Foodie Pseudery (28)
Although I usually cringe a little when chefs describe cooking as an art, there is part of me which understands exactly what they mean: cooking and baking can feel as creative as drawing, sewing, or writing. I’m not surprised, then, that a chef in San Francisco has developed what she calls ‘poetic culinaria’. This is a concept with the potential to be sublime, but which seems to be, at least in this fawning article in the Wall Street Journal, ridiculous.
Last month, [chef Dominique Crenn] was walking her boxer and two Chihuahuas in Buena Vista Park with a friend while they discussed an impending state ban on foie gras, pate made from the livers of force-fed geese and ducks. Ms. Crenn said she then spied a bird’s nest in a tree.
‘That’s it. I must begin again,’ without foie gras, she thought. It struck her that a dish, titled ‘Birth,’ using the remnants of her foie gras supply combined with a bird’s nest, would represent a new beginning.
On Saturday morning a week later, Ms. Crenn experimented with some elements for “Birth.” She dropped a purée of corn and melted foie gras fat into liquid nitrogen to create little frozen balls that looked like eggs. She also melted chocolate with porcini powder and streamed ribbons of the mixture into cold water to form thin branches.
While a team of five raced through chores, Ms. Crenn appeared in a deep calm as she recreated foie gras beads and chocolate ribbons. The moment she completed a task, she darted out of the kitchen with ninja-like alacrity, perhaps reflecting her 10 years of judo training, and returned with materials for a new task.
Juan Contreras, her 29-year-old pastry chef, immediately critiqued it, suggesting she should have used branches of salsify instead of chocolate. For a split second, Ms. Crenn’s girlish enthusiasm wilted, her deep-set eyes turned downcast, a flash of vulnerability that vanished as quickly as it came.
It’s always amused me how wildly the popular conception of the “poetical” differs from the real thing. I’m reminded of the time, a couple of years ago, when I was getting a haircut in western Massachusetts and the chirpy young woman who was administering it kept informing me that, qua “quantum physicist,” I was a True Poet (blah blah nature blah). I remember she tried to persuade me that a mullet was the most poetical of hairstyles and was disappointed I didn’t want one.
Ha ha ha ha! Oh I’m still laughing about the mullet as the most poetical of hairstyles.