Enhancing the Pleasure of Food

This quote from Michael Laiskonis' latest blog entry entitled Tiny Dots captures my own view towards food and what I love about fine dining.

"It ultimately
comes down to refinement, an idea, which like everything else, might
mean different things to different people. But it continues to evolve.
And for better or worse, fashions and trends will continue to push us
in this direction or that. In the end, I do believe that good food is
good food, but if it looks amazing, the same dish just might taste that
much better.
As long as the element doesn't detract from the
composition, every drop of reduction or smear of puree is valid. Maybe
my quest is not ultimate minimalism, but rather a sense of delibrate
intent, making the right choices, and making everything count. And if
those artfully placed dots of sauce make the dish better, then it's all
good. And if they don't, well, I guess that's ok too."

The same notion applies to other enhancements of food. I enjoy the infusion of humor and cleverness into a dish as well as the creative use of technique and ingredients so long as the dish ultimately works on a taste level. While taste is paramount, the more all of the senses and the intellect are satisfied, the greater the dish. Ultimately, a dish is great or not depending upon how it touches upon our emotions. Certainly not all emotions are necessarily positive. For purpose of this discussion I only refer to  emotions that reflect enhancement of pleasure. Emotions such as fear, disgust and revulsion, while valid and may in some circles be sought after, do not apply here. Whether a dish has that extra positive element because it is cooked by a loved one or because it elicits memories of dishes cooked by loved ones such as what the critic experienced in Ratatouille or because it touches us in other ways, the best dishes always involve an emotional component. That emotion may be based on the past or it may be entirely of the moment. Whichever, it leads to a finer appreciation of a dish. If a dish does not elicit pleasurable emotion it is at best fuel.

As for Michael's blog, I strongly recommend it. He provides thoughtful analysis and insight into his fascinating world.

This entry was posted in Culinary Blogs, Food and Drink, Musings and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Enhancing the Pleasure of Food

  1. I totally agree on the “emotional component” embodied by food that Michael writes about. I would say 90 percent of the time I cook or dine out, my choices are very influenced by the “emotional component” that I happen to crave at that moment.

  2. I totally agree on the “emotional component” embodied by food that Michael writes about. I would say 90 percent of the time I cook or dine out, my choices are very influenced by the “emotional component” that I happen to crave at that moment.

  3. I have been going by the philosophy that the better it is presented the more appetizing it becomes. The old notion that perception comes from projection holds true. I really enjoy your posts.

  4. I was wondering if you would ever be interested in becoming a featured publisher with Foodbuzz.com? If so please conctact me at lizstambaugh@yahoo.com

  5. I’m a little confused…are you saying that pleasure is an emotion? I’d thought of it as a sensation.
    I do agree that the more senses that involved, the more satisfying the experience. Which is why some fried fish eaten on a cliff in Greece will always be one of my top ten meals, but if I had the same dish in a little restaurant in NYC would it even be memorable?
    Which then dovetails into my wondering how do people critique food if the pleasure is based on emotion, and emotion comes from past experience?

  6. John Sconzo says:

    Judith, you are not confused at all. Pleasure is a sensation. This sensation can be effected by emotion and by extension associations that trigger emotions. If that fish in NYC triggers memories of that cliff in Greece, that will elicit a positive emotion and enhance the pleasure of the same dish in the little restaurant. Emotion does not always rely on past experience, though, at least not directly.A totally new experience elicits various emotions in its own right. That is one of the things that makes elBulli as much fun as it is. Another is that it triggers emotions based upon past experiences, dishes and flavors in contextually new and surprising situations such as one’s first experience of a “spherical olive.”
    Past experience is important though in evaluating a critique of food. How many tastes are “acquired” and based upon cultural context. Chances are a gourmet fluent and totally absorbed in all the esoteric cuisines of China may not necessarily find agreement on whether or not a dish is really, really good with someone raised in a western culinary model unless either is particularly adventurous outside of their usual comfort level. That comfort level is based upon past experience.I don’t think one can really be totally objective when it comes to food and still really enjoy it. That is one reason, I think, that there is so much disagreement amongst food critics when it comes to various restaurants.

  7. As a wine instructor once told me, “You are the sum of what you have tasted.”
    Educated discourse is a marvelous and useful tool.

  8. Alanna says:

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

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