To truly experience food one must experience it with all of the senses. I sit at the table with my eyes closed, inhaled slowly. The aromas completely envelop me. Such a heavenly smell heavy with the scent of cilantro, onion, chili peppers, tomatoes and corn. I take my first spoonful. The soup is so simple and yet all of the rich and full flavors make it complex. I feel myself transported to another place where the sun hangs heavy and hot in the afternoon sky and folk sit outside with cowboy hats low over their eyes. Locals shop at the farmer’s market nearby, which is filled with an abundance of colorful, fresh fruits and vegetables. The vivid red, green and golden-hued vegetables are so real in my imagined cowboy town that I feel I can reach out and touch them. However, my tastebuds force me to return to my tortilla soup with its rich, warm tomato goodness. Diced avocado on top with crushed tortilla chips and fresh pico de gallo, made with tomatoes, jalapenos, red onion, lime, cilantro and a hint of salt, accent my bowl. I take a sip of my margarita to wash it down. Sheer perfection.
What is it about food that makes me so happy? For me, it is important that the foods I eat look beautiful and be well made. It doesn’t matter if it is breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert or just a snack, I just love when a dish has a variety of balancing colors and flavors, it is made with quality ingredients and most important of all, imparts amazing flavor. It doesn't have to be fancy. It can be as simple as sliced apple with almond butter and a drizzle of honey. To eat and experience food is an art. A regular day can be transformed into a great day simply from eating a really delicious meal. Several weeks ago I found a new lunch café near my job. It was one of those funky clothing and knick-knack shops with a café inside it. The atmosphere was what drew me with its hip antiques, quirky furniture and trendy style. I ordered a falafel sandwich that came with a side salad. When the plate came out I was pleasantly surprised. The plate was not only beautiful to look at but it smelled delicious as well. The sandwich was cut diagonally and the two pieces were placed in an artistic pile with the salad to the side. The side salad consisted of arugula tossed with lettuce, pomegranate seeds, tomato wedges and roasted pumpkin seeds. (Seriously?) All of the flavors were fresh and delicious. That little café made my day! I walked back to the office in a great mood. The art here wasn't just that the café had really great food. It was obvious that the chef really took his, or her, time to make the dishes tasty AND beautiful. I’ve been back to this café since then and it was a successful second visit as well.
A few years ago I saw a great movie about food called Julie and Julia, which was about a woman named Julie who loved to cook. She made a decision to make every recipe in Julia Child’s cookbook during the course of a year. At the same time she wrote a blog about her experiences. The movie compared the two women and their relationship to food. They both loved to cook but it was also important to them how the dishes appeared and how it felt to enjoy the food with family and friends. Cooking and eating was not just an everyday occurrence for them. It was also an art.
I love to cook myself. When I lived in California one of my friends used to call me precisely when I had begun to cook. He had excellent timing, one might say. He would ask me what I was cooking and I would describe the dish to him. One day I was making an omelet with arugula and parmesan cheese, with a side of whole-grain, sunflower seed bread toasted and topped with real butter. He laughed and said that I was the only person he knew who had such a relationship with food. He thought it was strange that I described my cooking in such a flowery way but I think he actually liked to hear those descriptions. When one thinks about food in another respect other than just to “eat to live”, one begins to see how important every aspect and detail of food can be to living fully. It was a long time ago since I have spoken to this friend but I would like to think that I had a positive affect on him and his eating habits.
For some people, “eat to live” is their philosophy when it comes to food. They don’t care so much about how the food looks or even if it tastes especially good. But other people, like me, live by the philosophy that one must “live to eat”. I have a huge passion for cooking and eating and I feel that I express myself through food. I believe that there is an art to eating and experiencing food with all of the senses. One must observe the colors, the aromas, the flavors and the textures of food. Everything must be balanced. It is then that food becomes a real masterpiece. Cheers!