MICHELANGELO’s GROCERY LIST
1. I spent grad school collecting stories about food- fish belly pale medieval saints starving their way to holiness. In Florence, a convent housed both repentant prostitutes and a Botticelli altarpiece depicting Mary Magdalene. In the painting, Mary is a red flame and gasp of gold hair. She takes to the desert, needing no food but whatever is handed to her daily by angels. The former prostitutes, having no such option, are fed poorly and told they are following her example.
2. The female octopus lays her eggs and covers them with her own body. She slowly starves to ensure that the eggs hatch safely, before bowing to exhaustion: a slow, albeit noble death. One deep-sea octopus guarded her brood for 53 months-- roughly 4 1/2 years, a record. Scientists observed her losing muscle mass, skin going pearl white and eyes clouding, shooing away crabs as they crawled over her outstretched arms.
3. Michelangelo illustrated his grocery lists to aid illiterate assistants. Upon their discovery, art historians thrilled at how mundane they were-- a herring, bread, two fennel soups, four anchovies. Vasari, unreliable narrator of Italian art history, reminds us that Michelangelo wanted no trace of his failures to exist. This evidence of human-ness, the routine of daily life, exists only because the artist likely failed to burn the paper.
4. Marilyn Minter painted food and called it porn. She paired each food item (lobster, corn, raw chicken breast) with their means of consumption. Hung together, the wall of pictures looks sticky with sweat.