Watching the DVD today, I realized that while Anton Ego's epiphany moment (the first taste of the Confit Byaldi) is the climax and a true representation of that great food experience we all seek, the column that followed it, held a key thought. I know that Bruni wrote a column about this same thought, but I thought I'd play it out here again, as we've recently had a couple of posts about the function of critics.
From the movie, then:
"In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.
There are times when a critic truly risks something and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends. Last night I experienced something new – an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and the maker have challenged my preconceptions about fine cooking is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core."
Bruni agreed that the discovery and relating of the new is the ne plus ultra for critics. Leff has as much as said so, and indeed, "finds" a major part of writing on Chowhound.
This is a deeper film than one can get in one viewing - I'd recommend renting or buying the DVD!