Thursday, August 5, 2010


Composition isn't only something visual. There is composition of textures, of tastes, of aromas... what works with what? While dealing with visual art, composition can be easily defined and understood; does an object or field successfully define a context or arrangement, and how does it do it? does it rely on the use of shape, colour, form and texture? does it appeal to the viewer and does it mean anything? 

While we might be able to consider the visual arrangement of a plate, this is not the kind of composition of food that I am talking about here. As shown above, dinner consisted of nice steaks, seasoned only with salt and pepper, a plain risotto flavoured simply with grana padano cheese and a simple spinach salad, which had shavings of the same cheese, but in raw form. These things, put together, made me happy. I felt content. Considering that what's on the plate is only a temporary arrangement, the memories of the eating experience are what lingered. The steak, risotto and salad formed a harmony: protein, gel and something of contrasting texture. 

LIke the composition of music, patterns of various elements make up the experience of the meal that is remembered after the fact. When you're listening to music, at any one static point, all you will hear is one or a few overlapped, layered elements. Sustain that static sound and you will get a headache, but when you unravel the elements and patterns, you will discern the various components that are composed to form the track or song. Similarly to music, each element in a meal or dish should stand on its own - the eater will try each element alone and then try various combinations. The intricacies of each of the elements should have markers that will relate to other elements. What I mean is that the interplay between the elements should have some aspects of balance as well as, at more minute scales, episodes of self-referenciality.

So is composition necessary or vital? To me, it is. I can't go to a restaurant any more and order one dish by itself. I need the variety, the complexity of the eating experience in which i traverse some kind of journey. When i say complexity, I do not mean that 10,000 different elements should be put on one plate, but rather it relates to the clarity and independence of each of the elements. Each element should be prepared on its own merits. The meat should be cooked perfectly, the risotto should be just slightly al dente and the salad should be crispy and fresh. Now, these are all elements that are naturally well coordinated. But imagine a dish made of potatoes, for instance. I would try to express the natural flavours in its various forms: I would think about how I can put together various textures and tastes that would complement each other. Out of the potato, how can i create instances of mushiness, crunchiness, glassy states, greenness (raw flavour), and how would I put them together? This process indicates my thoughts about the ingredient(s) I am using. Otherwise, if i were to have a course of small dishes, each of which are focused on a theme ingredient, such as potatoes, how would i distinguish each plate so that it is remember in the sequence that it was presented in? how would i form the beginning, middle and end of the experience? this is the consideration that goes into planning a meal.

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