Tips of Our Tongues:
The Aphrodisiac Kitchen
I haven’t really been able to stop thinking about The Aphrodisiac Kitchen (TAK) recently. I met Andreas Carver back in January at our Cold Cuts Salon Party moment with Yardy and Mouthfeel, and have been mildly fangirling over his project, TAK. To keep it short and sweet, this project is, to me, what food writing should be at its core: relatable, intimate, and coming from a personal connection, not just how to put together a citrus salad. I just keep coming back to the word complement (note: not compliment) when I’m thinking about this writing. In a thoughtful way, TAK can create meaning from the food, the memory, the relationship of memory & food, and the relationship to the narrator. That is to say, he uses all of these elements in concert with each other to make the story stronger and richer.
Andreas’ visuals are stunning; often the photographs seem to play around with more than just how it looks, but also delves into the textural components, of the food, what it might smell like, and how it might sound on the stovetop. And when we’re not given a photograph of a dish in the making, he’s talking with creatives around the food world and taking portraits of them covered with or surrounded by food. It’s… intimate and sensual and borders on sexy (if not just is sexy). In these photos TAK is able to advance both stories, both the story of the food and the person. The food means more in these portraits because of how it’s handled (crushed, smeared, coddled), and the person is given this depth of character based on the food pairing. I’m… so into it.
I had to know more so I asked Andreas a little about how this all started, and what his take on his project is.
Counter Service: What moment was it that you were like "well shit, I have to write and put The Aphrodisiac Kitchen together"
The Aphrodisiac Kitchen: I had been in New York for about a year, and I couldn’t figure out my place in this conglomerate of interesting people. I wasn’t a club kid. I wasn’t a designer. I wasn’t an artist. But I knew I was a creative and that I had something to say - something more important than latest trends and Kim K. When I was 14, I went vegetarian - eventually becoming vegan and the change in diet opened my mind to the corruption that is buried deep into every facet of our food systems.
It was at a burger joint in crown heights. My veggie burger was washing down the regrets of one too many well whiskey gingers and I was STARVING for something more than my $11/hr retail job. I knew it needed to be spiritual, political, thought provoking, and beautiful. By the end of my meal, I decided I would start writing about food. I took a solid year to think about TAK and how I wanted to present my relationship with cooking.
It took me a minute to discover the overall voice of the project. It wasn't until months later, one cold October night, that I wrote, "During winter we carry heavy, thick, fibrous coats that act as our exterior shell. We push through the molasses of the wind, and find that our subway is never on time. We work senseless jobs, drink shitty one dollar coffees, and rarely find a moment to be alone." And ended with, "As your sauce begins to thicken, you can breathe again, for there is nothing better than giving yourself life after a long day." I fell in love with this point of view. Three months later, The Aphrodisiac Kitchen came to life.
CS: You ask your conversation partners a lot about intimacy and food; how do you relate the two?
TAK: Everything about a home cooked meal is intimate. Everything about sharing food with someone is intimate. Everything about growing food is intimate. Cooking and farming are two motherly acts - they nurture, they comfort, they bond. When you cook for someone, especially at home, you're cultivating an atmosphere of connection. There is an understanding that for an allotted amount of time, those eating will become closer. Maybe it's their first date. Maybe they're coming together after a traumatic event has happened. Whatever it may be, food creates an intimate environment for people to slow down, nourish their bodies, and create kinship.
CS: What is it about food that tethers itself to memory and intimacy for you?
TAK: I'm a southern boy so I grew up understanding that food meant family. My grandmother and aunt and mother all cooked - all the women in the family did. We had fried chicken, okra, mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, green beans and collards at every gathering. The kitchen was the hot spot. Murmurs of the last year's gossip trailed through the kitchen as children ran around and the adults scooped a bit of everything onto a plate.
I now know food as a mother. She has always been good to me and always encourages me to do good to others. Whether it be the memory be of my family's cooking or my second date with my boyfriend, anytime I think of food, I think of intimacy.