A Paean to Noma

Desserts have been made with unorthodox ingredients, like plankton. Credit… Ditte Isager for The New York Times.

All these words are Pete Wells’s words. I’ve merely culled them selectively from his essay on Noma into a poem-like structure. I’m darned if there’s not a Whitmanesque vibe to it.

It was here in the reindeer lichen and puffed fish skin
Here in the signal-orange berries of wild sea buckthorn
In the sour, heart-shaped leaves of wood sorrel
Picked, snipped and dug up

It was here in the burning hay that perfumed
It was here in the keening acidity of pickled and fermented ingredients
In the gentle sweetness of parsnips and other vegetables
That took the place of fruit in desserts

It was here in the slates, rocks, seashells, logs and rustic pieces of hand-thrown pottery
For transporting food from the kitchen to the table
It was here in the bony, opaque, angular, off-center, unpredictable, odd-smelling wines
made in the Jura and the Loire by natural and biodynamic methods

It was graceful, it was coherent
I wasn’t prepared for the shimmering beauty
Like the iridescent silhouette of a starfish brushed on a plate with edible paint
And covered with the sparkling roe of wild Danish trout

Unprepossessing liquid that looked as if it had simply seeped out of a clam
Would turn out to be a sauce full of pleasure and complexity
The next course would do it again
But in a different key at another volume

The fermentation suite was full of jars of grains and yeasts and fruits
Whose molecules were breaking down and rearranging
The research and development laboratory was ready for new discoveries
The greenhouse was under construction.

“We’re in here for life. But we’re not in here for one thing. It can change.”
I can’t quite say I’ll be sorry when it’s gone. In many ways
Its excellence had become inseparable from the culture of overkill
That now defines the windswept high peaks of fine dining

Once he gets rid of those pesky diners
Maybe he could ask a small team of scientists
To look into ways to shrink great dining experiences
Down to a size that is both more human and more humane

(Pete Wells, “Noma Spawned a World of Imitators, But the Restaurant Remains an Original,” New York Times, 1-9-23)

(c) 2023 JMN — EthicalDative. All rights reserved

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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