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Sunday, 20 December 2009

All in the imagination? Are food descriptions sexy?

I recently played a chef called Kim in the Lace Market Theatre's production of Festen, a controversial play. Although I didn't demonstrate any cooking on stage there was, as in any play, a suspension of belief for the period of time I was on stage. There was my character briefly alluding to chef type things; the stress of the household kitchen that made him take to drink heavily, the dishes, the language used - 'I've seen to the mains'  and reference to the lobster soup and his caring about the quality thereof.

I was also wearing chef's whites and had a visual attention to detail whilst acting in the assisting and supervision of the setting of the family table at the family celebration, catering for 20+ people. None of this was for real, yet for a momentary period of time it appeared real in the engagement of the theatre piece, from the audience's point of view. At some points there was real food on stage too to bolster the 'reality' of the piece.

Outside of the fictional world of the theatre and cinema, we too, read, in all manner of cookery books, magazines and blogs about the sensous nature of food and drink, mainly alluding to the senses; the smell described, the sounds described, the feel of things described. The question is, how much are we influenced by what we believe we see, hear or feel about the world of food and drink? Do we have to have already had the actual food experiences to get drawn into the description and believe it to be true?

Tonight, I am cooking a delicious aromatic Aberdeen Angus beef stew with herbs, organic vegetables (little firm and slightly elongated fresh and soily new potatoes, like Ratte but shorter , good tasting Chantenay French carrots and sugary sweet scented parsnips, petites pois and long French beans) and soft herby dumplings, destined to rise to the top of the stew. The meat is terrifically tender and smells fantastic as it lightly fries and bubbles on the oven top in twice pressed olive oil. The unctuous steam is filling the kitchen and drifting upstairs. It is so hot in here I'll have to open a window!

Soon I'll be adding some fresh picked field mushrooms that I collected at 5am this morning from a local farmers field; the dew still evident on the moist and pulpy flesh of these earthy delights back then. When I add the dumpling to the gently bubbling final mix I will be anticipating their warm flavours delighting my tongue and palate.

Can you taste these things in your mind? Are they exciting ingredients building towards an anticipation of the dish? Is food sexy?  If so, would food from abroad sound sexier?

Something to ponder over Christmas. xxx


feasting-on-pixels (terrie) said...

Joyeux Noël et une bonne nouvelle année...!

Tous mes voeux cher Phil et que cette nouvelle année t'apporte la SANTE et la prospérité.

Phil Lowe said...

Merci bien cher Therese Marie. A tu aussi.

French Fancy said...

It's words like 'unctuous', 'terrifically tender' and 'moist and pulpy' that gives reading about food that special je ne sais quoi. It's the same as watching Nigella do her thing. Yes, there is definitely something sexy about food.

Loved the photos of you in full dramatic flight. Tell me - how easy was it to learn your lines?

Anonymous said...

You've been in France enough to know how the French cooks "orgasme" over their food!

Bonnes Fêtes!

Phil Lowe said...

FF:Well in this particular case (the line learning) I had a week, three actual rehearsals to learn three pages of slightly odd dialogue. Knowing the play's on the following week made me quite familiar with my bathroom. Being the consumate professional that I be it all went well. However I did go through my lines privately each night before the play started just to be sure.

Dedene: I think you have just put me off French food! lol

Dean said...

The language used to describe food is partly what makes the meal in a restaurant or when buying food in the shop even, For example Tender topside of beef slowly braised in a rich meaty sauce frozen at its best is better than cooked sliced beef in gravy quick frozen.
They may be identical but i would rather go with the romance of the first lol.
I must be an advertisers dream customer !