"Great meals, like great music, have a rhythm and harmony all their own."
Escoffier? Fisher? Emeril?
Nope. That's Karen Page, writing about cooking as art—or, more specifically, the artistry of pairing flavors, textures, and aromas to create a transcendent sensual experience. Chefs, she says, are like composers. Instead of using tone, rhythm, and tempo to create an aesthetic whole, they combine ingredients, preparations, and presentations to transport us from our daily ho-hum to a beautifully scored Sensual Elsewhere.
You've been there. You've had those gonzo-fabulous meals that induce eye-rolling fits of pleasure. That's where a great chef can take you. And guess what? You can DIY it, too.
Start by getting yourself a copy of Culinary Artistry, the excellent book by Page and chef/partner-in-life Andrew Dornenburg, which is both a meditation on taste and a how-to guide for pairing, say, anchovies with sage. Pumpkin with mace. Happiness with joy.
Spend a few dreamy hours reading through the essays, including sidebars by luminaries like Gary Danko (on techniques), George Germon (on the power of simplicity), and Norman Van Aken (on New World Cuisine). Then begin thumbing through the lists. Because the lists, they are the beating percussion of this book.
Examples: Flavor Pals (cilantro and mint, leeks and cheddar). Flavor Enemies (basil and tarragon, wine and ice cream). Food Matches (100 delectable pages of basic foods and their friends). And Flavors from Around the World (India: 30 flavors; Canada: maple).
Start by composing a dish. Expand to a meal. And, for the truly ambitious, learn to assemble a menu. Culinary Artistry is rich with tips, examples, and advice from the masters of culinary harmony who came before.
Make a little culinary music of your own at