By Laura Garfinkel
After the recent attacks by the Islamic State (or ISIS) in Paris and before that, the murders of journalists at Charlie Hebdo by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in January 2015, foreign leaders gathered together in solidarity in Paris. I remember their faces: dazed, grief-stricken, and carrying the weight of their burden.
I decided to commemorate this event with a project that involved the very essence of French culture: food. In French cooking, “mother sauce” refers to a base sauce from which others are derived. In my series, I used tomato sauce as the mother sauce to draw the faces of the leaders who stood together at the January 2015 rally in Paris. The sauce symbolizes the basic humanity of these leaders and the life and death decisions they are sometimes forced to make. Shown here are French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
I also created Mother Sauce portraits for the leaders who deal such with violence and terrorism on a daily basis. I chose countries that are least peaceful, according to the Global Peace Index, and included Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain, Central African Republic President Catherine Samba-Panza, and Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani.
I also wanted to create a series on strong, female leaders. “Tough Cookies” is a group of portraits of female heads of state. These pieces are made from sugar cookies and royal icing—dainty ingredients for very powerful women.
Known as the “Iron Lady,” Dalia Grybauskaite is the first female president of Lithuania. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the 24th president of Liberia and the first elected female head of state in Africa. In 2011, she shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee and Yemeni journalist and politician Tawakel Karmen for their work on women’s rights. I also included Park Geun-hye, the first female president of South Korea.
I began combining food and politics after Hurricane Katrina. In 2005, President George W. Bush congratulated FEMA director Michael Brown on his performance by saying, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.” That comment sparked my “Feast for Bush” series, which featured dishes, like “Baba Rumsfeld” and “Wire Tapioca,” commemorating his presidency. In 2012, I became interested in government policies more broadly and began projects on voting rights (Disenfranchfries), veterans’ affairs (American Bread), and Vladimir Putin (Putinesca). The resulting project, Edible Government, is an ongoing culinary exploration of people and events that shape American politics, and a nod to the old adage, “you are what you eat.”