The chef places the final splash of color on the platter. Parsley green and radish red (spiraled) meet, greet and mingle on the southwest outskirts of the pecan lamb and dandelion reduction. After a brief stop on the way to the dining room to cast a partially jealous glance at his former lover who, at that moment was seating the president of an east coast salad firm, the waiter delivered the masterpiece(s). The entrée(s) lay quietly on the table. Flanked by a squad of appetizers and a demi-squad of minor salads, bisques, snacking breads, beverages cold and hot, utensils designed for every manner of attack, these dishes prepared to be experienced by the table folk. Soups, insolent in their desire to make a vivid impression, steam anxiously and struggle to be eaten first. Although normally the most polite of the buffet’s inhabitants, the duck grows tired of these early course histrionics and glazes angrily (what is referred to in French cuisine as Canard Mellieux Dire). What might have been a class-3 dining room disaster is averted by the quick-witted mints. They calm the duck (with the help of the orange sauce) and exemplify the elegance and virtue of waiting one’s turn.
A meal of this depth and breadth is certainly meant to be appreciated with purpose. “The intent of the participant must be at least present, even if one intends to be intent-free. Such is dining.”(Louis Garout, student of Giacomo Barticolli and famed restaurateur) A message is present in the glorious presentation of the meal, as well as its ingredients. Each flavor possesses the finest form of some slowly steeping metaphor. The texture of each sauce in turn brings the taster closer, in creamed increments, to the intent of the chef (whose name, ever singular, will abound with accents and hyphens). Does the manner of consumption affect this message? Can a diner, ignorant of the chef’s intent, so clumsily partake of the meal that its meaning is lost? Or, more tragically, is it possible for the master’s hand to fall upon other laps than those intended simply because a diner chose pepper rather than lemon and pepper on a salad? Does the milling technique affect the underlying message of the early courses—the prologue to the chef’s more perfectly developed ideas? Can a message other than that intended be correctly and undeniably obtained by the unorthodox diner, prone, as he is, to course mixing and hyper-modern utensil prancing?
Just as intent is pivotal in the consumption of the meal, so is it the cornerstone of preparation. Intent, solid, unquestioning intent, simmered, covered, stewed, stirred occasionally, with solid preparation must succeed in delivering the message intended. This is not to say that every meal prepared and consumed since the first cave-chap slapped a mammoth hock on a lightning struck tree has resulted in the revelation of universal truths to every lackey that laid teeth on it. Consider the following:
1. Every meal meant to be eaten carries with it the tacit message, “Food is meant to be eaten,” and
2. Cooking is predated by the notion of Nouveaux or Cicyphycian Cuisine, since tartars have been around much longer than heat-based preparation techniques.
Therefore, provided the diners are not feeding themselves via slingshot
or light artillery barrage, encasing the intended courses in layers of
unintended food, or storming the table with a reconstructed trebuchet
attempting to fell the entrees with Greek fire, the meaning will arise
naturally. This concept, the existence
of a solid core of meaning, extends beyond the culinary to the farthest reaches
of most artistic endeavors. (Indeed, one may safely say all artistic endeavors
if one refuses to discuss Jackson Pollack.) For example, according to the theories of
(name from castle book) the listener may divine the fullest intent of the
composer by fully understanding the melody, with a judicious sampling of the
other structures. A meal may be
understood (as was established during the Vichysoise