I don’t like food, I love it. And if I don’t love it, I don’t swallow.
– Anton Ego, Ratatouille
There’s a meal we had in Paris (two, actually) that is still haunting my taste buds. The first and only one I have space to tell you about was salmon sashimi on a bed of Japanese rice with a moat of salad greens, a stellar order choice we made at Nanashi, that beautifully-named restaurant. I love saying the word Nanashi, love its jumps up (na! na!) and the respectful soft shi, like a bow to see you out the door.
Why eat Japanese in Paris? Because it’s a French take on Japanese, and we were staying a stroll away in the Marais, and two different people had made us promise to go there.
Let me tell about the food again: sushi-grade salmon, soft and slippery and melting in the mouth, coated in the lightest salty vinaigrette, served on plump, chewy kernels of rice, sprinkled with white sesame seeds that released a nutty flavour and the crunchy/chewy texture contrast to the salmon.
Raw fish is butter for Asian people—similarly addictive, ecstatically consumed. And vinaigrette is a new obsession of mine, vaulted into a distinct category of existence after my first meal at Chez Panisse, when I was electrified by the very green taste of the fresh salad leaves, and how the subtle, saltier-than-usual and less-sour-than-I-was-used-to coating perfectly complimented the sharp tang of the vegetable. The vinaigrette at Chez Panisse is perfect, and so is the vinaigrette at Nananshi.
When confronted with perfect food-dom it is immoral to skip dessert. Ours was a matcha cheesecake. We know from green tea ice cream what a potent combination is green tea + cream. Well. This was no American, Cheesecake Factory production. This was a light, frothy confection of cheesecake, closer to the whipped quality of the Japanese strawberry and cream layer cake that I hope you have had occasion to try. And the crust was a solid, crumbly, hard contrast to the matcha goodness happening on top. Ecstatic indeed. Asians like cream too.
I enjoy food, as you may be able to tell, but I also have a deeper Theory of Taste. It is this: some people experience taste differently to others. Taste is three dimensional to me; an eating experience is not just consumed, but can be lived. I have swanned about the memory of a meal before—just look at this post. My brother is good at food too. So maybe it’s genetic, and maybe you will understand when I say that food creation and food consumption can be a symphonic, multisensory, very addictive activity in my life. I expect to be a dumpling by middle age.
Thanks for tuning in,