The Design of Food
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“The gastronomic must no longer serve as mere metaphor for the arts, but must take its place among the muses.” - Allen S. Weiss Isidore of Seville, in his seventh century work Isidori Hispalensis Episcopi Etymologiarum sive Originum, reminds us of the relationship between cuisine and reason: his etymology of the word sapiens (wise, rational) proposes sapor (taste) as its source, and he explains that “just as the sense of taste is able to discern the flavours of different foods, so too is the wise man able to discern objects and their causes since he recognizes each one as distinct and is able to judge them with an instinct for truth.” Taste, defined as such, appreciates all that exists, and lies behind creativity and change. In the kitchen, we have complete authority to be the designer, the craftsman and the client, all at once: we need neither degree, nor license, nor money to exercise and hone our taste – as opposed to the architectural industry. As designers, we take stock of the tools and ingredients available, and find creative ways to accommodate both personal preference and nutrition. Interactions with suppliers aid our search for sustainable resources, and the insights they offer help us compose recipes and meals sympathetic to my environment. As a craftsman, we draw on self-taught skills and expert advice to create dishes. More importantly, we can dwell on each ingredient, and contemplate the potential contained within, for in the words of Richard Sennet, in his book The Craftsman, all of our “efforts to do good quality work depend on curiosity about the material at hand.” As the client, we eat what we make, and evaluate whether the recipe fulfilled the basic criteria set out at the beginning of the process. The dishes that come out of our kitchens and imaginations are expressions of our past experiences and present environment. Our recipes and craft reveal our influencers, interests, and expertise. This “recipe book” is one story of a search for practical experience, and the subsequent refinement of personal taste.