Monday, May 30, 2011

Resolving the Musical Progression

Early English woodcut
depicting a feast.
Image from Country verses City.
When I think of the perfect meal, I think of all the descriptions of eating at Valabar's in the Vlad Taltos books by Steven Brust, especially the detailed account in Dzur.  In that specific book, each chapter begins with an account of Vlad's meal at the restaurant.  The descriptions are truly beautiful and amazing.  Just reading it, by the time I finished, I felt very full, stuffed in fact, and very satisfied.  I've never read a better description of food or eating, or one that made my mouth water the way that description did.  The descriptions in the earlier books had whetted my appatite, but this one was a feast, both for my mind and my taste buds.  It was like being there, enjoying it with him.  And I loved how the details of the meal related to what happened in each chapter.

"Babette's Feast" Served up
by Derry McMahon.
Image from Seanchai Library blog.
I usually prefer meals that are just one course with no sides, things that are a meal in and of themselves.  This is the type thing I grew up on.  We had tacos.  We had spaghetti, maybe with garlic bread, maybe not.  We had lasagna.  We had enchiladas.  We had soup, by itself.  We had salad, by itself.  We had stuffed peppers.  The only time I remember having sides was for picnics or for Thanks Giving, and I never remember having multiple courses.

The Wedding Feast.
Image from Craig Finnestad blog.
There is an art to making one dish that's complete in itself.  There's a different art to choosing the right sides to go with a main course.  But the art of making a meal that works that's multiple courses is a whole different world.  What order do you serve them?  What drinks with each?  Anything between courses?  In a properly crafted multiple course meal, each piece accents the rest.  Each course either builds towards a climax, is the climax, or a gentle coming down, accenting the climax, the coda that resolves the musical progression of the feast.


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