If you close your eyes and try to imagine the table of your dreams, can you see it dressed in fine nappery, and full of dishes each one more appetizing than the next? Eyes closed but tastebuds awake, do you sense a delightful hunger? From the wonderful smells emanating from the dishes, what colors do you see?
Can you make out these ancient color tones and polychromatic dishes, with their colors clearlly defined? Let your senses carry you through time; the Middle Ages beckon you. So, if you wish to prepare a medieval table, your dishes will be beautiful, embellished by food in the ancient colors of silver, gold, azures, gules (the old English for red) soré (for brown) and vert (for green). The poetic magic of these colors evoke marvelous old pigments, extraordinary and mysterious powders and ointments. These colors are simply mouth-watering!
Let’s go to the kitchen now, to obtain these tones.
Silver, like the white of leeks, white beets, ginger, cow’s milk and the almond milk.
Gold, like the yolk of the egg and saffron.
Azures, like the blue of the sunflower (Crozophora tinctoria).
Gules, like the red of the same sunflower, but with another quantity, like « the blood of the dragon », a resinous gum from Socotra, like sandalwood, like cedar wood, like the root of alkanet and other plants.
Soré, these brown tones from tawny to reddish-brown are like toasted bread, cinnamon.
Vert, the green color, so generously offered by nature, with the beets, spinach, fennel, and sorrel, or wisely determined mixes of sunflower and saffron.
Cuisine and alchemy are still sisters today. You don’t need to destroy your dishes with artificial coloring. Ask your favorite pastry-cook. Maybe will he give you some of his secrets about colors. He’ll tell you that he uses egg yolks and saffron for yellow. The red of the poppy with a sugar syrup to make chocolate so shiny. And also mint and other ingredients….
If after this travel into a gourmand past, today seems very lifeless, remember this poem by Jacques Prévert, « To make the picture of a bird ».
« First paint a bird-cage
With an door open
Something nice… »
So, take your paint brushes, your pigments, your powders and your ointments, some indigo stone, your mortar, your heaps of leaves and petals to crush, some egg yolks as always and other things you found by yourself and…
First, paint your favorite color
On a nice embroidered table-cloth
Something sugared or salted
In a nice color…
And savor this meal you’ve dreamed about, with people you love surrounding you, or only
for yourself, as you wish.