Monday, August 19, 2013

truffles anyone?

hendrick's gin, fresh blueberries, fizzy water
i've been reading jean-anthelme brillat-savarin's physiology of taste (or transcendental gastronomy). just his name should give you a bit of a taste of what a stuck-up, pretentious prat he is. and tho' i am largely skimming (what else can one do via an eReader? i can't take reading seriously unless i can scribble in the margins), i went back and forth between eye-rolling and being provoked to ponderous deep thoughts to the occasional actual (and thus no kittens killed) laugh out loud. because tho' he's full of himself, he is witty in a kind of 18th century aristocratic, truffle-scoffing sort of way.

just his quasi-scientific method alone is worth the read...listing and categorizing and hierarchizing what is essentially an exploration of the pleasures of eating and drinking. and oddly, much of it still rings true today.

he opens with a self-congratulatory mini biography, extolling his own virtues as a truly excellent man of taste and cultivation. i somehow picture him as a cross between ben franklin and george washington in appearance, which is odd, since he's french, but there you have it. he says that he was satisfied with the simplest meal one could set before him, if it was just prepared artistically (emphasis mine). that's actually quite pretentious, but i like it. and i subscribe to the notion that care should be taken with the food we eat on a daily basis (tho' it may not always resemble art (see recent attempt to make homemade pita bread)). and frankly, often the simplest food is the most artistic (think japanese). tho' i imagine that he would think the simplest meal should contain truffles (he waxes lyrical about them for nearly 7 pages). and really, truffles are delicious.

but my favorite bit is the section about thirst. because inevitably, he gets around to talking about alcohol. and as you know, i am practically a daily inventor of new cocktails (what? you didn't know? you should really come around more often.). so, without reading the whole thing, i hereby declare my favorite passage to be:
alcohol is the monarch of liquids, and takes possession of the extreme tastes of the palate. its various preparations offer us countless new flavors, and to certain medicinal remedies, it gives an energy they could not do well without.
alcohol as royalty with medicinal properties? let's drink to that.

* * *

an explanatory note: as you know, a group of us are taking advantage of the free course materials available through MIT and are taking a course together. (not for credit, just for fun.) we were interested in two courses and have managed to shuffle the syllabi and combine them - so that we are writing a cool eZine on the topic of food and culture as our end goal. we're just getting started and it's not too late to join us if that sounds appealing. this post represents our first assignment. if you'd like to join us, check out facebook group here, or leave me a comment and i'll gladly invite you.


celkalee said...

Great idea and a provocative challenge. I will enjoy your comments and conclusions from the sidelines this time.

will said...

... nobody knows the truffles I've seen but me.

helenplusthree said...

glad no kittens were killed..

Laura Doyle said...

Ha! I'm relieved to read of your eye rolling. I was a teensy bit scared that I would be the only one of our group inclined to roll eyes (which first happened for me at the dialogue between the author and friend as friend persuades author to publish the book based on how clever and wise he is). But I also had moments where I gazed off for a spell, thinking more deeply on something I hadn't considered. I find old writing styles difficult to focus on but skimming proved a sufficient remedy. I'm looking forward to more of this.