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Taste

· The editorial ·

In devoting this second issue in the series on the five senses to taste, and hence to cooking, to eating together, to sharing and to harmony, we had in mind the Christmas festivities. And Enzo Bianchi, a famous cook as well as the founder of a new monastic community and a great intellectual and scholar, has made us a present of a precious Christmas recipe.

“Grandma Duck”, conceived of by Taliaferro for Walt Disney

At a superficial glance taste might seem to be the simplest, the most material, in a certain sense almost the roughest of the five senses, but the reading of the texts we have chosen testifies to quite the opposite. And this is true not only for the Christian tradition but also for both the Jewish and the Islamic traditions. Bianchi indeed highlights the complexity and richness of the theme of the senses: “All our knowledge derives from the senses, from the most basic to the most refined. We ‘feel’ through our senses, but an enormous symbolic charge is inherent in our use of them”.

Cooking means entering into a direct relationship with the produce of nature, it demands a knowledge of colours, flavours and smells which are then worked on and transformed in accordance with complex and often ancient cultural codes. These traditions hark back to the past of a people or a land, to its religious beliefs which turn foodstuffs into symbols of purity and impurity, of celebration and of penance, which mark the passage of the seasons, making it sacred. In addition to this richness linked to shared cultural codes is the human experience linked to food, to tasting it together, to offering something to eat, to giving sustenance, a sign of life and solidarity, of shared moments of festivity and of peacefulness and of love. The human experiences recounted by Stefania Giannotti or retraced in the cinema by Catherine Aubin are transformed into complex cultural traditions transmitted like a mark of identity from one generation to the next, as Margherita Pelaja, Anna Foa and Arianna tell us. Today taste is also taken in by false myths, for example that of “zero food miles”, explained by Carlo Triarico who identifies the excessive distance between farmer and consumer as one of the evils of our time.

Every time we say “taste” we want to say far more, for tasting also means discerning through this experience, understanding with the involvement of our whole being. Thus it is that cooking paves the way to the spiritual experience, to the taste of God. (lucetta scaraffia)

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