Can food be beautiful? I do not refer to the arrangement of food on a table, but the taste of food. Two glasses of wine, side by side, might appear nearly identical, but can one be beautiful and the other ugly? Taste has not traditionally been associated with beauty because it cannot be judged according to harmony or proportion. So, too, a smell can be pleasing but not beautiful for it cannot be halved or observed. We can only see that which sits at some distance away from us, but taste and smell invisibly enter into the darkness of our skulls, and so taste and smell can never be the beneficiaries of light. While light is not exclusively loyal to beauty, beauty maintains a unique devotion to light; music gets into our skulls, as well, but earthly music is but a pale imitation of the music of the luminescent spheres.
However, the other day I read David Hart claim, “Beauty seems to promise a reconciliation beyond the contradictions of the moment,” and I was struck by all the times I have described a cheese as tasting “like sweaty gym socks, but in a good way,” or a certain very green IPA “like onions, but in a good way.” What do we mean when we describe a food as having a certain flavor “but in a good way”? We mean the maker has resolved the contradictions of a smell; we mean the chef has reconciled an ugly flavor to the tongue. Harmony has been teased out of chaos. The world and the palate have been balanced.