I remember being horrified the first time I met a person who openly admitted that they considered food to be a hindrance to their day.
The concept that food brought them no pleasure or satisfaction was unfathomable to me. Possibly the most famous man in history to understand this relationship was Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. He published Physiologie du goût (The Physiology of Taste) in 1825 and he, all those many years ago, pondered the need that some of us innately have for food.
This book would be Brillat’s final homage to his relationship with food, as his death would follow only two months after publication. This relationship with gastronomy would result in a cult following of others, trying to explore their own relationship with the art of eating. When you take into consideration the elements of what it is to eat; to smell, to see, to taste, eating is an art form, of which only some of us can aspire to master, as Brillat did.
Scent could possibly be the most important element of enjoying what we eat. The warm smell of a roast chicken permeating the house can bring on extreme feelings of hunger and anticipation, the smell of a loaf of bread baking has the power to bring a family to the table. Smell, unlike all other senses, has the ability to preempt what is to come and to what degree we will enjoy it.
Colour and variety are the most important elements of a true meal. A platter of thinly sliced heirloom tomatoes representing every colour of the rainbow garnished with torn basil and grassy green olive oil could be compared to a fine work of art. Colour invites focus to what we are eating and stimulates the brain whilst we imagine the taste of what is to come.
If the elements of smell and colour have not already converted you to a life of enjoying food then appreciating the art of taste will. Once food passes your lips it must speak for itself, it must live up to the anticipation created by the other senses. Being brave with the use of salt and pepper could solve most issues of insipidness. Salt is one of the wonders of the world, it holds its own unique taste. Black sea salt flakes on the top of a thinly sliced rare ribeye can highlight the earthiness of the meat, French fleur de sel through your favourite caramel sauce will give a depth of flavour you never imagined.
The art of eating is one of many elements requiring passion and a dedication to mastering. Brillat worked on his relationship with food for over 25 years before he put it into words. His understanding of what food means to mankind was centuries before his time and yet has never been more relevant. Taking the time to master the art of eating will result in a true love for food and eating alike.
‘Tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are.’ Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
SAFFRON SAVARIN CAKE WITH POACHED PEARS
Saffron Poached Pears 6 pears –pealed, halved and cored
Syrup 1 ½ cups caster sugar Zest and juice of a lemon 1 pinch of saffron 1 tablespoon honey 1 vanilla bean, spilt down the centre 1 cinnamon stick 80ml white port (or substitute)
Method Bring all the syrup ingredients to the boil and leave to reduce for 10 minutes. Add the pears and turn the heat down to a simmer cover with a lid and cook until tender. Remove the pears and continue to reduce the syrup down by half.
Savarin Cake 10g dry yeast 2 tablespoons warm milk 250g plain flour 30g caster sugar Pinch of salt 1 teaspoon vanilla extract Zest of one lemon 4 eggs 80g butter cubed
Method 1. 2 litre round bunt tin, greased with butter and dusted with flour 2. Place the yeast, milk, flour, salt, vanilla, lemon zest and two eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer. 3. Using the cake paddle mix on a low speed mix until combined. 4. Add the remaining two eggs, one after the other allowing time for the mixture to come back together. 5. Increase the speed to medium and add the butter a cube at a time, until the mixture starts to come away from the sides. 6. Leave to prove for one hour or until doubled in size. 7. Transfer the mixture to the greased bunt tin and leave to prove for a further 30 minutes. 8. Bake at 180 degrees for 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. 9. Remove from the tin and place on your final serving platter. 10. Drizzle with the saffron syrup until soaked. 11. Dress the cake with the poached pears and serve with cream.