This post is sponsored by the Northern Clay Center.
Food. It deserves to be its own sentence. For many, it’s no longer simply a hierarchical need, but instead an event, an experience. New respect has been given to food. It has been dissected, disseminated, and reinvented. We have relearned to enjoy the complex flavors of an apple and a cup of coffee. The sensorial experience of eating / drinking has spawned some of the deepest human emotions — comfort is found in macaroni and cheese; pure indulgence can be had with rocky road ice cream.
It could be argued that, while taste and smell are at the forefront of such an experience, touch and particularly sight are of equal importance. Within the restaurant world — the same trend growing within homes across America — plates, bowls, and cups have all become canvases. We’re not simply referring to the Jackson Pollock-esque Grenache-drizzled plate. Food is strategically plated in an effort to complement its colors and flavors to the extent that the dish or serving vessel itself holds as much importance as the food. Well, it’s about time.
This is a concept that we at Northern Clay Center (NCC) have been promoting for over 20 years. The organization, located in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis, is a ceramic art center that teaches, exhibits, and supports artists within the ceramic arts, and has made an effort to put handmade, one-of-a-kind pottery into the hands of Minnesotans and Midwesterners.
Northern Clay Center believes that handmade pottery gives new insight into the experience of food. The feel of a mug, cup, or bowl in one’s hands adds a tactile quality that deepens the consumptive experience; the decorative paintings, patterns, and glazes can further complement the food atop or inside; a hand-pulled handle can hold and caress a hand as though it were always meant to be there. When was the last time you ate a bowl of soup, only to find a delightful illustration waiting for you at the last sip? Have you ever noticed that an eye-enticing decoration on a teapot or cup can make a tea-drinking experience almost spiritual?
Beyond the consumptive experience, pottery can also be used to bake with and even cook with in some cases. Tagines, ceramic pots created specifically with cooking in mind, have been a staple around the south Mediterranean for centuries. A little closer to home, ceramic casseroles come in all sizes and shapes, befitting for the finest all-Minnesotan “hot dish.”
Oh yes, the plug. With gift giving in the near future, Northern Clay Center is happy to assist you in selecting that perfect present to highlight and help in the cooking and entertaining efforts of everyone on your gift list. The “everyday-big-man” mug for a husband; a “keep-your-hands-out” cookie jar for the favorite baker in your life; an elegant update to Aunt Anne’s serving china (which, let us remind you, is currently collecting dust in your cupboard); or a delightful ramekin for that crème brûlée fan — all are available at Northern Clay Center’s onsite and online galleries.
The French Laundry chef Thomas Keller once said, “Respect for food is a respect for life, for who we are and what we do.” NCC takes this a step further and applies this same respect to the dishware out of which food is served and consumed. We believe that beautiful food deserves beautiful pots.
Northern Clay Center will be hosting its annual Holiday Exhibition and Sale from November 17, 2013, to January 6, 2014. The sale features handmade wares by over 80 artists, and begins with an open house — free to the public — from noon to 4pm on November 17. Stop by at 2424 Franklin Ave. E. in Minneapolis, or visit our online gallery and bring some handmade beauty into your kitchen and dining room.