I’ve always had a fondness for the visual aspect of playing cards, and collect books on them. One image of an uncut sheet of cards printed in 1585 in Frankfurt, where the black and white cards were jammed in every which way on a large sheet of paper, inspired the look of these four prints, The Cuisine Cards.
They are conceived as celebrating food and cultures from various parts of the world The face cards are non-hierarchical in terms of rank and gender. The 10 is a Table of the suit’s food, then there are the Shaper, Mover, and Taster, who, although usually carrying on in a particular sequential order, each contribute equal value to the whole experience of eating food. Two suits have all female face cards and two all male.
Four food types were chosen and then situated geographically, with some arbitrary zeroing in on their specific associations. Tomatoes here are set in the ancient Mediterranean, even though they are native to the Americas, and apparently didn’t make it to Europe until the mid 1500s. Instead, the suit of Spices is situated in the tropical region of the Americas, because, well, I love cacao (the 3 of Spices), and because after 15 years of delivering our farm’s cheeses to scores of kitchens and farm stores around the Hudson Valley, I especially wanted to honor the huge gift northern latitude people are always receiving from the people who come up here from way south to do much of the hard work in our food supply chain.
Onions were placed in North Africa because ancient Egyptians ate a lot of them and also included them in their embalming techniques. Herbs, not Spices, were placed in India because of a magical month I once spent there, and the herb we call here, Curry Plant (7 of Herbs), that I associate with the trip.
Almost all the writing on each of the prints says the pertinent titling word in various scripts of the particular region, from some of its different periods and cultures. I’ll be happy to further identify any of the images or scripts if you are interested, just comment here or contact through my site.
When I look at all the cards complete and together, I see a larger vision that formed itself — of our human “world” as it is, and could more fully be when we free ourselves from obsessions with power and greed. A world of beauty, delight in simplicity, creativity within the humble and the constantly renewable. A bottomless magical treasure chest of jewel-like people and their offerings, like in an Arthur Rackham painting, but with all the thieves and little kings having left the picture, feeling content and securely part of the community too.
The Cuisine Cards exist in two forms, as the original hand-printed and hand-colored edition of 10 each, and as an offset litho edition of 1,000; all are signed and numbered. Click on their titles under the images for more details.
An extended form of this post was first published in Feminism And Religion