Monday, August 22, 2011

Rant: Beauty & The Beast

Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.

The tale of Beauty and the Beast is well known, and its theme and basic framework have been used many times, in books, movies, television shows, plays and more. It teaches us to look past the shallow surface, to find the beauty within, and it would not have had such an impact if beauty were not an important value. There is probably not a single human culture which does not possess a concept of beauty, though what they consider to fit their definition of beauty can vary widely. In the end, it boils down to cherishing what we find to be aesthetically pleasing.

Beauty, of whatever kind, invariably excites the human soul to tears.
--Edgar Allan Poe

The appreciation for beauty often seems to get lost in discussions of food and wine, though its importance there should not be underestimated. I am talking about beauty in all its aspects, not solely the visual, which can touch any of our senses. And I am not discussing any particular definition of beauty either, but merely the aesthetic concept which can encompass all of the diverse definitions. We need to embrace beauty, to praise it, to savor it, to share it.

Beauty in things lies in the mind which contemplates them.
--David Hume

Last week, I mentioned Ernesto Catena who possesses a Japanese aesthetic, which influenced the creation of his Alma Negra winery. An appreciation of beauty is one of his primary motivations, and his passion for that beauty is infectious. He relishes the beauty of nature, of simplicity, of balance. Fred Minnick, a friend of mine, is an accomplished photographer, often taking wine and food related pictures. He has an excellent sense of aesthetics, drawing out the beauty of his subjects, whether they are people or inanimate objects. Even the most grotesque of subjects can be transformed into a beauty through a skilled photographer's eye. Terry Theise, wine importer and author, wrote Reading Between the Wines, which contains many beautiful phrases and sentences, showcasing the aesthetics of language.  

A thing of beauty is a joy forever.
--John Keats

Writers understand the beauty of language, and how a special turn of phrase can elevate a story to another level of aesthetic appreciation. A wine bottle may possess an ugly label, yet the wine within might be indescribably beautiful, a sublime sensory pleasure. A plate of food which is presented beautifully will often seem to taste better than a messy, unappealing looking plate. It is often said we eat through our eyes, and there is some truth to that. There is no endeavor where beauty does not play some role, and we should endeavor to cherish beauty where ever we encounter it.

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.
--Rachel Carson

To that end, I would like to see more food and wine writers embrace the beauty, in what they experience as well as how they present themselves. Let your writing highlight beauty while you also attempt to make your words beautiful. Eaters and drinkers, don't just swallow and guzzle, but take time to appreciate the beauty of what is on your plate and in your glass. Take time to allow your senses to properly savor everything. Beauty elevates our experiences so we should be eager to seek it out.

Beauty awakens the soul to act.
--Dante Alighieri

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