Cooking is perhaps the only artform that entices all five senses. Taste and touch are simultaneously engaged with the first bite. Sweet, savory, bitter, a spectrum of flavors stroke the tongue, while temperature and texture evoke other observations. The presentation of a dish entertains the eyes. Subtle garnishes not only enhance flavor, but provide a visual hint of what is to come. Even t he plate participates in the experience. A delicate, ceramic rice bowl versus a classic diner plate. And of course, the aromas! Five minutes before any dish is served, and your nose is already salivating.
Food is also very sensual. How seductive to bring something to your mouth that was touched by Chef just moments before? Recall the classic Japanese movie Tampopo. In one captivating scene, an egg yolk was passed from the mouth of one lover to other. The act is surprisingly mesmerizing.
But food isn’t just about sensuality. Food is also comfort. Dishes common in American cuisine such as meatloaf and mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and green bean casserole summon to mind thoughts of family and friends. Love through nourishment, etc. Proust’s almond madelines inSwann’s Way, the Peking duck dinner in A Christmas Story.
Further, unlike other artforms, food actively engages the participant. You don’t merely observe food. You digest it. It physically becomes a part of you. Regardless of whether or not the dish was a complete success or utter failure, food evokes a response. Pair food with wine, with music, with decor, with events even (think Super Bowl Sunday spreads and the significance of a wedding cake)…whatever the pairing, food serves to bring people together.
The ultimate goal of Urban Epicurean is to inspire the everyday chef to strive for just a little bit more. To add a dash of spice when none is called for, and to celebrate success and learn from failure. This column in particular, aims to showcase the role of food in art, culture and society.