Signature (and) Dishes

Spontaneity and Imperfection in Cooking and Graffiti Writing

  • Andrea Baldini Nanjing University
Keywords: aesthetics, improvisation, philosophy of food, graffiti, everyday aesthetics, Bottura, imperfectionism


Can there be improvised recipes? This paper argues that improvised recipes are possible. I call them instantaneous-recipes. They emerge at the same instant where a dish is also prepared. The improvisational freedom of instantaneous-recipes is displayed in the spontaneity of using what is available in terms of ingredients, tools, utensils, and techniques. Similar to what graffiti writers do while tagging – that is, leaving their signatures on – a wall or the side of a train car, in creating their signature dishes, improvisers of the kitchen are forced to adapt on the spot to changing contextual conditions just like a missing or newly available ingredient, a technical failure, or a mistake. Analogously to tags, improvised recipes are formally imperfect: they do not comply with established ones and are often rough, unpolished, broken, and disordered. But their imperfections are not aesthetic flaws, but merits. Imperfectionism in cooking, as I call the view rejecting the idea that only perfect instantiations of pre-existing recipes afford positive aesthetic experiences, is linked with three values: aesthetic, humanistic, and sustainable. By bringing imperfect features within the domain of gastronomic appreciation, instantaneous-recipes broaden the range of our aesthetic palette, while also reminding us of our finitude as humans. By  encouraging creative uses of available ingredients and leftovers, improvisation in the kitchen also embodies a more sustainable approach to food waste.

How to Cite
Baldini, A. (2020). Signature (and) Dishes. HUMANA.MENTE Journal of Philosophical Studies, 13(38), 83-110. Retrieved from