Assignment in class: Take a large black cherry dipped in its syrup and transfer it for fourteen days in olive broth. The slightly bitter taste will balance the sweetness of the fruit and the marriage will be completed. Matteo Baronetto, chef at the Michelin-starred restaurant Del Cambio, likes to mess with the cards in the temple that once belonged to Cavour, where it could seem heresy among red velvet chairs and sparkling chandeliers to serve two lettuce leaves – yes, only two – spiced with black cherry syrup and an olive. Yet the magic that takes place is crystalline when the palate and conquers the senses. All. First the view, because “Oliva e amarena”, the first of the many surprising gastronomic tandems devised by Baronetto, is a “graphic”, complex and stringent dish. Perfect in its simplicity to sound disarming, so much so that for a moment one is almost tempted to think “I could have done that” as the seemingly “light” paintings at the sight of the layman. It is a pity that someone has thought about it before, and just as in art, the crux of the matter is always the same: the one who does it first is valid, for we all know the value of replicas.
Is it art, avant-garde, cuisine? All these things together, explains the chef, who at the height of his creative maturity wanted to fix these marriages on paper at first glance impossible, but in fact very complete, between distant ingredients. Galeotto meets the young Manfredi Nicolò Maretti, at the helm of a small publishing house specializing in art books. “Iconic similitudes” (Maretti publishing house, limited edition of 350 autographs, 27 euros) is not a recipe book, but rather a diary in which the Baronet returns his discoveries in the form of a story, an anecdote. An “absolute” book halfway between art and cuisine, a gem for collectors “and yes – he admits – also a gift that I would give myself to celebrate what we Italians are best at and for which we are recognized above all over the world: food, fashion, design “.
There are no photographs to illustrate the dishes, but abstract drawings made by Edoardo Maria Manuguerra. The court’s intuition is a glimpse that suddenly comes while the sketch has the task of fixing the proposal so that the taste is not lost once the court is finished. In the book, there is also a tribute to Bob Noto, an imaginary phone call to a friend who is no longer there. “I was thinking about what I would have told him if he was here. He would definitely have enjoyed watching these dishes.”
If simple pleasures are the last haven for complicated people, as Oscar Wilde wrote, then the discovery, the disguise of the raw material, its abstraction that turns it into something else, might really be worth the ticket. Each dish becomes a link, a glimpse that opens up meaning connections between very different flavors: monkfish and rabbit, nori seaweed and sea bass skin, scallops and marrow and so on. But similarities, unthinkable, for anyone who is not gifted with an absolute palate. Who could combine lard with squid? But if served very thin, they turn out to be two sensational travel companions, exactly like “Salmon and foie gras”: The golden rule says not to combine obesity with obesity, but on the palate, this sum is squared.
Breaking a few bans, as curious children do, can really go a long way. And who knows what games the Baronet used to play when he grew up imagining a dish like “Eggs or squid?”, A kind of “find the differences” in a gastronomic version between two elements – hard-boiled eggs marinated in vinegar and slices of squid – both white and cut to the same thickness, which plays to mix on the plate. You have to use all your senses to get out of this perfectly orchestrated trap unscathed, because what might seem like an exercise in style for its own sake reveals at first bite all the technical complexity needed to achieve the same consistency from the two ingredients. As an equilibrist in a circus, you walk on thin threads, you remain speechless, as happened when you were a child to something new: “We bet you’re wrong? This is eggs! “Only to discover at first bite that it is not.
The room boys tell about the vault, where a regular customer was pleasantly cheated by the fake “pepper and anchovies” – the summer snack par excellence, the beginning of every rustic dinner in Langa – where the very thin slices and red on the palate turn out to be – surprise! – Watermelon used overnight in the oven, cut in the shape of a flap and polished with a brushstroke of rosemary oil. In the heart of the magical Turin, this can also happen.