FOR THIS ISSUE’S
cover, we enlisted the help of Dajiang Tai and Nat Cheshire of Cheshire Architects. In a feature on page 44, Tai and Cheshire discuss food’s potential to act as a common ground where cultures can work together, and they built on this idea for the cover image.
The original concept was to create a serving vessel of some sort to hold food from the issue, which would reference the ideas discussed in the feature. Tai and Cheshire were eager to take a natural material and subtly shape it, reflecting the eastern principle of allowing nature to play the biggest part, with humans simply providing a helping hand.
Chinese scholars’ rocks, popular in traditional Chinese gardens, were a source of inspiration. Tai explains that a man would go to the forest and find a rock that he felt had the potential to be beautiful. He would make holes in it to enhance its form, then put the rock in a river. He would tell his son about the rock, who many years later would come to the river and turn the rock over. The son would in turn tell his son, who would collect the rock decades later, when it had finally taken shape, the finished product having been crafted by nature and human hands working together.
The boulder on our cover was shaped by Waiheke Island’s aptly named Peter Flint of Island Stone, who is currently working with Cheshire Architects on a stone house on the island.
The curvature in the rock aims to evoke a Chinese soup spoon, says Tai, and holds a selection of dishes from the issue – Olivia Andrews’ Asian Bloody Mary and green papaya & bean salad, and Sarah Tuck’s aromatic braised beef & chilli dumplings.
“Peter sourced the boulder based on a sketch we did and he just went for it – shaped it, cut delineations on it and then delivered it to Toaki’s [Okano, the photographer who shot the cover] studio.”
The brass chopsticks were made by Drake & Wrigley, a company that specialises in making door handles. “We wanted something slightly shiny but it had to be a natural material,” explains Tai.
The rock sits on a bed of sea salt. “It’s nice and light and there’s an abstract crystal nature to it,” says Tai. “Every piece is different.”
Encouraging a different view of Asian food is the over-arching aim, says Tai.
“I hope when people see the cover what they will feel is like a door opening. When I talk about it [Chinese food] to my friends, it’s very hard for them not to think about fluoro lights and shaky tables... either that or they think about something that’s in the movies.
“Hopefully the cover speaks something in between, that’s neither the fluoro lights nor the scene from the movies.”