Spain is the new France
Posted 15 December 2003 - 12:57 PM
Thanks for joining us here at egullet.
Do you have any thoughts on the Spain is the new France hullaballoo.
Are standards, or at least innovation, lagging behind what the Spanish are doing?
Are there other countries (the US or the UK spring to mind) that could also be considered to be overtaking the French in culinary achievment?
Or, perhaps, is this all a bunch of nonsense?
Posted 17 December 2003 - 08:51 PM
Spain is the new Spain. Also, Ferran and his followers are perhaps the most innovative cooks around. That's all there is to say. Except:
Ferran Adria has had three Michelin stars for, I wish I knew, seven years now. I ate there when he had two stars because Paula Wolfert told me to. the food was largely nouvelle Spanish, very good, but not revolutionary. And then he started transforming himself. Yes, maybe he's a genius, who come up with new tricks very year. Nobody did what he could do. But what about the other great Spanish chefs such as Arzac and Santamaria? They were doing what the great French chefs were doing--elevating the traditional, local idiom to haute cuisine. Nothing to sneeze at, especially given the wonderful Spanish products that the world food press had more or less ignored. Such as jamon iberico, and the best seafood this side of Hong Kong.
My point, at least one of them, is: Ferran was cooking his revolutionary food at least four years before any American journalist wrote about it. (I couldn't have been dumber not to write about before that Amanda broke the news in the NY Times, the first US writer, I believe.) The American press is influential world-wide. But for most Europeans this was old news.
But is it food? That what lots of people say about Ferran. I've eaten there four or five times by now, and the question still recurs. He's a genius; very few have followed him successfully; and he rejects what most of us would love to eat. I remember one day when he was showing me around La Boqueria in Barcelona, the great market on Las Ramblas, especially for seafood. All the fish sellers are women wearing fancy dresses and gold jewelry. I pointed out an enormous gamba, the size of a banana, and recalled a perfect seafood meal I had eaten at La Trainera in Madrid. Ferran said, "I don't care about the perfect gamba any more. I've eaten perfect gambas since I was young. Alberto (his younger brother and his pastry chef) went to a sushi bar in New York (the late Sushi Hatsu, I believe) with Jacques Torres and wept when he tasted the giant clam. That's not for me. I am interested in modern cooking. Are there any modern cooks in New York City?"
I guess not. Of course, everything I say will have many exceptions. And there's innovation here and in France. But in both countries, I think--and maybe for commercial reasons--revolutionary innovation has taken a second place to perfecting what we've already accomplished. Like Bach. And that's what most of the Spanish chefs are doing--it's just that we're not so familiar with what they started with. I ate at a wonderful place in Girona, on the way to Las Rosas and El Bulli. Was it called El Cellar de San Roca? I especially remember the carpaccio of pig's foot. It was a revelation and I hadn't eaten anything like it before, but it was obviously not revolutionary, except to me, as I was not familiar with Spanish pig's foot preparation.
Spain is the new France only because everybody's talking about it, and the French, some of the French but not my friends, are offended by the idea that so many food lovers are talking about and travelling to Spain. They'll get over it, and we'll all be the better for it.
Posted 18 December 2003 - 07:08 AM
Posted 18 December 2003 - 10:40 PM