24 December 2008

P1 and other wonders

I've realized something recently. 99% of the time, when we decide to allot more attention, time, and effort to something, we burn out, get fed up, and become utterly exasperated with that which previously commanded our extra attention. It can happen with everything from schoolwork to relationships. Things just get old. But here I am, and I've started a food blog on a whim, and given that I'm a pretty driven girl, I'm devoting myself to maintaining this, if for no other reason than that it is hopefully preparing me for my career. Yet I haven't even begun to burn out. The reality of writing this has bolstered my initial interest, and it has lodged food into my permanent consciousness to the point where I deliberately seek out inspiration for my frequent little quips. Amen!

Moving on. For those of you who don't know, there's this incredible art biennial here in New Orleans called Prospect.1 (is that properly punctuated? I can't seem to ever get it right). There are literally artists from the world over using every medium you can dream of, displaying their art at tons and tons of venues across the city. It's a big deal. A darling family friend, David Buckingham, has his art over at the Universal Furniture Store. He uses found metal to craft these wild, fantastic, sometimes quite offensive wonders. This is what he has at P1 (from Pulp Fiction):

Anyway, at the CAC, there are these two sculptures of sorts made by Lee Bul. The first is this glorious, delightful, frivolous, borderline garish chandelier-esque structure, draped elaborately with glass and beads and chains that reflect light in every which way. Its framework is spirally and ornate, reminiscent of pirate ships or even a tiny metropolis, bedecked in jewels.

Opposite this ostentatious masterpiece is its counterpart, a hulking blackblackblack bunker. It looks like a miniature cave, with a molded fiberglass shell and rocky peaks. On its own, it's morbid and base and slightly confounding at first glance -- an abstract manifestation of the elephant in the room, this gargantuan behemoth that seems out of place on the mirrored floor of the gallery. Two things contradict this first impression, though: first, its simple juxtaposition with what we will refer to as the chandelier calls in a yin and yang perspective that helps add insight and intrigue. More importantly, though, is the realization that the bunker is more than something to look at. Walk inside, put on the headset, and whisper -- strike up a conversation -- break out in a spontaneous tap dance. Every slight sound that is captured in that cave is magnified by about a thousand times, so that even if you're restricting your noise to the most basic and quiet noises necessitated by life itself, you hear this uproarious, unnerving, discordant cacophony in the headset. It's just wild.

And, okay, so this is a food blog, not an art blog. I'm here to talk to you about dishes and techniques and chefs on whom I have crushes, not so much about sculptures and structures that have caught my eye. But all this build-up does, indeed, have a culinary purpose. Because in my later reflections on those two pieces, I felt that kind of singular, rare inspiration that makes you truly proud to find. The notion of that dichotomy captivated me, and I started dreaming up flavors that reflected a similar duality. Here's a short list of my inspiration thus far, the first item as the chandelier and the second as the bunker:
* Ebullient champagne / dark amber beer
* Fluffy vanilla meringue / dense, flourless chocolate cake
* Shaved hearts of palm with fresh lemon juice / warm, earthy beets (can you tell Lilette inspired this one?)
* Tangy, zingy, flaky-white ceviche / decadent grits and grillades
* Tart balsamic vinegar / velvety olive oil
* Mahony's ethereal onion rings / Mahony's roast beef po-boy with wine-y dark gravy
* Wasabi / roux
* Sorbet / foie gras
* Passionfruit / eggplant

Take the idea and run with it! Let me know if you have any whimsical ideas of your own.

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