Cooking is the Ultimate Art Form

Last week, I attended the WCEF conference in New Orleans. Volunteering the first day, I wasn’t able to hear the afternoon’s discussions, but was pretty impressed by the morning panel as well as Friday’s environmental talk and the panel on culinary creativity. The latter was hosted by Susan Ford of Louisiana Cookin’ Magazine, Chef John Besh, Chef John Folse, Chef Roy Lyons, Chef Jean-Luc Piquemal (Award-winning French pastry chef, now residing in Québec, and judge on "The Next Great Chef", and Kyle Wedberg (scroll down on link). The theme was pretty clear. Cooking is indeed the ultimate art form. Understanding the history of our culture and local products is the first key in appreciating who we are and what we eat. “There’s a story behind everything we put in our mouth,”  – Chef John Folse. All of the panelists have done a multitude of research and work in living and promoting the cultural aspects of cuisine. Great job! And a special thanks to Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu for his fantastic cultural ideas and event!

Some friends of mine in Opelousas recently began the Stonewood Foundation, and are building a Montessori school surrounded by farmland, beautiful trees, warm people, and the best education a child can get. One of their focuses is healthy eating. With a connection to our future Hub City Public Market and a direct link to local farmers, local, sustainable eating plays center stage, as well as does art, music and creativity.
Thursday morning during WCEF, I had the privilege of hearing a speech by Ella Gordon-Latty of New Zealand, an International Child Art Foundation participant. Her message was right on concerning the connection between creativity, the future of the world, and the youth of today and tomorrow. This can be translated in the fields of art, music, food, etc. Sometimes we just need to stop and pay attention. While this isn’t necessarily food-related, I do feel that it’s important to spread the word. Here is Ella’s speech:

   “Creativity to me means to be human. We are by instinct creative organisms. It’s the manifestation of this instinct, how its encouraged and demanded from youth that will determine the role of young people in developing a sustainable cultural economy. The state of world economics is not so happy. With the gift of optimism it has to be said that this creates an opportunity for innovative new ways of generating economic activity to be explored…….like culture!
    For some one young it can be too intense to confront the state of the world for all its faults, so many remain ignorant. But events like this where youth are invited to share in a possible future, it means that viewing the world to day is easier knowing that we are considered to have a role in its improvement.
    I travel here today with the International Child Art foundation, which has recognized the absolute importance of keeping children creative.
    As we know what is learned when our brains are developing is imprinted on who we become. Creativity is not expensive amongst children. Many schools in NZ uses recycled rubbish from the community to supply their art classes. Does it not make sense that investment should occur in child creativity to hard wire positive productivity when that child becomes an adult, an active part of an economy? Creativity and culture run parallel; with out creativity an established culture becomes stale, and un authentic. Creativity in a sense keeps a culture modern and fresh, and marketable.
    From the age of five I attended an art house after school once a week, I can accredit this for every accomplishment in my life to date. I learnt confidence in my ability to create what I want. I learnt the importance of place, as children often draw where they are from, a house with people, such as their family. The encouragement I experienced taught me to be myself in my land, which is culture. Place defines a culture, with out the land there would be no roots. New Orleans is known for its cultural mix of a heritage, which is so strong, and been turned an economy as tourists want to experience being part of this place. The question is, in these times vastly different from when the culture emerged, how can the next generation keep culture ignited?
    I have taught art to troubled children as young as five, whose intellectual competence were terribly low, who had no ability to understand things new or foreign to them with out confusion and frustration. After a week of free drawing and creating i have never seen more changed people, because they clicked that they had value, they could produce, output and create. An almost economic realization took place that day. Even more so when their newly found pride compelled them to want to sell their work, and that let me understand how creativity can be utilized economically.
    Youth are an unharnessed demographic of power. In my country youth are kept largely ignorant, about how basic government operates, 90% couldn’t tell me how the economy works, and there is a genuine lack of understanding for any major issue nationally, let alone internationally. If we expect to involve youth in a training them to lead a new type of economic model, that is sustainable, mandatory education must be put in place so we first of all get it.
    There is a mind body connection when a child realizes it can assimilate multiple materials to produce a stimulating end product that they made. Upon the theme of local culture, this becomes vital. In NZ no one question how many chemicals and materials from how many countries it takes to create a cell phone, and more over no one cares, therefore internationally made, chemical and carbon emission heavy products are chosen, because they are cheaper, I cannot expect this to change so quickly, but what I do know is that youth are so trend driven that if shown in the right ways, they will understand the importance of local culture, develop pride for it, and accept it faster than foreign things because they realize they are a PART OF IT. In order to engage youth in a local cultural economy they must be educated in the cultural value of the place, and its significance to them.
    Art is the most viable way to engage some one into a culture. It uses natural human empathy to put a person into the lifestyle of another culture through experiencing the food, dance, music and architecture. Children will often not have interest in concepts that don’t directly involve or benefit themselves. Youth councils are widely seen as fruitless, because it never seems to affect anything bigger. It doesn’t help that everything global is totally accessible, from media, Internet and t.v. to provide distraction to youth from thinking about issues such as economics, poverty or politics that affect them some how down the line. Youth need to be shown venues in which they can make change. Forget about them trying to forge pathways, it really is time for youth to be provided for.
    In NZ the indigenous Maori youth have a chronic problem. They see no connection between themselves and the powers that control society and their lives. Leading onto of course the vices of unmotivated youth, drugs and gang crime, who empower youth into doing s
omething, gives them purpose. And it’s so easy for the youth that’s why so many fall into it. If only it were so easy for youth to become involved with influencing the powers that control their lives. Why not invite youth to adult meetings to gain a fresh perspective? Time is always ticking, and we will become a legacy of some decisions you have the power to make. If you have seen a child’s un-interfered intensity and enjoyment when they draw or create, imagine the effect when this is praised. Creativity has application in economics and community, and we are determined to be considered.”

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