Edible Masterpieces


July 8, 2024

Words by: Twyla Campbell

Photography by: Erin Walker

The art of charcuterie

Standing in front of Diana Harrison’s tasty displays presents not one, but two conundrums: the food looks too good to eat, but also, everything looks so irresistible that you want to dive in headfirst to smother yourself in honey and soft, gooey cheese that smells like apricots. 

If it’s true that you first eat with your eyes, then Harrison does a brilliant job at stirring the appetite. Each photogenic feast of bite-size bits and bobs is a unique creation. Large arrangements layered with sweet and savoury items and interspersed with flower petals, preserves and tiny pots of salt can stretch for metres, but, even her portable picnic packs make one giddy with anticipation. 

Harrison’s exposure to art, architecture, history and food comes from years of working as a travel agent. It was during an exploratory trip to Mallorca that she first tasted serrano ham paired with melon. “It was orgasmic,” she says of the unexpectedly satisfying sweet-and-salty combination. “I had never had anything like that before. From then on, I just couldn’t get enough of trying different foods.” 

World travel may have opened her eyes to extraordinary experiences, but even as a youngster, Harrison was intrigued by design and presentation. 

“At [age] five, I was moving food around on my plate to make it look pretty. The melon and ham pairing was a life-changing event for me. After I moved to Canada, I did a display with cheese, meat and condiments on a wooden board and added some subtle nuances to give it an 18th-century Baroque vibe. People loved it. It was very artistic—and that was how Art of Charcuterie was born.” 

The masterful blending of art and food separates Harrison from the crowd. It’s a process she compares to painting a picture. The flowers, the vintage utensils, the tiny pots of preserves and handwritten notes are the extras that take her displays to another level. “Where certain colours go, the depth, the layering; even the placement of a knife and how it’s angled ignites a response from me. It doesn’t matter if no one else notices. I know it’s there.” Tiny, fresh-picked peas. Purple sprinkles of lavender buds. Little pops of colours like gems reveal themselves as you slowly make your way down the line. It’s a treasure hunt of the most delicious kind.

Harrison’s work not only looks beautiful, it tastes beautiful, too. The proof is in the grass-fed cured meats and the artisanal cheese like the Brebirousse d’Argental, a sheep’s milk cheese from Lyon that Harrison loves to use because “it travels on your palate.”

Feeding people makes Harrison happy. “When I see a table ravished, those long hours of preparation disappear. I love seeing people excited about food. It’s our common link. We all want to connect, and food can make that happen.” 

If you find yourself standing before an Art of Charcuterie masterpiece, take the photo (everyone does), but then, dive in—with your fork, of course. Be the first one. Go for the figs. Find the gooey cheese; slather it on bread and top it with honey. An odd pairing perhaps, but try it. You never know, it just might change your life. 


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