The Edible Ensemble: An Olfactory Orchestra, by Hobie Owen

It’s Wednesday night, and my stomach is once again vocalizing its need to be utilized as an important member in bodily functions. Like a D.C. lobbyist its carefully nuanced ministrations subtly influence my consciousness in the most subliminal fashion.  I am hungry.
This cleverly constructed injection of motivational stimuli instills in my mind an impetus for inspiration and catalyzes the critical mental and muscle operations required to initiate this quest for sustenance.

The stage is set. The venue: an 18-inch cast iron pan received as a gift for my 22nd birthday. The audience: the olfactory and gustatory chemical receptors of my nose and tongue.
With a flourish I produce my conductor’s wand, a stainless steel spatula not unlike those used on Hibachi grilles.  Smooth steel terminating in a soft wooden handle; it lies in my hand with the air of an expectant puppy that’s just realized it’s going for a walk in the park. I take a deep breath and savor the anticipation of the meal to come, eager to begin the culinary concerto that will creatively culminate in a climax of flavor and scent.

Arranged on the counter top are the players that make up this savory symphony.  Sliced, diced, chopped and quartered, vegetables sit with barely contained potential, patiently awaiting the performance of their particular parts in this movement.

A knob rotates and the introduction has begun. Flame meets iron as gas ignites, a gentle swish synonymous with the opening of the curtain, the audience breathless with anticipation.
With a syrupy splash olive oil takes the stage, coating the pan as it cackles and crackles, a percussive prelude to the main theme.  In the backdrop a pot belches steam, a cacophony of rain sticks altering ambiance with the most altruistic of ambitions. Corkscrew Fusili pasta parachute down into the gurgling broth, light mallets striking small drums and heralding the presentation of the melodic motif.

First in the pan are the red bell peppers and zucchini, cellos and violins plucking abrasively against the relative cold of a fresh yet full auditorium. Sizzles become string strokes of savory sensation; the audience sighs with premature yet tentative release.

The foundation is laid and quickly colored by the next part, an explosion of eclectic emphasis characterized by the addition of the onion. This is the brass, bold in its inception into the instrumental edifice that is being energetically erected.  At this point the audience perks up in its seats, olfactory receptors leaping upon the scents like 8-year-olds on piñata candy.
Crash! Clash! Crash! Clash!  Kale cymbals canter in and for a moment cannibalize the other sounds with their fiery foray.

Things are really cooking at this point and I can feel the waves of appreciation resounding throughout the crowd as I keep time with my metallic wand, each movement manipulating musicians to achieve an ascending quality of composition.

As the cymbals fade the woodwinds are introduced: Basil, oregano, red and black pepper soulfully season the arrangement in 4-part harmony, captivating those seated by crossing chemical channels to create causal cognitive characterizations of musical molecular motion.
All demonstration dims as the grand piano prances into prominence. Chopped chicken absorbs the timbre of its adjacent tonalities and guides the orchestra as it glides across the piece’s main theme. Foreshadowed by the previous vegetable productions, the primed poultry’s performance poetically pierces the palate and precipitates salivary perspiration. The audience sweats and weeps at the sheer beauty of the artists’ acumen and resulting response.
Bass drums bellow. Magnificent tumbling mushrooms touch down with a boom that is felt by all present. Neural observers tremble at the spectacle, delighted by the awesome power these mycological magicians contribute to the ensemble.

The energy in the pan continues to build, reaching fever pitch as it approaches the climactic moment of grand finale. All parts are represented, an awesome array of arranged edible audition.

The lid comes down in a dramatic curtain call as the finale resolves, heat fades as flames extinguish yet for the moment the hall is still possessed by residual warmth. Steam rises in a swirling cloud of applause.

I, the conductor, stare down at my performance-softened orchestra, no longer rigid but now instead limp with release from their dramatic exertion of expression.
Though their responsibility at first appears appeased, the pause is but an interlude in the larger show that is my meal. Mouth watering, my hands shuffle to the next stop on this munchable menagerie’s tour of appetite, the dinner plate amphitheater.

Man oh man, how I do love Italian.

Hobie Owen maintains a blog, Young Hobartus. He can be reached at

One thought on “The Edible Ensemble: An Olfactory Orchestra, by Hobie Owen

  1. This piece made me laugh three times! Just when his alliteration was nearing overflow, he’d bring me right back into his kitchen: a playful back and forth connecting of heady vocab and the basic human behaviors of cooking & eating. More from him please.

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