The Perfect Bite

Small is Beautiful     Ah to savor a few bites of something.  This is a picture I found of a dish at the French Laundry.  We ate at Quince and it too had delectable small bites of perfection.

Small is Beautiful
Ah to savor a few bites of something. This is a picture I found of a dish at the French Laundry. We ate at Quince and it too had delectable small bites of perfection.

I love good food! I love the multi sensory art that food served at a great restaurant is. I love the feeling of being well served with wines that pair perfectly with the delicacy being offered. I love having a dish that has a perfectly beautiful sculpture or painting of food that is small enough to be able to have a bite or two that affects the tongue and nose in as profound a way as the beauty has affected the eye. Sometimes, although more rarely, the ears and sense of touch are awakened as well. The touch is activated with the textures on the plate the crunch or the surprising puree in the middle of a tortellini or the tenderness of a piece of meat. The ear is activated by the sound of the silver scraping up the last bit of sauce on the plate or soup in the bowl, but most of all it is activated by the ambience of the restaurant and the conversation at the table. It would be an interesting experience to go to a great restaurant alone. I have a feeling that my ear would be entertained in a more focused way to the food.

Last night we celebrated my good friend Anne Greta’s birthday at Quince Restaurant in San Francisco. The company and the conversation was terrific and we all shared a 5 course chef’s tasting menu that was paired with some excellent wines and served up by a waiter with a thick Italian accent (another ear pleasing thing). The servings were small and succulent and usually just enough to leave my mouth wanting one more bite and my stomach completely content. The meat course, which was an incredibly cooked beef, was the only course that had several bites too many on it. It was so delicious that I finished it and in retrospect realized that were I making all my choices from being completely conscious I would have left a little of the steak. However on Karen’s and my belly fullness scale of 1 to 5, 1 being desperately hungry and 5 being stuffed like a turkey at thanksgiving, I left at a 3 and my moderation goal is to leave the table at a level of satisfaction between a 2.5 and a 3. So not only was the experience beautiful, sensationally tasty, and convivial it was appropriately moderate. (Except of course, it wasn’t a bit moderate when it came to the bill.) Ahhh to be able to grow up eating to please my tongue and stomach with delectable small bites of food where consciousness and appreciation were what it was all about and not seconds, finishing or cleaning up a plate, and shoveling it in between talking or even during talking. I am looking forward to the day when what I am calling 1/3 of a “normal” plate is actually a normal plate, where I can prepare a little of this and a little of that and not feel like something is missing.

Before we joined our friends at the restaurant Karen and I went to look at some silver and china and dream about serving an elegant dinner at our house. As we were looking at the china I noticed some china designed by Thomas Keller the chef at the French Laundry in Napa Valley. It was pure white and the section in the middle of the plate was much smaller then a normal plate is with a wide rim on the outside. So the area for the food was much smaller then we are used to on our plates, you just couldn’t put a typical thanksgiving dinner on those plates. When I realized that I stopped looking at and appreciating the china. Now in retrospect I see what he is doing with his design, like he does with his cooking, he is showing us how to eat in this day and age. Most of us aren’t farmers or working at hard physical labor any more and we don’t need the copious amounts of food that were needed to refill the physically exhausted bodies of our ancestors and yet we still eat to please our great great grandparents. Thomas Keller is designing plates to have us eat for the life style we have today, small, beautiful, and wonderfully tasty.

2 responses to “The Perfect Bite

  1. Hi Henry:

    Now that I know I can, I will REALLY post. Something in your post this morning really tugged at my heartstrings. . .the part where you talk about what it would have been like to grow up in a culture that really appreciated fine food.

    Wow. ..I can’t imagine what that kind of childhood was like. I was raised on tater tots, fish sticks, sloppy joes and pigs in a blanket. If you don’t know what pigs in a blanket are you aren’t missing much. You take a Bisquick biscut and wrap a canned vienna sausage in the middle and then bake them for 10 mintues.

    What would it have been like to grow up in a world where I wasn’t made to clean my plate. Where dinner was about “abandonza” and the appreciation of good food.

    I also loved what you said about Thomas Keller and the refinement he is presenting us with in his plates. I love this journey that you are on (and I am gratefully on beside you) as we learn to EAT and give to our bodies with love and joy. Wow. Who would have ever thought that heavy people needed to learn how to eat. What a trip.

    I love you!


  2. Hey Henry,

    I’m loving reading your entries, and am so glad that you are on this journey.

    Food is my big issue….. it is the most challenging aspect…. I too love really good flavors and textures and concoctions…. I like the idea of a sampling menu…. I think that there’s a key here…. to really feed my love of food and tastes with a rich array of wonderful tastes (that are also healthy….) rather than going for comfort food in large portions…. I’m going to play with this idea….

    Keep going…. if I can support you in any specific ways, please let me know.

    Love you —-


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