Cooking sculpture

I’m puzz­ling over some­thing. A friend wants to know why I ‘only write about food’ on these pages? What kind of block-headed word is ‘only’?
The nov­el­ist Lionel Shriver says that ‘the impulse to cook is the same as the impulse to write books and do sculp­ture’. I’m not mad about her books or her sculp­ture and I’ve nev­er tasted her cook­ing, but that doesn’t mat­ter. She’s right. It’s the cre­at­ing that mat­ters. And the cook­ing does some­thing alchem­ic­al. My son’s birth­day is his birth­day because I always cook him roast chick­en with tar­ragon. My daughter’s birth­day becomes more res­ol­utely birth­day-ish because I always make lamb kleftiko. That’s not to say the birth­days wouldn’t exist without the chick­en and the lamb, but over the years the ritu­al of the roast­ing of the chick­en and the slow cook­ing of the lamb have become indi­vis­ible from the birth­days them­selves.
I had lunch today with a great friend who’s a garden design­er. Last time we met at a res­taur­ant in an old pot­ting shed. This time we ate in a Vic­tori­an green­house that used to be a fruit and veget­able shop. How per­fect that we both chose Eng­lish asparagus.

Asparagus reminds me of Lionel Shriver and her impulse to ‘do sculp­ture’ since asparagus is sculp­ture, after all. But the cook­ing of it and the serving of it in the old fruit and veget­able shop had a per­fect syn­chron­icity about it. Our lunch would have been lunch without the asparagus. But the fact that it was so exquis­itely deli­cious, and that our con­ver­sa­tion was as cheer­ing as the food, made the event a mini­ature, short-lived work of art.
All of which is a round­about way of say­ing that when it comes to food there’s no such thing as ‘only’.

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