While I'm waiting for Yuletide -- *looks pointedly at clock and calendar* -- I am reading. The book I picked up a couple of weeks ago at the used book store in Eastern Market is called Proust was a Neuroscientist
by Jonah Lehrer.
I haven't even gotten to the chapter on Proust yet. The first chapter deals with Walt Whitman's intuitive descriptions of the body, rather than the brain, as the seat of emotion. Chapter two covers George Eliot and free will from both her opposition to the pure determinism, which she referred to as "necessitarianism," of her time and in light of more recent scientific data on neurogenesis. And then we get to Escoffier.
Now I disagree with Lehrer's conclusion that Escoffier invented French cookery. He walked it away from Careme and the upper class, that I totally agree with, but he did it by codifying and elevating bonne femme
cookery and serving it at the Ritz. Restaurants and the landscape of fine dining would not have been the same without him, do not get me wrong, but Escoffier stood at least partially on the shoulders of French grandmothers everywhere.
I find the chapter absolutely fascinating with its exploration of taste, Ideka's work distilling the concept of umami, the discovery of the receptors for umami, and how much of the human genome describes scent reception. One thing that really stuck out for me is how much food and flavor are learned and refined responses. As Lehrer puts it, "You are never too old to learn to be a gourmet."
This got me thinking about the other end of the spectrum: Baby Food.
American baby food is terrible. No, I haven't gone on that popular diet, but I lived in Belgium. They had a much wider variety of baby foods available, and the ingredient lists included herbs and even the occasional spice. You can serve a child who is not yet on solids a dinner of lamb with flageolet beans -- a traditional Sunday dinner in French speaking Europe. I defy anyone to try this with American baby food. What really frosts my cookies about this is the French/Belgian baby foods are the same brand names
as US baby food: Gerber and Nestle predominate.
We're worried about the children's obesity epidemic, but how much of it comes from kids not getting flavorful foods unless it's loaded with fat and salt?
Training adult palates is also important. Cooking for eanja
was a huge part of my starting to lose weight and appreciate both my skills as a cook and the food itself again as I was beginning to see the light at the end of my depression.
But how much easier is it to start training them young?