Friday, July 11, 2014

Love and gastronomy

I am in Lyons that projects itself as the gastronomic heart of France. So it was with happy expectation that I tried my first restaurant last night. It was one of the best rated in the city and being early I slipped in without a reservation (necessary I subsequently discovered even on a Thursday evening).

The food was excellent especially the fish cooked to firmly crumbling perfection on a purée of green beans with a frothy white onion sauce. The service was crisply professional if a touch too keen.

But how striking it is that a meal abroad never, however exemplary, seems to match the quality of home cooked fare, cooked by or with friends, offered with love?

Only rarely does it even come close and then the origin of the enjoyment appears to come also with the way it is offered as much as by the what. I think of the restaurant in Sansepolcro where the owner insists on recommending the wine and charges you exactly by the quantity drunk with a friendliness that seems to transform his admittedly wonderful food. Or the grilled fish cooked to order at a lonely spot in Northern Cyprus, you the only diner.

I remember a yoga teacher who attended our first ever Prison Phoenix workshop who always prepared his own food, citing the importance of the spirit in which it was done. He was from the Brahma Kumari and I thought it rather eccentric at the time (though done with a grace that did not make it seem excluding) but I can see the gem of real truth here. Akin to my prior point about George MacDonald's Lilith (see previous post), everything can be transformed by the hallowing through which it is offered. It is this 'kavana' (to use the Hasidic term) that does liberate the nature of the gifts we offers one another and can never be professionalised.

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