Food Chemistry

Fish and Chips? Prosciutto and Melon?

Food Chemistry

Text by Sakiko Hirano
Painting by Ulala Imai

Just as the world of idols has Tackey & Tsubasa, the world of English cuisine has fish and chips. Just like the comedy world has Taka and Toshi, the world of French cuisine has steak and frites. Just like the music industry has DJ Misoshiru and MC Gohan, the world of Japanese cuisine has miso soup and rice. I could go on, but, just like each of these realms has its famous duos, the culinary world also has well-known pairings with a common destiny: placed on menus together, consumed together and loved together.

However, the particular pair I have in mind aren’t merely connected by an ‘&’. Instead, they do quite a bit on their own, too. Steak is steak and fries are fries, and they’re both pretty active in their respective fields, collaborating with other ingredients and brands each time.

Because of that experience, every time they go back to being tied together by an ‘&’, it wouldn’t be too odd if they stopped and doubted just a bit, saying to themselves, “Huh? Were we really meant to augment each other?”. For example, fries that have soaked in some of the juices from a steak aren’t bad, but in a different time and place, they may have been the fresh vegetables, meat and potatoes of the Showa-era, and may even have complemented each other better that way. (Ah, I could really go for some cooked-to-perfection potatoes soaking in their sweet meat juices). So, they must wonder if, somewhere out there in the world, there weren’t food pairings or cooking techniques that would suit them better. Once you get a bit of a broader perspective the whole world changes, don’t you think? I can’t help imagining the possibilities outside of that one dish, whenever I see former duos.

Now, (and mind you, no one asked me) what if you guys are only still together because it’s comfortable? If you’re only with someone because you’ve been together for so long—it just feels natural to keep being together—or another similar reason you induced from your past experiences, then you should probably rethink it. In that sort of state of mindless acceptance, both of you are damaging your ability to reach your full potential and, if we speak in broader terms, you might be holding back the progress of culinary culture itself!

Are you truly among the ranks of legendary duos? Don’t we all have a duty, as ingredients, cooks, or diners, to investigate this hypothesis! It is this question I have come here to ask, passion in my heart, though indeed no one asked me. Because if I didn’t ask these questions, I would never have experienced the poignancy of putting vinegar pepper on gyoza, or the awe of coating truffle mayonnaise on French fries.

“The discovery of a new dish confers more happiness on humanity than the discovery of a new star.” These words are from the 18th-century gastronome, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755–1826). Don’t get too caught up in the customs of the past. Always keep seeking fresh new combinations. This way lies new discovery and, likely, even rediscovery of old dishes.


※This essay is an excerpt from PARTNERS Issue #1