On Food and Archetypes
For those of you parents of a certain age who watched Disney’s 2007 movie, Ratatouille, there is a scene towards the end where the food critic tastes the signature dish and is transported back to his childhood.
Food has that power. The power of archetype. For some of us, it is the never-ending memory of the first time we tasted a certain food. For others, it is a blanket of security and comfort. But within all of us, each taste, each flavour, has its own defining ideal. Its own archetype.
Plato discussed the archetype of a pure form. In his Theory of Forms, Plato suggests that underlying the physical form of an object is actually defined by an underlying, immutable idea.
For the prosaic among us, this could be described as a form of perfection, or a perfect ideal. I am not proposing a single archetype of food. Only that we all have such archetypes within us, probably unique to our own experience, memory, subconscious and biochemistry.
As we emerge from lockdown, I have been spending more attention on food, and I have been surprised by its power.
Yesterday evening, I was fortunate enough to eat dinner in Larnaca, at Almar. It’s not the first time I’ve eaten there, but it was the first time with such extraordinary results.
Three things in particular stood out:
a. A starter of three Gillardeau oysters. I was astounded at the depth and complexity of flavor. I have literally never had oysters that good, even in Bretagne. Every note of flavour was somehow magnified in its intensity.
b. A second starter of scallops in a celery puree. The scallop – I only needed to eat one – was perfectly cooked. It was literally the best scallop I have ever eaten, even among those eaten fresh in Bretagne. The taste was perfect. Far better than my experience at Matsuhisa in Limassol two weekends ago, where the scallop was larger but imperfectly thawed and cooked. The puree was good but irrelevant. The scallop was perfection in itself. It required nothing else.
c. A main course of Fangri. Grilled. Again, I’ve eaten this fish over and over again. Last night it was exceptional. Perfect cooking. Intense but subtle flavour, not dried out, with a taste of rock salt, parsley and green olive oil.
By the end of the evening, I freely admitted that Larnaca led the way over Limassol in fish. This is not an easy admission to make.
But something of the same experience happened a week ago. A 2013 Banfi Brunello di Montalcino (at Columbia Plaza in Limassol). The first sips lit up my brain like Christmas candles. I literally felt the sensation of drinking this wine activating neurons in my brain. Extraordinary.
So my question is:
Did this really happen, or is this just a figment of post-lockdown / post-COVID melancholia?
I have not had COVID, but I read that one of the most frustrating aspects for some is the inability to smell and taste.
Perhaps it was a combination of mindfulness and gratitude at being out?
Perhaps it was an extraordinary chef respecting extraordinary ingredients?
Whatever is happening, it has my attention.
I would love to hear anyone else’s experience as we emerge from lockdown.
To be continued.