Rabbit stew ramblings
September 25, 2006
Before food can taste good, it has to be ‘good to think with’. My ex Elisabeth used to tell me that. She was an anthropologist of food and applied academic analysis to our meals together. Which wasn’t always good for the digestion.
She specialised in studying the eating habits of the Jewish diaspora in Argentina. As far as I could tell her research mainly involved snooping around in other people’s fridges. Sounded like a good gig to me.
A few nights ago I cooked up a Rabbit stew from Twelve, this week’s glossy, aspirational cookbook of choice. It was an unusual recipe – a red wine braise with a good quanitity of wine vinegar, sugar and sultanas added at the last minute. A sweet and sour concoction, with echoes of antique Roman flavours. I sort of liked it but Maths chick didn’t rate it.
And for some reason it took us down high-fallutin’ avenues of conversation. Some meals can do that.
And what we discussed was this: why does some stuff, like, taste good, like…er…and other flavours like, are OK but…you know…er… don’t taste so great.
I suggested it’s because we all have a memory of flavours and textures built up over centuries, and somehow passed down through a collective consciousness. Like the way our bodies respond to different rhythyms and melodies depending on our cultural inheritance. Did this dish taste odd because the combination of vinegar, wine, fruit and meat is foreign to the British culinary folk memory? Perhaps it simply wasn’t ‘good to think with’.
Maths chick reckoned it was just because the rabbit was over-cooked and dry, there was too much vinegar and the sauce was thin. Makes a nice photo though, dunnit?