to me to really distinguish between the two.
(Moonbeam) What constitutes a salad for you?
Well this is an interesting question because this has come up a lot. It’s kind of hard to define because obviously some of the first things that come to mind would be temperature, or cooked versus raw – but of course, you can have a warm salad or you can have a cooked salad. I often tell people when they’re gonna be on my blog, “it doesn’t have to be a salad per se, it just has to have a salad perspective.” In a good salad or a refined you are able to identify and taste all the parts. It’s about composition and layering and its an additive process.