Sunday, May 17, 2009

Let's Talk about SEX, Baby.....

Oh, do I have your attention now? Cool.

While this particular post won't be about SEX, per se, I wouldn't suggest reading it out loud to your youngster unless you plan to answer questions that pertain to more than food.

I have a bit of a problem with considering food and cooking as art. I don't wake up every morning scribbling down every food epiphany that I had that night. I just don't and I make fun of people who say that they do. You see, there isn't a whole lot of ART in my world. I don't think of composed plates or food as art. That's not to say that a ton of thought doesn't go into what makes it to the menu and on the plate. A TON of thought goes into it. I just don't think of it in terms of art. 9 times out of 10 'art food' doesn't taste good at all. It's simply there to gratify the ego of the chef and look like it should hang on the wall of an art gallery. Awesome. Those folks should move to Paris, cut their ears off and paint away.(as an aside, when said folks get to Paris they should make sure to save their euros from painting tourists on the street and get a reso. at Le of my personal favorites)

I think of food in terms of sex. Again, as with other posts, stay with me. Ever held a sun-warmed peach in your hand and thought if you squeezed even a little bit, you'd smash the peach? Do you remember the feeling of biting into that peach?.....warm sun hitting your hair, soft flesh giving beneath pull of your teeth, sweet and flowery juices running down your cheeks. You don't even want a paper towel to wipe off your face. You're content to sit and revel in the beauty of this perfectly ripe, warm peach and all its glory running down your face. Your eyes might roll back in your head. You might black out for a second. This is sexy food.

Another example, please? You got it. How about a steaming bowl of fresh tagliatelle pasta dressed with a lamb shoulder ragu? The first bite of the pasta is a combination of toothsome, egg-laden pasta swirling around in your mouth, coating your tongue and throat. Next comes the earthy, funky lamb ragu, spiked with salty anchovy, sweet tomato, olives and fresh grated lemon peel. The smell rises up toward your nose and instantly transports you to another place. You're not sure where, but you're happy to be there. Each bite of pasta and ragu conspires to put you in the 'eyes rolling in the back of your head'/'pig in shit' place. There's a romance to the pasta and a bold, raw sexiness to the ragu that when put together create amazing music in your mouth.

Go on? Okey dokey. Pierre Herme macaroons. I could stop there, but I won't. Eating one of these macaroons was like, well............Did you ever know the chubby kid in middle school?(Remember, I never self-identify in my blogs.....never) You know the kid. He was the one with his shirt slightly pulled out of his pants because he doesn't like to tuck it in, sitting on the bleachers during the dances desperately trying to look at the girls, but never wanting to make eye contact. Biting into that first Pierre Herme macaroon was like the feeling that chubby kid got when the prettiest girl in school asked him to dance with her.(I honestly have no idea how that feels, I'm guessing here) Sheer, unadulterated bliss. However, biting into the white truffle macaroon was a lot like getting on to the dance floor and stepping all over her delicate size 5 feet. DOINK! Snap back to reality, chubby. The cool thing is there are many more macaroons, so you can have that blissful feeling over and over again. That is......until you get back to the States. They don't ship. Which, incidentally, is like dating an exchange student who goes home after a year and then the best you can do is be 'pen pals'. Whatever.

I could go on, but I won't. You see, I think food and the act of eating well is sexy. I just do. When I'm working on a concept for a dish, I always go back to the idea of 'what does the food want?' Not 'what do I want to do to the food'. That's for those artistic types who I hope move to Paris and paint for a living. It's pointless to take a piece of average at best protein and 'transform' it into something that looks like cold cuts. Where's the sexiness in that? Oscar Mayer already has the market cornered on that one and it's not 'inventive'.

There is a romance to being in a perfectly adorned dining room, gazing at your dining companion and being flat out pampered.(I'm not even going to touch how wine can enhance the evening and I'm not talking about getting drunk.(remove mind from gutter)) Much has been written about the 'death of fine dining'. After huge amounts of thought, beer and consternation, I've come to this conclusion. It's bullshit. Maybe the model needs to be tweaked, but I think people will always want the restorative nature of great restaurants. Maybe we have too many average restaurants now and some of them need to go away. I don't argue with that. However, I will continue to posit that people will always want to be pampered. They will always want the total package. Food, service and ambiance. Consistently done.

Step back and think about your food and what you eat. You might even think it's sexy. Any food can present a sensual experience; it's all in how you source, prepare and present it. What does the food want?????? Maybe nothing at all......


ostman said...

Just for the sake of two way communication, I'd argue with you a bit.

Not with your idea that food is sexy, which I can understand completely, but the thought that what you do isn't art.

I understand your concern about food as solely visual art, or forcing something upon the food that isn't in the food's best interest. You're right; that doesn't necessarily make wonderful food.

Perhaps we are using different definitions of art, though. Here's one:

- the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, producing works to be appreciated for their emotional power.

You certainly have creative skills and utilize ingredients imaginatively. What you spoke of in terms of the "sexy" nature of great food speaks to its emotional power!

[HOARFROST] said...

With you all the way, but also in the "sorry, big fella" camp when it comes to your definition of art...YOU can construct no venn diagram called "art" where your food does not end up intersecting somewhere, most likely smack in the sexy little orifice that is front and center.

Besides, in a snoot-snouty, short-sighted, faux Parisian world, you have to make your own definitions, right? (Except for "sexy"--empirically sexy like a peach is not negotiable.)

I have always liked the word "art" with a lowercase a and wished it would catch on like Slinkies and modern sanitation (I love this theory, but must note a pathological aversion to applying this word to anything I do myself).
I had a ribald Chaucer professor in college who maintained that art should be accessible, and everyday, and that it is best-viewed as a medicine cabinet for us, not lofty but simply full of balms and salves--some of them pamper, some of them cure, some of them simply restore or sustain us.

Sustenance IS sexy--it's how you craft the definition, and sure, those we can all argue over. But the quickest way to settle an argument is to put something swoon-worthy in the mouth. What's the point of pretty food if it isn't truly exceptional in every other way?--You can't see with your mouth closed anyway.