Food and taste

You write about how an appreciation of food and taste, can be the start of an aesthetic journey of discovery in the arts, and about the ‘aftertaste’ that follows the end of a good book, poem or piece of music etc. Tell us more about taste and the arts.

Horatio introduces Blue to experiencing the beauty of good food – the aromas, the variety of flavours, the subtlety of the tastes, such that, once the food has been devoured, a beautiful aftertaste lingers, not just in the mouth but in the memory (as Proust describes so beautifully in Swann’s Way). It is why Horatio takes Blue from Mallorca to Morocco to savour his first tagine, in its right environment, regional food created and improved over generations, each one adding new flavours to the experience, served in clay pots that locals have crafted with their own hands, like a beautifully-created oil painting with layers of colour and the right balance of light and shade.

Horatio believes in experiences such as this to broaden the aesthetic repertoire, to help Blue ascertain a delicacy of taste and gain experience in picking out ingredients. He takes him from Morocco to the South of France where he educates him in savouring yet more subtle flavours. He explains to his grandson that the philosopher David Hume had also recognised the importance of a good palate, which he compared to an ability to perceive beauty. He explains to Blue that good poetry possesses the same subtlety of flavours as the flavours in the food he has savoured – delicate herbs, sharp contrasts, intense reductions that need to be held in the mouth to savour fully. Similarly, the words of poetry or a good book must be held in the mind longer, savoured in order to enjoy them. And they leave an aftertaste once they’ve been digested.

He teaches Blue that when he recalls a piece of music, such as Max Bruch’s violin concerto, it is not just an analysis of the notes that remains in the memory. Rather, it is feeling the music , loving it in the heart, even if you don’t understand it all, it makes you want to cry, like when you lose someone special. It moves the soul. It remains even when the actual music is no longer playing. That is the aftertaste.

Each work of art, whether a story, a painting, a poem, a piece of music, must have an ending, a final word, a final brushstroke, a final note, when a work of art concludes, just like a life will have a final day, a final breath. But what matters most of all, Horatio believes in A Man of Understanding, is the aftertaste that follows these experiences, in the Arts and perhaps after life itself – therein lies the true reality.