The Luxury Of … Fancy Food

Food editor TRISH DESEINE shares her idea of LUXURY FOOD

 

Of all the 25 or so cookbooks I’ve written, my favourite is one from 2007 called Goût de Luxe – A Taste of Luxury. It’s not really a book at all, but a luxuriously produced folder of six small books (fashioned on a Chanel jewellery collection catalogue I’d been sent) with a ribbon to pull out their little tray, gold and bronze edging, beautiful paper and sumptuous pictures by Deirdre Rooney. The main themes are champagne, chocolate, foie gras, truffles and lobster with tips on how to find and choose the best quality you can buy, and lots of short simple recipes to make the most of your investment. For six months, Deirdre and I were submerged in these luxury ingredients. My fridge was full of Cristal, Bollinger, Selosse champagne and foie gras in all shapes and forms. We travelled to Cancale in Brittany and ate Olivier Roellinger’s famous lobster in three services, and to a cottage on a truffle grower’s farm near Périgueux from where we emerged after five days cooking and snapping, smelling of smoke, truffles and duck fat. It was decadent, and such fun!

But in the end, it was the sixth book which held a stronger message than the obvious, shouty luxury of the others. “Everyday luxury” appeared mundane, austere almost. A celebration of good ingredients: handmade butter with a perfect radish and fleur de sel from Île de Ré, a rare Korean vinegar or vanilla pod, or a tin of the best sardines. For, to my mind at least, this was, and still is, where a true sense of luxury lies with food. It is a state of mind, not a set of rules, and is at once intimate and empowering. When you are in complete possession of, and in harmony with, your palate and your appetite, when your experience of eating and tasting is great enough to allow you to identify and enjoy the true pleasure of real flavour, you don’t need to spend time or a fortune on what is considered desirable, rare and sought after by so many others. Forget everyone else’s easy, conformist truffle and champagne fuelled luxury, and create your own. To quote the French artist Francis Picabia, “Luxury is not a pleasure, but pleasure is luxury.”

@TrishDeseine

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