In praise of the last mouthful
The final mouthful can make or break one’s lasting impression of a meal. Here’s how to perfect it.
Working your way around a plate of food can become a methodical process. Starting out, you’ve got everything. This is the time to try each individual morsel, working out the flavours, the textures (and to figure out the parts that aren’t working so well.) But as the plate goes on, you need to make a choice – just how do you want this meal to end?
Constructing the final bite may mean different things for different people. You must ask – is every individual element so heavenly together, creating some undulating, salivating and satiating explosion, to which one’s only reaction can be closed eyes, long, slow chewing and head thrown backwards? Or, do you need to do some pinpointing on flavour priority?
The satisfaction that can be said for a meal relies heavily on that last impression. Locate a puck of gristle, encounter a soggy corner, or to end on the dry bite of an otherwise saucy affair can all feel like subterfuge.
But really, what greater joy is there than to close in on your chosen bite? Cutlery can carefully skirt around the pieces of the portion to construed which part will be spared until the last. The centre of a perfectly cooked steak, for example, will always rule supreme over the slightly thinner, potentially charged edge. The runny yolk surrounded in folds of white make a tastier bite than the two apart, or the oozing centre of a chocolate fondant, cuddled in cocoa and cream. Whatever it is, the runway must be cleared of all other distractions in time for the last bite. Do away with soggy greens, lumpy mash and cold, lingering bits at the edge of the plate. Polish it off and beam with anticipation at the show-stopping finale.
Choose the order for your fork, maximising samples and space in such a fashion that it won’t fall off on the approach to your mouth. Heavier, more solid foods can stay snug at the base of the utensil, making a fantastic opportunity for spooning drippy bits and the more delicate finishers in a pile. Mop up any glistening residues – sauces, meat drippings, dressings – with the stack on your fork. And, wipe the knife against the fork for any remaining morsels. Close in, and relish.