THE FLIP SIDE OF CULI­NARY PER­FEC­TION

Friday - - Opinion - Mri­nal Shekar As­sis­tant Editor Fri­day editor, Karen, is on leave.

Talk about FOOD and it in­stantly UN­LOCKS mostly SWEET mem­o­ries – ones that are REDO­LENT with happy as­so­ci­a­tions, EASY TALKS, and im­por­tantly, an over pow­er­ing SENSE of emo­tional SA­TI­A­TION

Long, sul­try sum­mer hol­i­days spent on the porch with grandma’s mango pickle in one hand and a book in the other. Bak­ing a choco­late cake for Papa’s birth­day and anx­iously wait­ing for all the su­perla­tives in the dic­tio­nary to trip over each other, never mind that it was lop­sided, a tad too sweet and a bit too moist. Fight­ing withmy brother while try­ing to get my hands on the last crumbs of car­rot halwa that the next-door aunty had made. Talk about food and it in­stantly un­locks some bit­ter­sweet, but mostly sweet mem­o­ries – ones that are redo­lent with happy as­so­ci­a­tions, easy con­ver­sa­tions, and, most im­por­tantly, an over­pow­er­ing sense of emo­tional sa­ti­a­tion that warms you just the way a tight hug from a par­ent would. ‘Ev­ery­thing will be OK,’ it says.

So, to think that food – that soul-sat­is­fy­ing, up­lift­ing essence of our lives – could be re­spon­si­ble for the death of a highly suc­cess­ful chef, de­voted hus­band and lov­ing father is not only iron­i­cal but in­com­pre­hen­si­ble.

When 44-year-old Benoît Vi­olier, one of the­most cel­e­brated culi­nary crafts­men glob­ally, ended his life ear­lier this year, it sent shock­waves across the world (read about the dark side of culi­nary per­fec­tion on page 42.) What is even more dis­turb­ing is that he did it only a month af­ter his Restau­rant de l’Hô­tel de Ville was crowned theworld’s best by the French govern­ment, and he was chris­tened the world’s top chef.

Some said he sur­ren­dered to the grief he suf­fered due to the pass­ing of his father as well as his men­tor Philippe Rochat, but mem­bers of the fra­ter­nity pointed their fin­gers at a dark, al­most un­palat­able rea­son – pres­sure that em­anates from pur­su­ing per­fec­tion. One said, ‘At this level you’re only as good as your last meal’, hint­ing at the ex­haust­ing men­tal grind of main­tain­ing the high­est pos­si­ble stan­dard in the kitchen. But what the state­ment also makes you won­der about is what re­ally is per­fec­tion. Isn’t it just an il­lu­sion; al­ways present, but slightly out of reach? And isn’t food just a small part of the feast we call life?

Tell us what you think of our food is­sue. Un­til next week,

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