Reminder and Remainder

kitty
Behind any published piece of writing are many pages (and in my case many many pages) that were written but never meant to be read. These excess words are like the camphor tree that’s planted alongside a tea tree, by the time the tea leaves have been picked and processed there’s no thought of whose roots were co-mingled with what, but the slight cooling sensation on your tongue is both reminder and remainder.

spices

Many thanks to Black Balloon Publishing for publishing my profile on Koh Kikuchi (Chef Otto) this week. While editing the piece I went back to my notes and found a few lines comparing Koh’s cooking to Morton Feldman’s piano music. Needless to say such abstract nonsense didn’t even make it into the first draft but I can post it here for the minimally inclined.

A Morton Feldman piano piece:
– sometimes the audible has already been played
– sounds become inaudible before their notation ends
– notes that fade away by themselves without the pianist’s influence
– not everything in the score is audibly recognized

Koh’s cooking:
– takes into account what you may have already eaten, or may still be lingering in your palate.
– dictates textures and flavors in a sequence, within a time frame lasting between two bites to a five-course meal
– flavors that emerge without Koh’s influence (he likes to say “I did nothing to this piece of meat!”)
– not everything he does to the food is intended to be tasted

pheasant_puff

One has to read what the dish is trying to do. Like minimalism piano music, there are tones and rhythms, but the music has a purpose. It’s going somewhere, though some notes fail where others succeed. One has to study the dish, how it relates to what was served before, or what is coming.
The seared tip of a triangle of whitefish, the slimy spiral of seaweed in a clear consommé, the dull grayish blob of leeks that were cooked in soy sauce and wine and pork ribs for 8 hours. All of these are notes/textures in his little compositions.

knife

A few lingering online reviews of Koh’s cooking:

LA Times: February 11, 2001

Metropolis: March 17, 2011

Mouthfulsfood.com, July 2004

Uwe’s World: September 2005

remainder

2 thoughts on “Reminder and Remainder

  1. Absolutely loved your article about Koh and Aki. My husband and I met Koh in Kyoto at Ashiya Steak House in 1986. Koh and I became pen pals when we returned back to California from our vacation. When Koh first arrived in the United States, he spent his first Christmas with us. We have remained friends all these years (although he is more like family to us). I really appreciate you featuring him in your article. Everyone that knows Koh and has shared the ups and downs of his journey, hope that this new opportunity for him will bring great things. Thank you again.

  2. Nancy, you are so welcome. I am pleased to hear from anyone who is family to Koh and Aki. Ups and downs are part of life, but everything related to Koh and Aki ranks as an up for me. Thanks a lot for reading, and hope to get to meet you sometime.

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