Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Coiled up life; stored up energy

Can you discern beauty through ‘taste’? Or does beauty always have to be something visual and tangible?

I’ve been asking myself this over the last few days. The week seems to have been dominated by food. From a trip to a Michelin-starred restaurant as a one-off with friends (verdict: meh; but my mates said it was wasted on a vegetarian). To a meander round
Borough Market with the sun on my back.

Rows and rows of gnarled up mushrooms, looking like alien life forms: mottled shades of brown. Some even purple or red or yellowy. A big, bold artichoke, wrapped in spiky, fleshy leaves that clung like petals on a flower. In fact, every stall was just like a flower bed: deep smartings of colour, a rush of aroma. It’s a shame that we don’t tend to think of fruit and vegetables (or food, generally) as art, though we write poems galore about flowers. To me, a wavy, golden pepper is every bit as beautiful as a daffodil; an aubergine as mysterious as a hyacinth.

These things also give us life. They are coiled up sunshine; they are stored up energy. And, god, they taste good.

I ate melt-in-the-mouth
Comte and cake and vegetable burgers, and I sipped a hot apple and cinnamon drink that trickled down my throat with a warm, syrupy movement that was comforting and nostalgic – almost like cough medicine (though it tasted a lot better). I swooned, closed my eyes, I murmured appreciatively. But was I dabbling in beauty?

I know most aestheticians and philosophers would say no. But I would argue that to exclude any sense data is to elude a true definition of beauty. When people find something beautiful, it is seldom through eyes alone. When I find a field beautiful, it is because I also smell the lavender; feel the soft, feathery touch of the grass on a leg; maybe I taste the pollen that drifts languidly in the air. And then there is another aspect, a kind of additional sense and I don’t know what I’d call it. That every scene, every detail, and every thing we encounter is coated in context. Maybe that field has extra beauty because it reminds me of country drives in my childhood; when my mum sung along to the radio, and the windows were wound open. Maybe it also makes me think of the scene in
A Room with a View: a film I caught late once on TV in my early adolescence. And I stared and I stared at Daniel Day Lewis and Helena Bonham Carter, and I thought I’d never seen a couple more beautiful and sumptuous. And my heart beat fast in my chest and I later came to recognise it as the acceleration of puberty.

Food is beautiful because it also has context: happy meals, happy times. The people I’ve loved who have fed me. Who have fed me out of love and for love.

To me, beauty is anything that transports. Beauty is anything that lifts. Beauty is anything that gives sheen to the humdrum, even if the veil is thin.

Photo courtesy of
Nicola photographs flickrstream.

No comments:

Post a Comment