The Point Of The Simple

The French gourmet Curnonsky expressed this with his simple motto:

“Great Cuisine is when things taste of what they are.

Above all keep it simple”.

Simplicity is deceptive.

You may ask what’s wrong with complexity? Good question, and the answer is that nothing is wrong with it except the question presumes a conflict where there really isn’t one. A false dichotomy. Simplicity is often just an organized expression of complexity.

What could be more simple than the flight of a bird? As elegant and natural as the wind itself. And yet hidden in this wondrous act are complex forms refined through a million years of evolution. Each feather, unimaginably light, strong and complicated. But because the entire motion is harmonious and the effort concealed in silent grace, we see the flight of a bird as simple.

So it is with our food. The complexity we seek is already present in so many foods that it’s rarely necessary to do more than enhance it with a very light touch. And when we create combinations of great complexity it’s always, like the bird, with harmony and a common aim. When that bird lays an egg, it’s created one of the most mind bogglingly complex things on earth, but it’s wrapped in a form so pure, so simple, that it is the perfect symbol of the concept.

How To Be Simple

When faced with a blank canvas, the first responsibility of the artist, like the Doctor, is: Do no harm. Whether to a painting, a poem or a symphony, nothing should be added which doesn’t make it better.
The same applies to food and its preparation.
Better can mean more complete nutritionally, or it can mean more appealing in flavor or texture, or it can mean more sale-able.
So first let’s narrow the definition. A slice of bread can often be made better by the addition of another food. A soup can often be made better by a vegetable, or a spice. But in either case there will come a moment when a further addition would diminish the whole; would be a step backwards.
Simplicity is not an arbitrary goal. Despite the infinite complexity of existence, it’s a goal of all life. In the preparation of foods we need to honor the essences of the things we eat. Unlike Art, which exists in the imagination, food is bound eternally to our biology, it enters the body corporeally and is experienced through the senses. The job of food is to sustain us, and the function of ‘cuisine’ is to make this sustenance as appealing as possible.

Why Simplicity Is So Complex

In its natural state, a Tomato contains over three hundred flavor elements. Simple forms are built from complex systems. Few things are truly simple, but they may still be expressed simply. E=MC2, certainly not a simple concept, and yet its refinement to five characters demonstrates elegance and purity of form. Elegance, a word so often mistaken for a sort of classist exclusion, is the essence of good taste. But true elegance is important not because it is expensive or rare, but because it is simple

The Architecture Of Taste

Tastes and smells form a matrix, a structure which rises like a cathedral, or like a flower. But it also exists in time, like music. The structure, the mass of taste comes to the palate and enters the imagination through the senses. As we absorb and assimilate flavors, aromas, their transformative effect goes far beyond their ability to fill our stomachs or nourish our cells, they bond with the imagination and enhance all experience. But it’s not random or arbitrary. The shape of our tastes is formed both by need and by desire.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s