Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Between the Noun and the Egg Falls the Shadow

There are some fundamental differences between words and food. And some telling and tantalizing similarities as well. To paraphrase Hunter S. Thompson quoting Eliot, between the noun and the egg falls the shadow.

“‘Its very provoking,’ Humpty Dumpty said after a long silence, looking away from Alice as he spoke, ‘to be called an egg – very!’” –
Through the Looking Glass

An interesting conversation about language takes place between a noun and an egg in Through The Looking Glass. Humpty Dumpty, the egg in this case (in Chapter 6) says to Alice “When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.” To which Alice, a proper noun, replies, “The question is whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question, said Humpty Dumpty,” also a noun I might add, “is which is to be master – that’s all.”

Some chefs like to stretch the meaning of nouns. The use of nouns can transform the “meaning” of food by altering your expectations and the touchstones for your subjective judgments about taste.

The chef of the moment taking this technique to the limit is Wyle Dufresne of WD~50 in NYC. Take for instance WD’s “Carrot Coconut Sunnyside Up” (pictured at left). It’s called a sunnyside up, it looks like a sunnyside up but its made of carrot (the yolk sack) and coconut cream (the egg whites). The verbal and visual switcheroo makes one take a step back. You sense the shadow – between the idea and the reality, the noun and the egg. Sometimes the shadow tastes good and sometimes, well, its just a shadow.

Right rounds the Burbs, a masterful stroke in word and food fun is made by Matthew Karp of Plates in Larchmont. Mr. Karp’s “Giant Ring Ding” ain’t no Drake’s Cake. It is a rich, luxurious chocolate cake with a cream center cloaked in a deep think layer of dark chocolate. Is the noun or the cake itself made the master – as Humpty might ask? It depends on which way you look at it - like through a looking glass. Either way Alice would love it – and so would that cantankerous egg sitting on a wall.

WD~50 (images of some wild Joycian dishes)


No comments: