In the 18th century, Italian mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci, learning from Arab and Hindu masters, came up with a sequence of integer numbers that from then on was named after him. The first two numbers in the Fibonacci sequence are 1 and 1, with each subsequent number being the sum of the previous two. The position of the zero in the sequence, questioned by numerous scientists, has been left unsettled. Otherwise, the sequence looks as follows: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610, 987…
What unfolds in front of our eyes is the rhythm of the golden ratio and harmonious beauty. The sequence is present in Euclidean algorithms, contemporary architecture, the structure of the pyramid in Giza, Debussy’s two piano works and Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac, where the sequence is unveiled in the rhythm of the female protagonist’s first erotic encounter. The morphology of the human body and its DNA molecules, crystals and atoms, beehives and grain is also described by Fibonacci numbers. Other examples include shellfish shells and a dolphin, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful animals on the planet. According to Fibonacci rules, a dolphin is ideal from top to bottom.
Plants. They give proof to Fibonacci’s genius as well, even though they have never heard of this man from Pisa. The seedy ‘shields’ of sunflowers, Roman cauliflowers with their regular conical shapes, pineapples with their overlapping husks, and flower species with constant numbers of petals – all they need to grow is moisture and the sun. Math, however, is always there. It is in the scale structure of a cone and in the fractal structure of the red cabbage. It allows the cabbage to have its leaves efficiently arrayed around the core so that they receive equal amount of light. I feel like disrupting the order of these leaves. I want to tousle them. To dishevel.
So let’s cook math out of the cabbage.
In 1898, Stéphanie Tatin baked an apple tart at a hotel in Lamotte-Beuvron she run together with her sister. Surprisingly, apples, not pastry, are the base of the tart. She may have had too much wine doing most of the cooking, caramelized apples for too long and, as a result, decided to save the dessert by putting the pastry base on top of fruit. I do not remember. Perhaps she was feeling so blasé about a regular tart that she found herself in the mood for radical changes? All I know is that I am in such a mood right now. If we didn’t turn our worlds, lives and kitchens upside down once in a while, we wouldn’t be making progress. That’s why I like shaking things up from time to time, for example, I don’t make the pastry base, but the red cabbage base, sometimes replaced by caramelized beetroots, leeks or shallots – whichever non-dessert ingredients I find in a bowl hidden in the cabinet.
The dish is quick to make and should be prepared in a saucepan *
I preheat the oven to 356 °F. Then, I thickly slice half of the red cabbage and a whole red onion. I put one spoon of butter and ¾ cup sugar into the pan to caramelize them until a blonde color, because I like blonde men. I add sliced cabbage and onion to the caramel, lower the heat, stir and watch their rawness fade away. I like the way vegetables soften. I cook them less than 10 minutes because the cooking process will finish in the oven anyway; besides, I like my veggies al dente. I add salt and three spoons of wine vinegar – my fancy – and take the pan off the heat. If I have shortcrust pastry, filo pastry or a ready-made puff pastry, I cut a circle of it 4 cm larger than the bottom of the pan. I put the pastry on the caramelized cabbage and press it down gently, folding the edges to the inside. Next, I prick it with a fork and put in the oven for 30 minutes, lowering the heat to 302 °F after 20 minutes. When it’s done, I use a knife to loosen the pastry from the edge of the pan, put a plate on top of it and turn everything upside down. Here comes the revolution. Should there be some cabbage left in the pan, take it and stick to the rest. It’s totally doable. You may be the fan of symmetry and even, regular ornaments, but an unpredictable, naturally unbridled texture of the cabbage has something special in it. At least to me, in my current mood.
* stainless steel pan with a steel or removable hand or a springform pan will do as well, but it means more washing afterwards; for my vegan guests I use olive oil and shortcrust pastry without butter;
Text: Anna Królikiewicz
Artist, teacher, author of numerous exhibitions and installations. She works as the Associate Professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk where she teaches drawing and at School of Form in Poznań where she gives classes titled The shape of taste. In her drawings and objects she deals with a broadly defined corporeality of a body and the fragility of memory. Her latest works touch upon the issues related to the physiology of taste and the phenomenon of synesthesia.
photo. Anna Królikiewicz (1,6,7), Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times (5), others: Pinterest