Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hydrocolloid Pantheon

I love drawing food. The shapes and colours appeal to me very strongly and I don't really know why. My personal pieces tend to include food, whether it's the mad tea party in Alice in Wonderland or an info graphic  / tribute to umami, the fifth taste.

I was thinking of doing a series based on the other four tastes (still might!). But while I was doing my research I started getting really interested in hydrocolloids -- aka gelatin, agar, pectin, gum arabic, etc. Such a versatile substance, and derived from so many sources! Gelatin is made from bones, horns, hooves, and skin. Agar is extracted from seaweed. Pectin is from fruits. Gum arabic is from the acacia tree. Starches count as hydrocolloids too, which means that just about any starchy plant (corn, potato, wheat...) can create the stuff. There's even a kind of gelatin called isinglass which is derived from the dried swim bladders of fish! Basically, you can create this jiggly-wiggly substance from just about anything.

And humans have been using hydrocolloids for ages. The ancient Egyptians used wheat starch as glue, the Romans used it in creams and to thicken sauces, cooks in the Middle Ages knew how to create a meat-based jelly as a foodstuff, and aspic has been used for ages to preserve meat.

Hydrocolloids are used in all types of foods, confectionery, glue, as a substrate for cell cultures,  as wound dressings, in photography... The list goes on and on. And so I've arrived at my next personal series. The first of which is Gelatin.

Two of the oldest sources of gelatin are hartshorn (deer antlers) and isinglass (the fish swim bladders). So my first deity in the Hydrocolloid Pantheon is a pagan god of sorts, with a Regency period flavour. There is such a contrast in  the primal, visceral origins of gelatin (yes, you can use guts to make gelatin too!) and delicate, pretty creations such as trifles and marshmallow peeps that I wanted the Gelatin God to be both animalistic and rather proper. And nothing's more proper than Jane Austen dishing up a heapin' helpin' of aspic!

During the Industrial Revolution (the Regency period happened somewhere in there) gelatin was a by-product of the mass production of animals that factories were now able to accomplish. It didn't take long before enterprising souls went to work marketing this jiggly waste product to consumers to make some extra cash! Here's an interesting article about aspic. From the Guardian. Naturally :P.

Also, I think I went with Regency because when I think of a prim satyr-type figure I think of Mr. Tumnus from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and James McAvoy played Tumnus and he also starred in a Jane Austen movie called "Becoming Jane".

He's holding a beer because isinglass is still used in the production of wine and beer. I'm planning on drawing a little nymph/fairy/pixie called Isinglass somewhere in this illustration. Not to mention mountains of gumdrops, jelly beans, and other delicious things :).

-- Julia
Portfolio site

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great sketch!

Looking forward to the final.