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What would Banksy eat? If his recent self-shredding artwork stunt is any indication, fettuccine.
But a more educated guess at what the anonymous street artist enjoys nibbling on is a “Walled Off Salad”: the signature dish served all day at the ground floor café of his Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem. It is a verdant platter filled with slivered (albeit not julienned) vegetables tossed in a lemon, pomegranate, molasses, and sumac dressing, that winks at — and then totally ignores — the classic Waldorf Salad that it sardonically references. (Both salads are topped with walnuts and originated in hotels. Their similarities end there.)
The original Waldorf Salad, a crunchy blend of apples and celery coated in high-quality mayonnaise, was first served in 1893 at the debut social event of midtown Manhattan’s exclusive Waldorf Astoria Hotel. It was the collaborative invention of the luxury hotel’s executive chef and its legendary maître d’hôtel, Oscar Tschirky (who knew little about cooking, but all about hype). The Waldorf Salad soon became a beloved Americana staple, inspiring endless homemade variations and featuring regularly in cookbooks.
Amateur chefs and restaurateurs have taken liberties with the Waldorf Salad for the past century-plus, adding unexpected ingredients like marshmallows, fried chicken, and blue cheese. But a case could be made that none have veered as far from the original as Banksy’s politicized spin on the dish.
The Walled Off Salad is mayonnaise-free and served on floral and gold-rimmed British china, alluding to the fact that the West Bank art hotel that serves it opened in 2017 to mark the centenary of the British Empire taking control of Palestine. In addition to sides of local olives, peanuts, and homemade hummus, the salad comes with two rectangular pieces of toasted pita bread (a bargain at $13 for the large version). The self-proclaimed “worst view in the world” (for which the hotel is named) is visible directly outside the café window — the controversial West Bank separation wall constructed from rectangular concrete slabs. It seems intentional that the characteristically circular pita bread has been fashioned into tall four-sided strips.
So the Walled Off Salad might be one item on Banksy’s personal menu, at least when he is making one of his frequent trips to Bethlehem. It follows other projects by the artist that have incorporated edible fares, such as his 2008 exhibition featuring chicken nuggets and 2013 fiberglass sculpture of fast food icon, Ronald McDonald.
In food, as in art, it seems that the street artist prefers an anti-establishment dish served cold (or, at least, at room temperature).
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The intentionality of Booker’s abstraction gives me the impetus to discuss something about the current zeitgeist that’s been on my mind for a while.
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