Apple of My Eye

I need to share something important, and it involves a snacking experience I had yesterday. Imagine the scene, if you will: it’s hot, it’s getting late. Lunch appears as a distant pinprick on the hunger horizon and supper has yet to slip into view. So off I set to our “local” Starbucks. I say “local” because all things are relative and in our case the coffee shop is a 20-minute walk away. And yes, you’ve guessed it, by the time I’d trudged there (DC is steaming even in the evening), my sugar levels had dipped an extra couple of inches.

I ordered one of my regular drinks and could not resist one thing winking at me from the food counter: have you even seen a Starbucks apple fritter? Man, are they ugly. All bulbous and brain-like in fact, with unsightly protrusions of dough wriggling here and there, all graced with a white sugar glaze. Needless to say, I’m a sucker for a fritter and I bought that puppy right up. And would you know, the moment those puffs of donut dough got gobbled, I started to smile on the inside. You see, a good snack makes all well with the world: focusses the mind, lifts the mood.

If you’re still with me at this stage, thank you for sticking with the story. You’ll no doubt be wondering why I’ve frittered away time on a fritter. Well, it’s because yesterday I was struck by a piece of snacking wisdom: eating an apple fritter is not so different from devouring a picture in an art gallery. Think about it: both bring a high, break up a daily routine and offer a treat for the senses. You can bite off as much as you care for that day: feast on colors and leave it at that; consume a composition, or mull over a meaning; take in a technique or nibble at the history.

Take this Green Apples and Scoop by Walter Kuhn (1877 – 1949), a perfect, in-between-meals morsel. Ideally for my example, there’s not too much to digest as regards the artist, who was one of a generation of US painters who carried his feel for contemporary European art into a distinctly American style. It was from 1901 to 1903 that Kuhn studied in Europe (in Paris and Munich) and, though he settled in New York on his return, his continental experience continued to articulate his art.

The painting plops us right into the individual style that Kuhn honed during the 30s (it’s dated 1939). In broad terms, this involved quite flat, simplified, outlined forms against a dark background. Things are often done in brilliant color, as in the case of these acid green apples. Can anyone help but feel lifted by the site of a playful, joyful thing such as this? The colors, shapes, and love for an everyday thing bring relief, release and a buoyant belief in man’s ability to make beautiful things. Exactly the thoughts that ran through my mind as I dove into my donut treat.

The key thing to hang onto is all things in moderation: just as you’d not eat eight fritters on the trot, I’d discourage the consumption of too much art in one go. Smaller, more frequent treats are best, not gorging but gauging the amount you actually need. And the real bonus of our apple  “snack” at a gallery? You’ve saved yourself 420 calories.