The experience of food (and wine) is remarkable for how it compresses time in the spectacle of the moment.
It begins with the soil being cultivated and fertilized, the seeds planted, nurtured, harvested, and then processed. Fruits and some vegetables are ripe only for a day before they begin their trajectory toward spoilage and must be brought to market quickly. When preparing meals we begin by looking over menus and recipes, gathering ingredients, and then planning to make sure the whole meal will be ready on time.
Then we taste, experiment, and consider how the meal will be presented. The dishes will be created and served with an organization which is culturally specific and may reflect long-standing traditions and firm expectations.
Then we cook, a laborious process sometimes unfolding over several days in which separate unedited components gradually come together to form a unity.
Finally the moment arrives! We eat.
The meal may be over in less than an hour. The dishes are cleared, cleaned, and stored for the next meal.
This is an amazingly extended process that becomes concentrated and culminates in just a few exquisite moments. To do justice to the food we must be fully present in that moment.
Yes, food is transient and ephemeral. Its finest examples will disappear almost instantly after they’re created. But this doesn’t diminish the value of food as an aesthetic experience. Its value lies in the fact that the experience flashes like a spark and then disappears.
To the extent we are paying attention, the activity of eating celebrates the fleeting presence of the here and now in a way no other experience does.