This is the last piece of writing I will submit to The Octagon. And it’s an odd feeling.
Never again will I write By CONNOR MARTIN Editor-in-Chief at the top of my assignment.
Never again will I need to justify my 2-inch-wide column (with a .125-inch first-line indent), filled with nine-point Times New Roman text.
Because even if I join the Vassar College Miscellany next year, all of the Octagon-isms will be lost.
So this last piece is special.
And because I’ve spent so much of this year snobbing and ranting, I’d like to talk about food mentalities and non-judgment.
I’ve been meaning to write about these two topics for some time, because often I feel icky after writing a cooking column.
I’ve submitted columns feeling as though I may have offended some. And that’s the last thing I would ever want to do.
You’ve heard me rant about American Chinese food, picky eaters and sushi.
Although I touched on this in my column “Try sushi—and I don’t mean that American stuff,” the opinions expressed throughout my time writing “Cooking in the Cave” stem from just one person’s food mentality (mine).
Food is about enjoyment. My idea of a Friday-night meal is several pieces of fresh sushi, each with a blot of soy sauce and a dab of wasabi. That’s what I enjoy.
But some want a pepperoni-bacon-sausage special from Pizza Hut. And that’s fine.
It’s not what I would choose, but who really cares what I think?
If you enjoy Pizza Hut, then eat it!
But, more specifically, eat the food that makes you a happy person rather than a happy eater.
I’d be a happy eater if I ate doughnuts for every meal, but I wouldn’t be a happy person for very long on a nutritionless diet like that.
When I impart my opinions, it’s because I want people to really enjoy their food, to eat it for enjoyment and not out of necessity.
Sure I encourage people to try new things, like sea urchin and frog legs. But I don’t want someone to be miserable trying something he or she finds disgusting.
Finally, I’d like to talk about non-judgment.
It’s something I’m still working on, for I find it difficult not to judge an adult who still picks off the tomatoes and mushrooms from pizza.
But I’m working on it.
I take food very seriously, as it’s a passion for me. But I need to realize that others have different passions that take priority over food.
I don’t demand that everyone try to be an adventurous eater. I just ask that people keep an open mindset on food—to try new ingredients, to enjoy the tradition behind certain dishes and to view food as an art form.
That’s how I view food—as art. It most definitely is. For just as a composer constructs a symphony using different instruments, a chef constructs a dish using different ingredients.
A chef’s mind thinks like an artist’s: flavors must pair well and balance each other. Yet the dish cannot fall flat. It needs balance, but oomf at the same time. But it’s tricky to get that oomf, that punch, while keeping the integrity of the dish in check.
And so cooking is the art of nuance—knowing when and where to go further, and when and where to stop.
It’s the subtleties that fascinate me.
And I’ve enjoyed my time writing about these nuances very much.
I thank my readers for sticking with me through the more negative columns, and I thank those new to fine cuisine for having the open mind to listen.
I bid farewell to “Cooking in the Cave” and to The Octagon, things that will forever be dear to my heart.
Happy cooking; happy dining.
And remember to always eat the food that makes you a happy person—the food you truly enjoy.