The difference between the mundane and the extraordinary is about 3 feet. At least that’s what the Greeks practiced. Make an object of admiration, inspiration or adoration and it sits on a pedestal. Off the earth. Think about it. How many times have you physically looked straight into marble knees or alabaster toes? When we like something we lift it up.
How our ancient ancestors arrived at this conclusion is simple. Small objects are easier to see when we are not doubled over. And large objects gain a loftiness when raised above the Earth’s surface.
Museums persist with this tradition. Go into the galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Museum of Natural History and admire artifacts positioned on the pedestal. We don’t even notice them any longer. The pale beige helps them fade into the background. They act as silent servants. They give amplitude through altitude.
Andy Warhol knew this recipe well. However since most of his work lives in two dimensions, his pedestals are frames. The very act of composing a border draws our focus. It’s a clever trick. Our own Pavlovian response to images. We see wood moulding fashioned as a rectangle and we give pause. “Huh. What do you know?!”
Warhol’s brightly silkscreen-ed images of Marilyn and Jackie and Chicken Noodle stab at the heart and pound at the head. We inspect and appreciate.
For all of the fanfare Warhol enjoyed, he stole his power from someone else. His genius comes from standing on the shoulders of Marcel Duchamp.
Marcel aimed his shotgun at the world of art and pulled the trigger.
At a gallery exhibition in 1917 he added a urinal to the top of a pedestal. He turned a utilitarian device into an object of appreciation. To change our perception, he changes our relationship. He alters our mood by our angle of approach.
The culinary world plays similar music.
Consider the rise of peasant food to haute-y heights. The celebration of Soul Food. Bitter greens, neck bones and pig ears find their way to porcelain. $30 recipe books. Celebrity chefs who talk about their mama toiling in nickle kitchens.
The trend washes over us so frequently, we forget that polenta is actually corn gruel. Born out of the need to feed Italians too poor to eat wheat. Now it’s a pillow for ale-marinated quail.
Chuck Smith and Larry Perdido know about pedestals too. Their burger haven, Hopdoddy, began in 2010 on South Congress in Austin, Texas. The burger bar beckons patrons to clamp down on thick and juicy sandwhiches sourced from local ingredients.
Every attention is paid to the fundmentals. You will not find a lifeless gray patty all greased up. You will not find factory processed buns, limp lettuce, mealy tomatoes or dime-store onions. Nope. This is a burger bar made for royalty.
Hopdoddy offers choices too. Satisfy the primal urge for Japanese flavors and tuna. Dine like Socrates with a lamb burger dressed with Tzatziki. Or come off the dusty trail and sink those choppers into classic beef-cheese-and bacon done Texas style: with roasted poblanos and chipolte mayo.
Even french fries experience a four star make-over. Tossed with shredded Parmesan, the Truffle Fries are garnished with a heady mayonnaise that would make truffledogs whimper from the parking lot.
At Hopdoddy the pedestal remains invisible. But it’s there. It lies in the care for ingredients. It lies in the artful presentations. It lies in the expert cooking. And it lies in the wizards’ touch for flavors.
Chuck and Larry are pioneers. And they have big shoulders, too. Feel free climb on.
Andy Warhol would tell you the same.
What are you waiting for? What dish needs a pedestal?
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