Part of my MA research was about feeling the essence of objects and how a viewer of art can receive an echo of this essence of objects through art. This ‘essence’ isn’t just to be felt in the visual arts, it can be felt in poetry, literature, film, music and photography and many other creative expressions of feelings, emotions, memories or objects. Not all art has this essence. It is quite elusive. But when you feel it, you know it.
However, today it occurred to me, perhaps obviously but interestingly nonetheless, that this so-called essence isn’t just felt through the more immediate senses of sight and hearing. This ‘essence’ can be absorbed through the less obvious senses: taste (and even touch). Today, in particular, I felt the essence of ‘things’, for the first time in a long time, through my taste buds.
Most of us who think we know our way around a kitchen and what to do with a few herbs believe that we can turn basic food ingredients into something that tastes good, or even something that we want to eat for pleasure rather than just for for fuel. I believe that most people over a certain age and with a certain amount of knowledge and experience can create something I would want to eat. But a desire to eat is not the same as the essence. Today I realised that there are many levels of deliciousness and at the top lies the essence, which is the same essence that can be found in art, film, photograph, music or literature.
It is easy to make something taste good, good enough to want to keep eating it, and good enough to want to eat it again and again and again. However, the real talent of a cook is to be able to bring out the essence of the object, food, and facilitate the transference of that essence to the recipient of that food.
I felt the essence of food today at a delightful little country pub just outside Clithero. The pub in question is the Parkers Arms. I have been once before. But today, after a really good weekend, I was receptive to the essence and I definitely felt it. I have felt it before of course, but after two years or research, the notion of the essence is on my mind more than usual.
Starter: a red onion and beetroot tart with some creamy stuff, a damson, some lightly pickled stuff and some green drizzle stuff.
Main course: Lancashire hot pot and pickled cabbage
Afters: cheese and biscuits with chutney
Sounds delicious? It was more than delicious. It was divine. I won’t say it was an ‘explosion of the taste buds’ because it wasn’t. In fact, that’s my point. It didn’t explode, rather it created a wave of pleasure, a gentle yet profound wave. The taste of each individual mouthful was subtle yet flavoursome. Each was predictable yet surprising. And each was also smooth yet edgy. The reaction in me was akin to the sensual and mindful.
I am struggling to describe what happened today with words and I think it is that fact that makes me feel very strongly that the food I ate at the Parkers Arms, based on the way it was prepared, contained the ‘essence’ of which I am fascinated with.
There is more to the ‘essence’ than I thought and I wish that Jacques Deleuze could easily pop over to Clitheroe to feel it too.