New design for The Epicurean

Last September, after talks with the editor of the UK, the newspaper of the University of Groningen, I started writing a fortnightly food column for them. I suggested we call this column “The Epicurean”, she agreed, and the first piece was published on September 16th, 2011. Today, after a year’s worth of columns, I decided it was time for a refresh of the design of the Epicurean page on this site. Have a look.

Food should be intuitive, effortless; our understanding and appreciation of it should be implicit and deeply rooted. None of this happens by accident, nor is it reached without mindful training or careful consideration. It is true that taste is subjective in many ways (de gustibus and all that…), but cooking and, by extension, tasting are certainly not entirely subjective endeavours. A comparison, here,  may be drawn to art, though I steer well clear of calling cooking an art, for that discussion is not of consequence here. Still, some similarities are evident and telling. Art is not mere decoration, nor mere fancy, something to please the ear and eye. Further, its proper appreciation requires knowledge, be it technical, historical, biographical, or otherwise and it depends on a good understanding of the creator’s motives and aims. Similarly, it is difficult or even impossible to approach food without an understanding of the journey it takes before it arrives to your plate. Of course, I do not suggest we all go out and get diplomas in agriculture, animal husbandry, and the such, but a keen interest in food should extend beyond ‘does this taste pleasant’. Knowledge of culinary techniques is essential for a professional critic, but the amateur critic (and I use both these words for their original, positive meaning) will certainly benefit from it also. To love food is to think about it and all its aspects.

So much for effortless, you might say, and indeed it seems counterintuitive, but it is not. Effortlessness is not in the training, but in the act. Think about it: the behaviours that come most naturally and intuitively are the ones you have trained the longest and hardest in. It is the same in this case. My aims with The Epicurean have always been simple: to share my understanding of food with everyone willing to read and learn. Participation is 20% of the grade 😉

– Tassos