Two weeks ago, the head panelist of the food tasting board asked me as she flipped through the nine- page menu, "Madam Chef, did you create all of these?"
- What should I say?
A. No, and tell a lie
B. Yes, and - sound too cocky
I smiled and bowed. No words.
For me, all acts of creation start somewhere. Whatever that somewhere is, there is always a source for inspiration- whether you pulled it out of your jeans pocket or an intimidating cookbook, the point is, it stemmed from somewhere.
Most of the time I don't copy from cookbooks. Of course I make them as reference for techniques, proportions, but first in my mind is to respect the mental genius of who created that dish. Credit goes to him/ her. Don't expect me either to copy the menu of my competitors.
When I was called to create a Japanese parfait dessert for example, what I had in mind was the ease of putting the dessert altogether- put this and that, and voila, a belle melange of everything! But...but...weirder as my mind goes, I was thinking of something else.
I was thinking of a geisha. If I had another lifetime to live, I would choose to be born in Osaka nd dream of becoming a geisha. With a geisha, other worlds of beauty are created. Not much that I know, but I could imagine that if you were a big time no- nonesense mogul, I think it makes better sense once in a while to join the companion of a living artwork than manipulate the realities of paying bills, dirty laundry, and parking spaces. Geishas don't sell their flesh, but their talents. With a geisha, you don't talk about divorce but poetry. After that, you get a better grab with life.
I am inspired by geishas myself. That picture above is my desktop wall paper downloaded from the National Geographic Archives. I took it as the inspiration for making Azuki Parfait.
The layers of azuki beans bring to mind that azuki, as main ingredient is a Japanese staple bean. While you can use canned azuki, it is still very challenging to bloom the beans yourself and make your own sweetened azuki. The geisha's kimono is red, so reminiscent of the red beans.
The kanten jelly, soft and versatile, discloses the a lot about the nature of a woman. You can use kanten jelly for savory and sweet foods alike, in the same way that a woman is resilient and in every way beautiful in all the courses of life.
Scoops of vanilla ice cream, classic and indespendable in the desserts of the world. Sweetness, gentleness, and everything that brings to mind unflawed beauty.
Cereal flakes and irigoma add texture and contrast;
Whipped cream, ah...whipped cream.
Then at last, I had to translate into the dish the 'umbrella' of the beautiful geisha: the pocky sticks. This is a popular Japanese chocolate- coated biscuit sticks, a personal favorite too, and I can't miss this out in the dessert.
Down the rain she walks
A geisha graces the road
To the coffee shop.