Andy Warhol - self portrait eating banana (1982)

The Andy Warhol gastronomy guide

Author and curator Bob Nickas on Warhol's love of food and his plans to open an 'Andy-Mat'

Given the amount of time he spent remaking Kellogg's boxes and Campbell's cans, no one could deny Andy Warhol's abiding interest in food. Who else would praise America for being the country where the richest drink from the same cans as the poorest? Now, New York curator and Phaidon author Bob Nickas, lays Warhol's gastronomic habits bare, in a feature published in McSweeney's food quarterly, Lucky Peach.

Nickas puts some of Warhol's tastes down to his upbringing - a working-class child born to first-generation Slovak immigrants in Pittsburg - for Warhol, food was the "greatest extravagance", he couldn't stand the idea of eating leftovers.

However, don't expect any great dishes, Chez Andy. According to Nickas, Warhol's 'cake' recipe was to put a chocolate bar between two slices of white bread, and he often ate a jam sandwich for dinner. "I'm only kidding myself when I go through the motions of cooking protein,' the artist said, 'all I ever really want is sugar."

Old-style lunch counters were the "only thing [he was] truly nostalgic for", and, according to the article, he had plans for his own chain, the Andy-Mat, a tribute to New York's Automat vending-machine restaurant chain.

The Andy-Mat would be "'The Restaurant for the Lonely Person,'" Warhol explained. "You get your food and then you take your tray into a booth and watch television."'

Nickas writes: "This was in 1975. There were still Automats at the time (the last closed in 1991), but the Andy-Mat would be very different from the coin-operated system that had been in place since the early 1900s. In Warhol’s restaurant, diners would make their selections from the menu and, rather than rely on a waiter or waitress, would order their meals by speaking through a kind of phone system set up at each table, connected directly to the kitchen. The food, however, wouldn’t be cooked on the premises, but zapped and served there, just like on an airplane. The kitchen of the Andy-Mat, as befits its creator’s particular disposition, would be push-button—for all intents and purposes, a large microwave oven."

For someone so startlingly modern in his life and work, Nickas highlights Warhol's dislike of culinary innovation. "Progress is very important and exciting in everything but food" Warhol once stated. "When you say you want an orange, you don't want someone asking you, 'An orange what?'" 

To see more of Andy's food works, take a look at our Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné, a multivolume series that draws together the artist's complete works - soup cans, bananas and all.