Sometimes we get a book and for whatever reason it doesn't resonate. We read it and it just doesn't work for us. Sometimes a little time and distance can give us a new perspective on a formerly unappreciated tome. While it can be frustrating to realize that you had a hidden treasure sitting in plain sight, the fact is you have to be ready to appreciate it. When Gray Kunz's book The Elements of Taste came out I read it from cover to cover, underlined various points (to Aki's chagrin) and then set it aside. I had four star expectations for the book and for my younger self it failed to deliver. The book's comfortable approach to a complex topic flew well over my head. It sat on our book shelves for years, untouched, occasionally referenced but never fully explored.
Fast forward to a week ago and a conversation with a good friend and fellow chef who loves the book. His enthusiasm inspired me to take another look. The next time I wanted something to read I casually reached for The Elements of Taste. As I looked through it I was shocked to realize that what I had formerly dismissed as simplicity was actually the distillation of the myriad experiences of a culinary mastermind. It was incredible going through the book and seeing what I had underlined ten years ago, seeing what struck my fancy, what I was intrigued by and how those same sparks get ideas flowing today.
I opened to a random page and saw a beautiful gratin of fresh peas, pistachios and tarragon. It was one of those, "of course it's been done before" moments. Not that we thought we did something particularly unique, but to see the exact combination of ingredients and flavors beautifully presented over ten years ago was, well, humbling. It reminded me of the fact that while ideas may be new to us, chances are good that someone else had them before. Still it put a small smile on my face. If we are harnessing the flavor combinations of Gray Kunz then we can't be doing too poorly.