Friday, February 22, 2008

My First Taste of Life

Do you remember the first time you had a taste of your favorite dish? Maybe that perfect spaghetti, with a rich and meaty homemade tomato sauce. Or maybe that unforgettable piece of pizza topped with pepperoni, rich, creamy cheese, and a crust as close to perfection as 3.14 is to Pi. How about the silky, smooth and luscious piece of cake, freshly baked, with a scoop of your favorite ice cream? Or the satisfaction of Mom’s home cooking after eating cafeteria food all semester?

I remember…

The first time I truly ate
tiramisu. I had ingested it prior, but never truly ate it. This Tuscan treat was born in Siena. The occasion – a visit by Grand Duke Cosimo de'Medici III, in whose honor the concoction was dubbed zuppa del duca (the "duke's soup"). The erstwhile duke brought the dessert back with him to Florence, and although some suppose Tiramisu was the favorite of Venice's courtesans who needed a "pick me up" (the literal translation of "tirami-su"), its name evolved from the duke’s soup and today we can find tiramisu almost everywhere in Italian restaurants (and some local bakeries).

This particular specimen was from
The Palm, an upscale steakhouse in New York. As soon as my fork cut into it, I cosmically sensed this was going to be special.

I raised the piece to my face and blissfully caught a whiff of the mocha infused in the crème.

The lady fingers melted in my mouth, exploding with flavors of bitter chocolate and coffee.

The burn of Kahlua and rum lightly singed my nostrils.

The textures of the pastry and custard washed over my tougue – silky, smooth, elegant, sophisticated.

I was in love.

This dynamic piece of food, prophetic in its effect on me, truly demanded attention from the eater, beckoning me to pay full attention to every glaze, whip, whisk and movement the calculated chef performed to bring to life a vivid and imaginative interpretation of this iconic dish. Inspiration incarnate.

And so began my journey to true understanding of a work of art. Simply put, inspiration translating into details. Sartorialists have their accessories, foodies have their spices, musicians have their staccatos, artisans have their brush strokes, etc. So many dissimilar manifestations all come from one place – inspiration.

I triumphantly found the words to describe this feeling while
watching a friend’s father play piano at Carnegie Hall. I was so graciously asked to attend the showing, and sat with a few of his close friends in the audience. The stage, empty save a few chairs, music stands, and a stately grand piano placed center stage. This, ashamedly, being my first time in the historic music hall, I sat back and followed the crowd’s behavior as any well socialized sophisticate would do in a foreign arena. A hush befell the crowd as the orchestra took their positions, gently stroking and tuning their instruments as a warrior prepares his tools for battle.

Enter the pianist, a tall silver haired man with an upright gait and effortless stride. The musicians began playing. Notes intertwined with sound, birthing harmony, and soon I found myself attentively sitting forward harping on every octave played. The dancing of the piano over the melody played by the supporting orchestra, and later the collusion of a full orchestra to play a modern symphony piece made me realize just how amazing life can be when one appreciates the details. I recognized the happy peep of the flute, the sultry oboe, the playful clarinet, the majestic French horn, the pluck of the violin, the pulse pounding reverberation of the bass drums…

Suddenly I realized I had been whisked away into an all too familiar feeling. It is the feeling I get when I taste a commingling of rosemary, sage, thyme, chicken, cheese and a pinch of black pepper; the wave of elation I ride when my palette explodes from the mixing of a fine rose with a spicy garlic and onion sauce; the excitement in realizing that I can detect the subtleties of a hollandaise sauce or the berry taste of a scotch aged in a sherry cask; the fulfillment of creating a beautiful cake with a sweet and fluffy icing washing over me; the appreciation of a well marinated steak, a finely crafted crème brule – all works of art deserving of the Louvre or the Orsay.




Thank you

-The UE

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