Photo by Lara Kastner
WILD TURBOT shellfish, water chestnuts, floral vapor
More often than not the creative impulses that lead us to unusual flavor combinations are the result of experience, an association game of like ingredients and study. But sometimes we draw on intuition and a more cerebral aspect of life experiences and memory.
When people think of the function of flowers in food they commonly write them off as purely aesthetic, a way to add color and natural beauty to a plate. To me flowers are herbs. In fact, many of the flowers used in the culinary world are exactly that, the blooms from herb plants. But in this case we go deeper and focus first on the smell the flowers emanate and how that can influence taste. We then look to what they represent to the season and the memories surrounding the aromas they produce.
I grew up in St. Clair, Michigan, a small, agricultural-based town. What the tiny town lacked in culture (the first fast food restaurant was built when I was a junior in high school, and it only had one major intersection) it made up for in outdoor activities. Hunting, fishing, and dirt bike-racing were the hobbies of choice for my group of friends.
My father would frequently take me on the boat out into the St. Clair River to drift fish for walleye, or I would go casting with my friends to various ponds and small lakes near our home. The extremely humid and sultry climate that the Midwest summer is known for produced a very distinctive fish/sea smell as the air met the water. And inevitably the banks of all the bodies of water were lined with many types of plants in bloom. So for me the two smells--seafood and the perfume of flowers--were permanently fused in my mind.