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The Table Comes First: Family, France and the Meaning of Food

The Table Comes First: Family, France and the Meaning of Food - Adam Gopnik “In cooking you begin with the ache and end with the object, where in most of the life of the appetites---courtship, marriage---you start with the object and end with the ache.”Do you see why I love Adam Gopnik? He can take the simplest of activities---like cooking, for example---and he can find great wisdom there. Half the time I don’t understand what he’s talking about as I’m reading along; it’s only later, when I’m looking over his words again, that his thoughts become clear to me.Here’s another example of Gopnik’s wisdom that often goes over my head in a first reading, truth that is wiser than simple information about cooking and eating: “It seems to me that the real spirit of localism---the thing most worth taking from it---is the joke: the playful idea of the pleasure of adventure, the idea, at the heart of most aesthetic pleasures, that by narrowing down, closing up, the area of our inquiry, we can broaden out and open up the possibilities of our pleasures.”And not only does he find deep wisdom in simple activity, but he shares his ruminations with a cleverness that few essayists display:“Yes, of course, everybody’s recipe is someone else’s recipe, with the exception of those few rare new things that someone really did invent….But there is a recipe that has, so to speak, through suffering become yours, unlike those that you have simply copied out of a book. We recognize the concept of sweat equity in recipe writing: if you have labored nightly over a stove in a restaurant kitchen cooking the thing, then you can write it down, even if its origins lie ultimately not in your own mind but in someone else’s cooking.”“The good food of twenty-five years ago always looks unhealthy; the good food of fifty years ago always looks unappetizing; and the good food of a hundred years ago always looks inedible.”“On the other hand, or in the other fork….”And beneath his wisdom and his cleverness, Gopnik shares little tidbits of the craft that help us all:Gopnik suggests that everything is better by adding a little saffron and cinnamon or bacon and anchovies. He also shares the surprising truth that good cooks either go very hot or surprisingly cold. They have time.