Fleur yielded without struggle to his charm. Polotski told her at once that she reminded him of his dear wife, and as she translated this correctly as the highest compliment he could pay her, they hit it off splendidly.
Apart from his wife, his great passions seemed to be cooking, and jewellery. "Cooking is man's most truly creative art," he told Fleur in the course of their first long conversation. "It is the most aesthetic. All other art is contaminated by materialism. But with cooking, the end product is utterly ephemeral, and unique. It is an art which exists for its own sake alone."
"I hadn't quite thought of it like that," Fleur said.
"Of course not! What has a young lady like you to do with cooking? It is a passion for man's middle years, when other passions have cooled. You, so slender, so beautiful, may only sense it dimly. What can you know of the poetry of spices, of soured cream, of truffles? How can you appreciate the triumph of man over the forces of nature, as represented by the perfect souffle?"
I should probably give a bit of context to this quote. The book is set in England and Russia just before and during the Crimean War (so in the 1850s ) and the speaker is a mature Russian gentleman.
What I thought was interesting was the idea that cooking is a mid-life passion. I wouldn't necessarily say that is correct any more, at least in most first world countries, but it would be interesting to think about when exactly it was that cooking changed from a mostly functionary pastime to one that excites people across a variety of ages, incomes and cultures. Is it the onset of more leisure time that has been the overriding factor, or perhaps the fact that we are better off economically. Is the multi cultural nature of our society now? Is there some other factor that has contributed more to it? I should clarify in that I am not talking about people for whom cooking is just a vocation, but rather those for whom cooking is a passion as a hobby.
Over the last couple of years there appears to have been a significant upswing in the number of young people who are interested in cooking, with cooking shows such as Junior Masterchef being both a product of that change, and an instigator of continued change as more and more kids get interested in cooking. Last year, for example, my son was showing a lot of interest (you can read about his efforts here) and so one of his Christmas presents was the Junior Masterchef cook book.
When I look at my own experience, my mother is not interested in cooking at all, or in trying a lot of new things. She would be described, at best, as a functional cook. Personally, I have always liked the idea of finding a recipe, buying all the ingredients and then cooking it, but I really don't like Monday to Friday cooking.
What do you think? What about the notion that cooking is man's most truly creative art?
Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.