A Festival of Food
Yesterday, I attended a food and wine festival that, to me, seemed like a rather redundant occasion. After all, few people, if any, need a “festival” as an excuse to eat. And food is food, whether you look at it as nourishment, comfort, or both, so why devote an entire festival to this cornerstone of life? Because, as I soon realized, food and drink (in this case wine) are far from mundane. Each can actually be a tour de force, intended to delight the senses and spark intelligent and meaningful conversation.
In attendance at this festival were caterers, restaurateurs, chefs, bakers, wine connoisseurs, and any number of professionals from the food and drink industry. While they attended as a means to demonstrate their culinary talents, they also wanted to stimulate general interest in the beauty of food. By beauty I mean the physical attraction, yes, but also the feeling of fellowship that food can bring.
One of the vendors I found myself especially drawn to was a food stylist. I know, I’ve never met a food stylist either, but the passion she felt for her work astounded me. “I arrange food for photo shoots,” she explained to me, “so people are attracted to it. My job is to make a plate look as appetizing as possible. I know it sounds easy, but it’s actually a challenge. Everybody knows people eat first with their eyes and then with their mouths.”
I laughed at the challenge of making food look good. “Why do you need to make food beautiful when people are innately drawn to it?” I asked.
“Oh, it’s more than that,” she replied. “Eating should be an experience. So few things in life offer true and genuine pleasure. Eating is the one event, though, in which we must all engage. Because of that, meals should be feasts, and I’m not talking about smorgasbord-type feasts. I’m talking about moments of sheer enjoyment.”
After speaking to her, I got the feeling she doesn’t often hit the drive-thru. No, the food stylist seemed more inclined to stand in her kitchen and cook, her fingers deftly manipulating, and her arms vigorously stirring to create mouth-watering masterpieces like those I sampled at the festival: Mini cobb salad in parmesan pastry cups, potato truffle soup, and miso-marinated striped bass. And just as the food stylist described, these dishes were plated in a way that made them delicately, almost heartbreakingly beautiful. Vibrant colors, perfect proportions, and neat symmetry so the finished product did, in fact, resemble a piece of art.
It was the same with the wine. Whereas I opt for wines that taste the least like ethanol, usually sangria, I spoke with people at the festival who detect in these colorful liquids notes of vanilla, blackberry, peach, and violet (huh?). One connoisseur proceeded to tell me about the legs of wine, which refer to the way it drips down a glass. I never realized wine does drip, but this seems to be a great topic of discussion among those in the know. Full-bodied wines apparently drip slowly, while those of lighter bodies don't hold together as well and drip more quickly. In either case, the legs can be beautiful and seductive in ways not unlike the same appendages of a woman.
Yes, the festival proved to be a great time, but more importantly, it opened up my eyes to the love so many people have for food and wine. This love transcends wanting to stuff one’s face with as much food as possible, but instead refers to the deep appreciation that food can stir. In turn, those people are inspired to educate others (as with the wine) and create culinary delights that far surpass anything in my imagination.