Early morning, hot coffee, flipping through a food magazine and I noted some food-porn pictures of glorious edible artwork served at some of the nation’s best restaurants. Really, looked like the kind of stuff that people always say, “it looks too good to eat.” I’d be afraid to eat some of them, afraid in the same way I’d be afraid to to touch a painting in a gallery to check out the texture. These chefs go to great lengths to display perfection, using tweezers and paint brushes, sometimes creating food that doesn’t look real, other times putting something that seems casual and random but is actually choreographed chaos.
And then there was the picture of a roasted maple-miso salmon head (this was in Bon Appetit), adorned only with a few sliced radishes and scallions, a dusting of sesame seeds and a brush stroke of white sauce and a few dots of red (each of those last two might taken a little too much thought, but you get the idea). Bold. How dare a chef put such food on a plate? The outright balls of it! The audacious, mad genius!
Somehow, that picture reminded me of a trip to Paris, 10 years too long ago, when after trying this pretentious restaurant and that, we stumbled on a bistro and after a few glasses of wine, I found myself facing down a bowl filled with incredibly rich and simple lentils topped with a pork shank. Bread on the side. A jar of grainy mustard on the table. More wine. That was it, in all of its enlightened simplicity.
So I’ve been thinking about differences this morning, differences between simplicity and complexity, chaos and order, overrated and underrated, boldness and subtlety. For example, Fred Gwynne was funny and bombastic and over the top in “The Munsters,” but he was controlled, understated and far superior in “The Cotton Club.”
Are flaming Thai Bird Chiles really better than jalapenos, or just hotter? Is truffled lobster mac-and-cheese better than a grilled lobster with lime and butter? Is a short rib/brisket/sirloin burger with foie gras, a fried egg, edible gold leaf, guanciale and wine-braised ramps on a house-made pretzel roll better than a ground chuck burger with American cheese on a potato roll?
“Voodoo Chile” or “Little Wing?” “Born in the USA”or”Nebraska.” Buck Cherry or Jeff Buckley? The Jam or Pearl Jam?
“The Lords of Discipline” or “The Prince of Tides?” “Twilight” or “Dracula?” “The Beach” or “At the Shores?” “The Good and the Ghastly” or “Brave New World?”
Does any of this make sense, yes or no?