I’m reading ‘Gourmet Rhapsody,’ a novel by one of my favorite authors, Muriel Barbery (The Elegance of the Hedgehog). This novel is about food, but also about social class and philosophy. Below is an excerpt by Paul talking about his grandmother’s grilled sardines:
“In the flesh of grilled fish, from the humblest of mackerel to the most refined salmon, there is something that defies culture. To say that the flesh is delicate, that its taste is both subtle and expansive, that it stimulates the gums with a mixture of sharpness and sweetness; to say that the combination of the grilled skin’s faint bitterness and the extreme smoothness of the firm, strong, harmonious flesh, filling one’s mouth with a flavor from elsewhere, elevates the grilled sardine to the rank of culinary apotheosis, is at best like evoking the soporific virtues of opium. For what is at issue here is neither how delicate or sweet or strong or smooth the grilled sardine may be, but its wild nature. One must be strong in nature to confront a taste like this; concealed within, very precisely, is the primitive brutality that forges our humanity when we come into contact with it. And one must be pure in spirit, as well, a spirit that knows how to chew with vigor, to the exclusion of any other food; I scorned the potatoes and salted butter which my grandmother had set out next to my plate, and devoured relentlessly the strips of fish.”
Isn’t this fantastic?