Thursday, January 30, 2014
A study in roasted root vegetables
Beauty is found in unexpected places. It can strike you while leaning over a pan in the kitchen, such as this arrangement of roasted root vegetables — carrots, onions, garlic, parsnips, plus an eggplant — that my wife was preparing the other day. The color, first: the gentle earth tones, punctuating by the dramatic orange of the carrots. The exclamatory flourishes of the gently purple onion strips. The pale green sprigs of rosemary. The juxtaposition too — the varying sizes of the circles, the uniform distribution of the types and colors—she had shaken them up in a bag with olive oil—which actually holds something of a key because, in my opinion, something beautiful carries a secret message, a meaning, locked in its physical attraction, hidden there, waiting to be figured out. In this case it is in the uniform distribution of the vegetables. Notice that they are not piled in the pan, but lain — none overlap, except for a few of those exuberant onions. Which means, when you pause to consider it, that somebody — my wife — did not cut and carelessly dump those discs of vegetables into a pan, willy nilly, but carefully set each slice in, just so, to be roasted with the maximum efficiency and effect, so no vegetable would shield another, leaving it undercooked. So an element is the care about ordinary things, about small details, which is itself beautiful and that the vegetables wordlessly reflect. And finally a kind of innocence. Just as a model, heavily made up and posing for a magazine fashion photo tends not to have the kind of unforgettable loveliness that someone caught off guard at the exact perfect moment can, so there was an unconsciousness to this study in root vegetables, an innocent joy. When I said, "Wait here for a second, let me get my camera," my wife, who had just created this tableau, had no idea what on God's earth I'd be photographing. She stood with puzzled patience as a I snapped a few shots, then told her she could put the pan back in the oven — another minute, not quite roasted to perfection. Only when I showed her the picture did she say, "Ohhh."
Of course, like most men, I underestimate the work and deliberation that women put into creating something beautiful. When I ran my accidental arrangement theory by my wife, she replied, "I always cook according to color..." Not so accidental after all.