Proust’s madeleine.

Right along with “food porn” and  “nom nom nom,” I’ve been hearing the term “pure flavor” thrown around a lot lately. But unlike the first two, I’ve given the latter more thought.

I’ve been thinking in particular about pure flavor and its relationship to things like merged flavors, and flavor pairing; distant cousins? Alas, to avoid getting lost in translation, the best way to express this is through analogy. Take, for example, the fact we are on the coast.

No, that’s not right.

We’re situated atop a pile of seaweed-covered rocks, with seagulls screeching and circling above, and the wind whisking salt water in our faces. See how evocative “the coast” is when its individual pieces are put together? That’s pure flavor.

Pure flavor. It’s that collection of data – the complete understanding of your surroundings – in the moment when it most matters. For a chef, it’s finding a flavor that starts on the tongue and takes over every crevice of your body from there. It’s a flavor that enters the mind, deep behind the brain, to the point that it becomes all you can think about. It must get put on a plate and be shared with others. I’ve experienced a few of these moments myself, I must say.

The precious thing about pure flavor is its ability to encompass something larger, something implanted in memory. Think about the best cup of coffee you’ve ever had. The finest glass of wine. Both are just one thing: one thing that unravels several parts (grassy cream, nuts / oak, cherry) and several memories (Sunday mornings on the porch / weekend getaways to the North Fork).

Pure flavor is a passport. When obtained for those lucky enough to possess, it can take you to anywhere you want to go and deliver all the sights, smells, and experiences you could have hoped for.

There is a history of other elements in every ingredient. Find them and put them on the plate.

“Every man’s memory is his private literature.” Aldous Huxley



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2 responses to “Proust’s madeleine.

  1. man. really well-written, yet brief. i’d love to see this expanded into something more.

  2. I’m a terrible writer but an avid reader. The term wasn’t on my mind but the memories of past flavors kept striking the matchbook with frustration. Had to share your post.

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