Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Better Understanding

Today before coming to work I was reading an article in an old Saveur magazine by Thomas McNamee. In it he was recounting an internship he took through an organization called L'Ecole des Chefs that helps get passionate amature cooks into some of the top kitchens in France and elsewhere in the world to spend a week or so cooking and learning. He was lucky enough to spend his time in a couple of Paris' best restaurants. I would like to share the ending paragraph of the article because I think it does such a wonderful job of summing up my feelings towards those who cook at the highest levels and follows up what I was trying to understand in my last post. He writes, "It comes down to this: I used to deem Tuscan cooking the best. 'A thing on a plate' was my aphorism for it; let the ingredients speak. Now I know that I was confusing good cooking with artistry. Now I think that a hundred-dollar lunch is a deal. In my internship, I didn't learn how to make puff pastry or master Six Secretes of the Great French Chefs. I learned that bringing to cooking the rigor and passion and limitless labor of the artist can transform food into an experience as deep and memorable as that of more enduring works. I learned that doing it demands a life spent doing it. Great art is always expensive, always rare, always oblivious to the injustices that make it possible. The fact that these astonishing meals disappear into one's experience of them, in fact, gives them a unique power rooted in mortality: The coucou de Malines die and are made glorious for our pleasure, and in doing so they disappear. Like them, we shine, if we're lucky, and then we die."

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