”A lot of the food is symbolic and it’s not meant to be eaten,” Hertz said of much of the food items in the exhibit.
”This show is looking at both foods prepared to be eaten but also others that, because they could be eaten but aren’t, they have all these symbolic associations with fertility, vitality, life, abundance and wealth ... all these things we want,” she said.
The Mexican Dia de los Muertos — or Day of the Dead — altar, for example, is filled a variety of items meant solely for the dead.
The altar filled with food, drink, incense and candles is an “offering to past ancestors and a way to entice them to visit. Everything on the altar is meant to help them ... it’s covered withe enticing foods, especially the favorite foods of that person when they were living,” Hertz said.
”Chocolate, mole, tequila, sugary soda, beer ... all the things that if you had been dead for a long time you would really miss,” she added with a laugh.
The “Almost Too Good to Eat” exhibit doesn’t just feature food items significant to cultures considered foreign to Western New Yorkers. Even the traditional Western wedding cake is on view with a display by the bakers at Muscoreil’s Fine Desserts in North Tonawanda.
A few display wedding cakes uniquely decorated with icing and colorful fondant are featured as well as butter-lamb style cakes from Melanie’s Sweets Unlimited, a mainstay at the Broadway Market.
”So many people in America forget that European is an ethnicity. White people are ethnics too, it’s just so unmarked in our culture here ... it’s the default,” Hertz said.
For instance, one might notice that some cultures perhaps favor brighter, vibrant colors when it comes to their wedding or religious ceremonies. A Bhutanese wedding places particular emphasis on brights greens and reds, but a Western bride is meant to wear pure white.