Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Avant Barmecide Feast

At the height of sartorial refinement the Emperor had no clothes. The moral of the story can be fairly nuanced but the obvious one is to warn against excesses of vanity and conceit. Reading about avant cusine brings to mind a couple of stories and for different reasons. The Emperor's New Clothes and Barmecide's Feast

"I experienced this flavor epiphany with a ball of pumpkin seed oil, a liquefied olive and pouches of softened butter that floated in a potato skin consomme. By remaining intact and independent, these pouches provided spikes of richness that would not have been possible if the butter had merely melted into the soup."

In the future as avant cuisine challenges the imagination more, it may be possible to have satisfied hunger in the mind alone - the weight-watcher's dream come true. The menu would be about sights and smells. Emeril-like chefs would rhapsodize over essence of foie-gras, the air of mousse and other sensory delights that you will be served. You would still be expected to pay a king's ransom for the haute experience. Leading lights in the business are showing the way

All of this is exactly as Sara Dickerman of Slate cautions

"Historically speaking, such baroque food isn't the best indicator for a society's fate: Apicius wrote recipes for flamingo tongues and stuffed dormice shortly before Rome burned, and France's revolutionary deluge followed Louis XIV's marathon feasts by a mere few decades."

Aside - While on the topic of foie gras could not resist this amusing definition from Anthony Bourdain's book

FOIE GRAS: The fattened liver of a goose or duck. Unfortunately, an endangered menu item with the advent of angry, twisted, humorless anticruelty activists who've never had any kind of good sex or laughed heartily at a joke in their whole miserable lives and who are currently threatening and terrorizing chefs and their families to get the stuff banned. Likely to disappear from tables outside of France in our lifetimes.

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