The Simple Pleasures
"Simple pleasures are always the last refuge of the complex." ~ Oscar Wilde
This post is about the simplicity of pleasure. There are many resources to choose from when writing a topic such as this, especially in regards to food. Hours, days, a lifetime could be spent writing about pleasure, the pleasures of sensuality and food. Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher, a sensualist, wrote about her life through the sensual pleasures of food. Her life on the page came alive through the written memory of her meals. Or rather, her food experiences reminded her of moments of her life, and the two were intertwined. Perhaps, Ms. Fisher would have been a brilliant food blogger had she a laptop and the internet.
In M.F.K. Fisher's "The Gastronomical Me" there is a chapter titled "The Measure of My Powers" in which this excerpt takes place in Avallon, France, September, 1929:
The hotel in Avallon, because of its ancient location, on the Paris-Lyons post road, had inevitably been taken over by a noted chef, with all the accompanying chi-chi. I went back there several times in the next few years, because it was convenient and the redecorated bedrooms were comfortable. The kitchen wall into the courtyard had been replaced by an enormous window, I remember, and the swanky motorists who stopped there for lunch and the modern water closets could watch the great cook and his minions moving like pale fish behind the glass.
The food was not bad but not very good, when you knew what it might have been under such a one-famous man. But that September noon in 1929, when Al and I ate in the courtyard with the two kind silly women and felt ourselves getting nearer and nearer to Dijon, one important thing happened.
We were hungry, and everything tasted good, but I forgot now what we ate, except for a kind of soufflé of potatoes. It was hot, light, with a brown crust, and probably chives and grated Parmesan cheese were somewhere in it. But the great thing about it was that it was served alone, in a course all by itself.
I felt a secret justification in me, a pride such as I've seldom known since, because all my life, it seemed, I had been wondering rebelliously about potatoes. I didn't care much for them, except for one furtive and largely unsatisfied period of yearning for mashed potatoes with catsup on them when I was about eleven. I almost resented them, in fact... or rather, the monotonous disinterest with which they were always treated. I felt that they could be good, if they were cooked respectfully.
At home we had them at least once a day, with meat. You didn't say Meat, you said Meat-and-potatoes. They were mashed, baked, boiled, and when Grandmother was away, fixed in a casserole with cream sauce and called, somewhat optimistically, O'Brien. It was shameful, I always felt, and stupid too, to reduce a potentially important food to such a menial position... and to take time every day to cook it, doggedly, with perfunctory compulsion.
If I ever had my way, I thought, I would make such delicious things of potatoes that they would be a whole meal, and never would I think of them as the last part of the word Meat-and-. And now, here in the sunny courtyard of the first really French restaurant I had ever been in, I saw my theory proved. It was a fine moment.
Like M.F.K. Fisher, I love food, life, and the memories that go with it. Memories that come back about many meals, and the moments in which food is an integral part of the experience.
Simple pleasures, like eating vanilla ice cream by itself. No toppings, no goopy fudge or caramel, nothing fancy. Plain doughnuts. Fresh baguette with unsalted butter. Sometimes simple is good, and like Mary Frances' potato soufflé experience, some things should be as they are in their own perfect simplicity.