What do Sherlock Holmes, Carlo Ginzburg and Rob Rhinehart (of Soylent’ Fame) have in common? All the mentioned individuals are connoisseur in their fields. While Holmes is the archetypal Scientist. He carefully solves all cases one after another by his systematic, unemotional approach to solving mysteries. He has ability to separate fact from theory. “I make a point of never having any Prejudice”, he tells Inspector Forrester (The Adventure of the Reigate Squires’). Holmes relies on intuition and mysterious flashes of insight. “See the value of imagination”, he tells Watson in Silver Blaze. Holmes definitely is a connoisseur of his field. His scientific mastery and individual intuition or training has made him one of the most famous fictional character in the world. Calling Holmes a connoisseur of scientific mastery, individual intuition, intelligence, would be an understatement. Similarly Carlo Ginzburg and Rob Rhinehart too is connoisseur of their respective fields. Such individuals make us examine ourselves to attain perfection.
Connoisseur comes from Middle-French ‘connaitre’ meaning “to be acquainted with” or “to know somebody or something”. A connoisseur is a person who has a great deal of knowledge about the find arts, cuisines, or an expert judge in matters of taste.
On the basis of empirical evidence, refinement of perception about technique and form, and a disciplined method of analysis, the responsibility of the connoisseur is to attribute authorship, validate authenticity and appraise quality. Connoisseur is also used in the context of gastronomy, i.e. in connection with fine food, beer, wine, tea and many other products whose consumption can be pleasing to the senses.
A ‘Gastronome’ is a food and wine expert.
An ‘Oenologist’ is a wine expert.
An ‘epicurean’ appreciates good food and wine.
In her article ‘The End of Food’ (May 12,2014) Lizzie Widdcombe wrote about Rob Rhinehart, a Tech entrepreneur who comes up with a product (soylent) to replace our meal! Sounds interesting as well as eerie. Rob who is living in a claustrophobic apartment in San Francisco, is forced by his financial circumstances to come up with something innovative. To mitigate grocery bills and stave off scury. He went straight to the raw components that make our food. He compiled 35 nutrients required for survival and came up with slurry of chemicals that looked like gooey Lemonade. He called his potion ‘soylent’. According to him, ‘soylent’ has many benefits. First it saves time and money. Second, it improves health (Dandruff gone!). Third, it reduces green house gas emission, saves water and agriculture land. So does this makes Rob a Connoisseur or Gastronome? You bet! He has deep knowledge about food, and is an expert judge in matter of taste (even though soylent tastes like grandpa’s Metamucil). He has appraised food quality. However, press has heralded soylent as “The end of food” as many cyptic critics, orthodox people cannot fathom the fact that Soylent would bring an end to traditional agriculture; (Rob describes it as dirty job for underclass) Kitchen cooking; vegetable and other food shopping! Even though critics are doubtful of soylent, Rob is confident about its future. “I think the best technology is the one that disappears,” he said.
In ‘A Brief History of Scent’, writer Beau Friedlander discusses an entertaining variety of off-Label uses for the smell of cadavers, including “Stench Soup”. She looks at the way in which we and what makes for a truly awful stink. She adds that the smell of a place at a particular moment follows the same rules as any perfume, but with a for greater degree of complexity. She meticulously observes that the smell in her block (in Brooklyn) is in fact mixture of various heart notes of gasoline, fallen leaves, car exhaust and others.
Fried Lander definitely makes us pensive about power of smell on our mood, food, culture; belief systems smell can evoke different time and era too. As it is said ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison.’ A smell associated with a particular culture may smell offensive to others but there are smells that are universally accepted by all, and only a Connoisseur of cuisines, taste and smell can identify how certain cuisines and taste have universal appeal.
Who are we to judge Connoisseur of various fields! These great individuals in their respective fields only guide us to have more mastery in our own field and be in tune to our intuitions to reach Zenith of perfection.