"The Universe is nothing without the things that live in it, and everything that lives, eats" wrote Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin in the preamble to his 1825 Physiology of Taste, or Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy. Brillat-Savarin suggested that the forgotten tenth Muse was Gasterea, who presided over all the pleasures of taste.
A century and a half ago, the stomach, the intestines, and the bowels held the most highly esteemed positions of all in human anatomy. That long and winding interior road from mouth to anus we now call the "digestive tract" was then considered the driving force of our lives and characters.
APERTURE: What's most important for you in food? MARCELLA HAZAN: It has to taste good. If it's pretty, that's alright, but I look at my dishes for half a second and then I start eating. I want to be happy when I finish eating. APERTURE: Do you taste while you're cooking?
BOBBY FLAY: Blue corn is a very cool ingredient. It's blue, and it's flavorful, and it's organically grown, and it's only grown in the United States, in New Mexico. I'm a food patriot. APERTURE: Is there a difference between what you like to cook and what you like to eat?
APERTURE: My guess is you love the Tokyo fish market. NOBU MATSUHISA: Yeah. Every time I stay in Tokyo, I wake up in the morning about six or seven o'clock, I go to the fish market. See fish all over. They also have a lot of fish swimming in tanks—the customer says, "I'd like this fish," and they send it to the restaurant.
APERTURE: Do you have favorite flavors, or combinations of them? ROSE LEVY BERANBAUM: Mm-hm. I love flavors, their purity and their interaction. Lemon is one of my favorite flavors. And then there are certain things I've discovered, like that vanilla is flavor-enhancing, and makes other flavors more intense.
APERTURE: You are the queen of wedding cakes and other fancy cakes. Where do you get your ideas? SYLVIA WEINSTOCK: Sometimes the customer gives them to me. The customer will say, "We're doing a wedding in a garden, and we're using twig baskets filled with wildflowers.
If You Were About to be Executed. What Would Your Last Meal Be?
WOLFGANG PUCK Whatever was in season. A good baked potato with some good caviar—that would be the best meal. And some good wine and champagne, of course. And Kim Basinger or Michelle Pfeiffer with them. ROSE LEVY BERANBAUM Well, I'd probably lose my appetite.
APERTURE: What's your favorite thing to eat, your favorite flavor, your favorite ingredient? JULIA CHILD: I would say among my favorites, that's what I would say. Well, one of the most delicious things nowadays is a meltingly ripe Bartlett pear.
COPELAND MARKS: My favorite food is the one I'm working on at the moment. When I was writing the Indonesian cookbooks, I thought there was no cuisine in the world that interested me more, and that was more delicious. And besides, I was writing it in the countries of origin, which I always do, so that I connect the ambiance of the country with the flavors I'm enjoying.
APERTURE: What's your favorite food, your favorite flavor? JEREMIAH TOWER: It changes. Since it's cold and damp today, one of my favorite things would be a black-truffle hamburger. That and a great, bold Burgundy would send you to heaven.
APERTURE: Are there ingredients you're constantly thinking about? DANIEL BOULUD: I love tomato very, very much. You can do all kinds of things with it, and always have a refreshing and light approach. APERTURE: Is texture important to you?
APERTURE: So tell me what your favorite food is, and your favorite flavor, and your favorite ingredients. ISMAIL MERCHANT: Mustard is, of course, my favorite thing, with mustard seeds. And ginger, garlic, and green chilis are my favorite spices.
APERTURE: What's your favorite food, or what ingredient do you like to work with best? WOLFGANG PUCK: There are too many to mention. Different seasons have different favorites: the first strawberries, or the first cherries in the summer; the first white truffles from Italy, in October.
APERTURE: What are your favorite foods? MARK PEEL: Right now it's early September, we've had a heat wave, and the melons are so sweet. That's my favorite thing right now. NANCY SILVERTON: I get most excited about the foods I buy at the farmer's market.
APERTURE: What's your favorite ingredient, or favorite food? RICK BAYLESS: If I could answer that I'd probably be a boring cook. It's always changing. We're always trying to understand things about Mexican flavor that we haven't understood before.
DANIEL BOULUD Oh, I was born on a farm, so we had always a lot of food on the table. Breakfast was sausage and eggs, a big breakfast and lunch. Dinner was soup mostly. My mother and my grandmother did the cooking, and we raised our own birds—chicken, turkey, goose, even squab.
What Was the Most Delicious Thing You Ever Ate, or the Most Delicious You Ever Cooked?
SYLVIA WEINSTOCK One of our most delicious cakes is probably that wonderful French cake that's layered with a hazelnut meringue, mocha buttercreams, chocolate mousses, etcetera. That's just a great thing to eat. I personally like a lemon cake with lemon mousse and fresh raspberries, especially in the summertime.
RICK BAYLESS holds a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Michigan. He hosted the nationally aired, twenty-six-part PBS television series, Cooking Mexican, (1978-1979). Together with his wife Deann, Bayless published Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico in 1987.