Curious, food, change, a moment contained
by H Lamar Thomas on Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 10:15pm
Repetition of the same, culture to food, the fun is creating trends, bad part is breaking them, worst part about trends is that by the time they are a presence the bland repetition has taken hold and what was bold is plasticized and reduced to imitation. Constant influx of change & progression, like soul to fire, keeps this regeneration going so that it is electric and evolving. Sameness, imitation, becomes a reduced thing rather than evolving. Boring. You get a smile and a slice of what has become lifeless and exists on the palate as cardboard to a tree. It ends up in chains, nationalized and Applebied/Chilied/ where the publicity is greater than the product. The schools pump out body after body unable to produce in a pressurized environment but fully capable of using the catch words of a kitchen or other workplace. Having an attitude does not necessarily express having skills and creativity. There is an alarming sense of “reductio” occurring that takes for granted the palate and expertise of a dining public. I see chain restaurants as the enemy. In a world of creation and destruction I think they do more harm than good. We do not have to like something because we are told we have to like it. We explored the world, built civilizations, brought together foods and ingredients unheard of before exploration and chance was taken, melded languages and people, traveled the face of the moon and of the genome out of adventure, science and curiosity. There is a safety in sameness, it is what makes for iconic cuisines and dishes, but it takes creativity and the daring to break free of the mold in order to design hits and misses, icons and phantoms.
You eat something and don’t like it, then are told that something must be wrong with your palate, that perhaps your tastes are not educated. I have seen some people even become angry when one does not like a dish or cuisine. We are supposed to have “tastes”. The stagnation is what makes this mummification of food movements happen. People become too secure in what was once a dynamic. Nothing wrong with steak and potatoes, but there is if it is not prepared in a delicious and journeyman way. We all get hung up on a few things and that is what gives us comfort food. Comfort food comforts because it gives a sense of warmth and familiarity. But if it is poorly prepared or doused with preservatives then it becomes the antithesis of comfort. A perfect biscuit is a thing of everlasting delicious beauty. The wheel has been invented, we just need to keep spinning it, pushing it beyond safe corners and back out into the open. No need to have the same aggressive ingredient(s) throughout a menu, but there does need to be a balanced way of using the ingredients at hand so that the diner does not become bored or jaded by sub par experiences. Want to know a culture? Study its breads and doughs.
Food reflects a society. As the Great Recession continues to throttle our economies the world of cuisine is held in check. When times are good great cuisines flourish, when the times decline our cuisines do so as well. Great food does not have to be expensive. It’s OK that there is a breathing time, but if it goes on too long then we strangle the greatness out of a dish or cuisine.
I am thinking on the page here. Since I am a Chef and a writer, and that I am driven by an insatiable curiosity and desire for great dishes I am concerned. It keeps me wondering about the state of food in these unstable times. If we are to pinpoint something that expresses the zeitgeist of our times by way of food, then what would that thing be? The first for me is that we fully and dynamically utilize local farming, ranching and support sustainable seafood harvesting. Second, that the food is prepared well and it defines the restaurant, that it is the concept not the mirror of the concept. Sincerely. Look at it without irony or prearranged jaded-ness. As an example, we have an almost Platonic ideal of what a hamburger is, so how is that essence best represented? (I started thinking about this after an episode of Parks And Recreation actually! and there was a theme about the best burger)