Saturday, August 9, 2008
best in show
Food is a lovely thing. On more than one occasion--embarrassingly more--the stoop-shouldered slope of a bell pepper's top will swoon me to the point that I'll be late for work. Literally late for work. It turns out that I'm helpless in admiration of the evolutionary tactics that nature has employed in order to make what's edible appealing. Lustrous, yellow-skinned summer squashes, eggplants thick and fleshy, ebony with ripeness, garlic bulbs puckered from heat and oil into tiny brown kisses. The feast is entirely visual before it is edible.
In my perfect world, eating would always be composed of these three parts: careful preparation, ensuing admiration, and then celebratory consumption. It seems sadly more often than not that food is lost beneath the noise and traffic of restaurants; it moves effortlessly into our awareness and is just as easily swept back out again, a carousel of aroma with the occasional nutritive benefit. The diner entertains no relationship to the individual ingredient and the vibrant space between kitchen and table is plunged into darkness.
I take great enjoyment from the private illumination of this realm. To know how something smells, appears, and feels before it is coaxed into relationship with a half dozen others of its kind. As a result, I know that a lot of what I cook seems unforgivably dull at first glance. The eggplant pictured below was simply sliced in half and baked with garlic cloves at 350 degrees until it was soft. The squash was sliced, layered, coated in olive oil and fresh herbs, and then baked as well. The cross-section of fresh pepper above just happened to catch the light coming through my window when it was on its way to my mouth. You see? It's not that I'm eating plainly! It's that I am partaking in a prolonged and thorough study of food appreciation. Huzzah huzzah!