“What’s It About?”

I’m throwing on my TLG hat for one second to share this beautiful “About” page I just came across:

The Art of Eating is about the best food and wine — what they are, how they are produced, where to find them (the farms, markets, shops, restaurants).

colored squareTradition.
More often than not, the best food and wine are traditional, created when people had more time and when food was more central to happiness than it is today. We look for the logic of geography, methods, and culture that make good food good — that give character and the finest flavor. We visit passionate growers to understand why some raw materials are so much better than others. We seek the most accomplished artisans to understand their methods. Their best products, rare as many are, still set the standards of excellence by which even mass-produced food and drink are judged. Besides superior foodstuffs, we seek exceptional time-honored recipes, the products of generations of cooks. Not that everything old is good. The Art of Eating is also about the new when it’s better.

colored squareSimplicity.
On the farm and in workshops and kitchens, what is treated least usually tastes best. Gentle, minimal treatment produces the clearest, fullest flavor. The best vegetables are in most cases the very freshest, not stored at all but cooked as soon as possible after they are picked. The best olive oil is wholly unrefined. The best hams are patiently dry-cured. The most delicate fresh cheese is made on the farm with raw milk, and the curd is hand-ladled into molds, so it is broken as little as possible. The most flavorful honey is not only unheated but still in the cells of the comb, sealed by the bees under wax. Grapes for the finest wine are pressed, and the maker interferes as little as possible with the natural process after that. In the kitchen, too, the best dishes are generally simple. In the words of the great French critic Curnonsky, “Cooking! That’s when things taste like what they are.”

colored squareA Sense of Place.
The best food and wine have a sense of place that comes from soil, climate, tradition, and all the local influences that as a group exist nowhere else. Certain varieties of plants and breeds of animals evolved under local conditions. (Some places, not only vineyards, are ideal for particular foods.) Local foodstuffs combined with local culinary skills and traditions create the typical flavors of a place. The food and drink in The Art of Eating are mainly French, Italian, and American. Subjects range from great bread in California and Paris to the best chocolate, the most delicate and aromatic olive oil, wines of the Loire Valley, the ideal roast for coffee, dry-aged steak, farm cheeses of Provence, gumbo in Cajun Louisiana, the food and wine of Tuscany, cloth-bound Vermont cheddar, pizza in Naples, the great blue cheese of Roquefort, the current state of food in Paris, and many other, often unusual topics.

I’m inspired both by its content and its writing, which is simple but specific, assertive yet somehow understated–and altogether highly evocative. It’s easy to toss around terms like “cloth-bound” and “dry-aged” without really believing in them and what they stand for, but I believe true conviction stands behind writing as strong as the kind found here, and it inspires me to experience and discover firsthand what makes the best foodstuffs the “best.”


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