Zen Buddhism has a history of impermanent art. From the fleeting beauty of a sandpainted Tibetan mandala to a carefully pruned bonsai tree, it is accepted that all beautiful things must come to an end. Christopher Salyers's Face Food continues that tradition ... or maybe that's a stretch.
Perhaps instead, Face Food is simply a continuation of Japan's endless search for the new, the faddish and the inexplicably bizarre. Face Food catalogues the obsessive craftsmanship of Japanese parents who mould their children's school lunches into manga masterpieces. Yes, that's not decorating the bento box, but actually making art out of the food itself. The book is a compendium of occasionally masterful and often gaudy collections of vegetables, noodles, and even fish cakes that have been died and shaped into murals and mosaics of manga and anime characters, animals and even more fanciful creations. Otaku rejoice!
At first glance, the book is nearly overwhelming in its oddness, but then again, I had a Scoobie Doo lunch box as a child. While Nico's line-perfect renderings of character's from Code Geass put cake decorators to shame, and Amorette Dye turns sliced tomatoes into a bas relief lobster that makes the ancient Egyptians look bad, the whole of the work does make me wonder whether form serves function or not. I simply can't help to wonder how they'd taste. So even though I'd take Masa or Nobu's creations on my palate over anything contained within, and I wonder how a parent could possibly spend hours of every morning toiling over art that was bound to be eaten, I also must admit that a child's smile is probably worth an awful lot more than a pleasant aftertaste.