Taste the texture with your eyes

Somewhere after oil painting got its start, artists began playing with texture.  They make the medium thicker and thinner to draw intrigue and depth.  Have any doubt?  Take a tour through the modernist wing of any respectable museum.

Duck breast and peas with pesto, fried polenta and caramelized onions

Your eyes scan the well lit portrait of a man.  Judging by the style of dress, and dark background you surmise it’s a Dutch master with the touch of a genius   Beyond the haunting eyes you notice the thick pulse of life in the heavy skin.  This face almost seems to float above the white lace and shadowed coat.

The plaque tells you it’s Rembrandt’s self portrait.   And you faintly remember the critics expression: when Rembrandt finished this picture, he simply disappeared inside. Your fingers never have to touch the canvas to get a sense of the texture.  The contrast of thickness, the streaks caused by bristles dragged through paint record the intensity of the moment.  At a single glance this portrait breathes.  Up close, you appreciate the series of micro-decisions to pull the paint one way or push it another.

We eat with our eyes. Or so the expression goes.  So why waste a perfectly good opportunity to play with visual textures.  Let the dinner begin with a moonlit presentation as it was done at this restaurant in St. Louis, MO. Notice the dark slate and how the light rakes across the surface.  The pink of the duck breast plays off the cooler blue grays.  The texture of the meat is more like composite silk cut across the bias.  The vibrant peas dance around the plate with the complexion of a natural pearl and color like the skin of the Wicked Witch.  The two sauces, one of which aoili, pool like thick cream.  The brilliant white one streaks across the horizontal access to draw the eyes through the landscape. Yes, this painter new what he was doing stroke by stroke. Dab by dab.

None of this out of reach for the home chef.  Careful study and a little experimenting can yield some of the vocabulary of the masters.  No promises that you can resurrect Rembrandt on the plate.  However with some conscious choices your best tasting dish will just get better tasting.

Check out the Non-Designers Design book by Robin William if you’d like to avoid the $60-$100 K tuition for a fine arts degree. Immerse yourself in line, proximity, contrast, and repetition   Then put them to use.

We are waiting to hear or even see you textured master piece.  Drop us a comment and link.  And let us disappear into the dish with you.

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