I’ve been thinking a lot about food, I believe due to a confluence of events.

First of all, I recently moved apartments. New apartment means new kitchen, and in this case it also means new shared garden with a grill. So naturally it’s a time to assess what I have, what I need, and what I can make of it all.

Secondly, the New Museum has a new cafe. That means a new array of delicacies, sweets, and bloggable baking adventures. It’s fantastic to muse on the concept that this winter, when it gets oppressively cold, we won’t have to leave the building for a great cup of coffee and a maple-bacon biscuit, you know?

Third, I’m reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love. If you’ve read it, I don’t need to explain. If you haven’t, suffice it to say she makes gaining 30 pounds sound sexy. Incidentally she also has some great ideas on genius and artistic inspiration, which you can watch her talk about here:

The last thing hit me when I was allowing myself a bit of that quiet, thinking time – you know, when you sit and all those things on your mind, that you try to push out by filling your life with work and appointments, come rushing in. I started missing Karen Hansgen, a colleague of ours at the New Museum who passed away last winter. Karen made books, and I made books with her. We went to the same college, though with some 10 years separating our time there. Karen was a role model to me, which really is a rare thing to find. I thought she was cool, intelligent, beautiful, talented, independent, and a loving mother. We made the After Nature book together, the Younger than Jesus books together, and more. We kept in touch after she accepted a prestigious job at Rizzoli and then before I knew it, I had a cell number and an inbox filled with old emails from a person I couldn’t contact anymore.

I started thinking about Karen, and missing her.

After finding comfort in some pictures of her, I remembered that her last book had been published this summer. I took my bike and went in search of Schmatz! Lunches at Steidl.

Reading Karen’s book is the last puzzle piece in my recent food fascination. It combines publisher Steidl’s polished aesthetic with Karen’s unconventional eye – her ability to bottle inspiration so that it may be shared. It’s half-art book, half-cookbook. It’s about eating delicious meals while making art books.

Karen loved making books at Steidl. In an email from March of 2009 she wrote to me:

“Steidl is in a small and lovely university town called Gottingen between Frankfurt and Berlin. It’s kind of heaven at Steidl with state of the art everything, incredible artists, sweet and stylish apartments, and fabulous lunches by his chef (I’m doing an artist book/cookbook about that whole experience). But it’s also boot camp, no doubt about it. Serious work and long hours. Early on, I had thought to send you there.”

Her book is beautiful; it’s the perfect size, paperweight, and is nothing short of what you’d expect from a Steidl-designed book. It reminds me why Urs Fischer’s studio is such a special place…the practice of taking time out for a communal meal should be more common. Good food rewards hard work. It fuels creativity.

I’ve come to feel, this August, that food is the key to just about everything. Simple food, inexpensive food, but good, fresh food.

So, now that September has hit, I’m going to devote the next few posts to food and art, while guest bloggers also tackle museum-related events. From the farmer’s market, to cooking, to shadowing some expert bakers in honor of the new New Museum cafe, to the influence food and dining have on our social and artistic psyches. Thanks to Karen for paving the way. Her book will be available in the New Museum bookstore shortly.

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Always Open :: NewMuseum.org
Jarrett Gregory

// From our friends at the New Museum

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