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Reflections on the product

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#1 Daily Gullet Staff

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Posted 13 February 2006 - 06:39 AM

width="324" height="285" hspace="5" align="left">Few
chefs and restaurants have documented their creations with the detail and systematic
approach that Ferran Adria, Juli Soler and Albert Adria have taken. The trilogy
El Bulli 1983 - 2002, which will be followed by a new volume (already published
in Spanish) documenting the years 2003 and 2004, gives unique insight into the
history of El Bulli -- which is to say a unique insight into the avant garde movement.




Taking advantage of the upcoming publication of the volume corresponding to the
period 1994 -1997 in English, French and German, we present a series of four excerpts:
what happened at El Bulli during 1994, and a peek at the style developed in 1995
that revolutionized cooking: deconstruction. Twelve years later, much of what
the El Bulli team created has been adopted in high-end cuisine the world over.
We'll learn how products are analyzed; how senses are used as a starting point
for creativity; how the frontiers between preparations in savory and sweet dishes
began to blur; and the philosophy behind El Bulli service and dining. Finally,
we'll learn how one of El Bulli's most pervasive techniques came to be: 1994 is
the year of the first foam.



Controversy, challenge of the established mindset, and cuisine have always gone
hand in hand at El Bulli. To this day, foams and deconstruction are questioned
in some circles, though their creation dates back more than ten years. I'm sure
that the members of the eGullet Society will find food for thought in this series.
And of course, food for discussion.
























































align="top"> Our
reflections on products led us to develop a work system that all chefs use
to a greater or lesser degree, but which at that time we decided to take
to its ultimate consequences. This was something as simple as going to the
market and buying a product, not for the daily requirements of the restaurant,
but in order to study it, to try and understand all its characteristics,
and then get as much use as we could out of it. A product should be touched,
turned over, looked at from all angles, as a sushi expert does with a tuna
fish, in order to assimilate its shape, density, weight, volume and so on.




hspace="5" vspace="0" align="left">Here
is an example to illustrate this process: the mango. We know that it is
a tropical fruit, which tells us that it is available all year round. It
has a wide range of flavours and subtle features, reminiscent of the peach,
the banana or the passion fruit, while at the same time it is easy to combine
with other flavours because of its balance between acidity and sugar. There
are some sixty varieties, and in each one there is a distinction between
the mango (male), fibrous, smaller and tastier (usually used to make purees)
and the manga (female) which, because it has a more pulpy texture, is easier
to manipulate. It can be zested (and the skin mixed with mango puree
to take advantage of its resinous flavour), and it is then that we see that,
unlike other fruits, it does not go brown, which increases its usage potential.
Because of its size, we can cut it up in various ways: julienne, matchsticks,
brunoise, etc. It can be sliced, and if we do so thinly with the slicer,
we see that its texture is similar to pasta al dente. This may lead us to
treat it as a new pasta and shape it into tagliatelli, ravioli and so on.
In addition, a mango puree could give rise to a good many preparations:
sorbets, foams, coulis, etc. The example of the mango could be expanded
even further, and perfectly illustrates a way of observing products that
is of great use to us for developing creative ideas.





align="top"> Until
recently, it was a given that going to a gourmet restaurant meant eating
products that were expensive: caviar, foie gras, truffles, lobster and other
products that had become veritable myths of cuisine. We too had this view
of haute cuisine, but in 1994 we began to consider the scant logic of this
concept if it is thought about completely objectively. In fact, the price
of a product is set by the law of supply and demand: if the product is scarce
and much sought after, its price is high; if there is a glut, and not many
people want it, then it is cheap, with all possible conditions in between.
This is how the situation stands. A good example of this phenomenon is salmon,
which was the luxury fish par excellence until salmon farming began a few
years ago. Since then, its consumption has spread widely and it is affordable
to a large public today.



hspace="5" vspace="0" align="left">This
new perspective opened our eyes to the fact that every product, regardless
of its price, is magnificent as long as it is of good quality, and can play
a role as important as any other product. A young almond does not enjoy
the same gourmet prestige as a Norway lobster in traditional terms, but
we believe that both products have the same culinary value. So we decided
that as far as we were concerned, a sardine was as important as a sea bass,
or an artichoke as a truffle, and that what should govern our choices was
sensibility, not price or prestige. This does not mean to say that we place
little value on products that, like truffles, caviar or many others, we
consider to be divine.





align="top"> As stated
previously, from 1994 onwards our evaluation of a product was focussed not
so much on its gastronomic prestige as on its flavour characteristics --
the features that made up its individuality or, to borrow a term that should
only be applied to humans, its personality. In El Bulli we have called this
set of a product's refinements and characteristics, the product's
"gene". For example, this "gene" is what enables
us to taste asparagus and identify its flavour, to be aware that it is,
in fact, asparagus.


Our memory stores data about the various product "genes",
thanks to which we can tell what we are eating. Some products have a very
strong personality and only a small amount needs to be eaten to tell us
what they are. For example, spices and aromatic herbs have a stronger
flavour concentration than other products. Furthermore, it is easier to
tell half a dozen vegetables apart than half a dozen types of fish.


This way of looking at things came to us along with the previously-mentioned
assessment of products. In El Bulli we began to accentuate this "gene" in 1994, in an attempt to highlight its characteristics, and we decided
that it was a priority for us to preserve this personality even when we
submitted the product to manipulation or preparation. For example, we
had always dreamt about making a basil jelly with as much or more flavour
than a fresh sprig of basil, or an asparagus sorbet with as much flavour
as the vegetable in its natural state.




align="top"> In 1997
we mentioned in Los secretos de El Bulli the existence in Roses of a magnificent
restaurant. Luckily, Rafa is still running his establishment, and we still
go there when we want to eat fish that tastes only of fish. In the book,
we said that Rafa's cooking, thanks to the honest flavours he was
able to extract, was something we could learn from. We might say that the
most important thing in his cooking was to preserve the pure flavour of
the product.



hspace="5" align="left">These
reflections were in response to ideas that we had every now and then between
1983 and 1993, particularly regarding molluscs, cooking vegetables, shellfish,
fish etc. on the griddle, and they caused us to review a good many habits
in preparing certain foods. For example, molluscs and crustaceans are usually
overcooked, when in fact this reduces the intensity of their flavour, no
matter how delicious the accompanying sauce is. Overcooked meat, fruit and
vegetables consumed out of season (that is to say, often after they have
been in cold storage, which reduces their freshness, aroma and flavour),
or canned truffles, lacking all the aromatic potency of this product, are
just some examples of customs which, if we want to be true to our philosophy
and fully respect the flavour intensity of each product, should be looked
at again. In fact, we are getting used to doing this in our daily life with
certain products that do not have all the flavour that potentially they
could have. This is a pity, but it is so true that perhaps when we taste
a product whose flavour characteristics are intact, we may find that it
has "too much" flavour. 1994 marked a change in this respect, as the sporadic
concerns of previous years came together in an idea that we have been applying
ever since.





align="top"> hspace="5" align="left">When
trying to understand a product it is essential to know how it can be consumed
and the best way of preserving its original flavour. There are three ways
of consuming a product: raw, cooked and by modifying its texture. The first
way enables one to appreciate its original flavour and texture, and in many
cases this is the usual way: oysters, fruit, certain vegetables, etc. By
means of the second method, the product is cooked in some way. If the cooking
time is short, the final flavour will be nearer the original (griddled,
barbecued, sautéed). Long cooking tends to remove the natural element from
most flavours (casseroles, stews, etc.) and although the result may be appealing,
it could be said that the product’s “gene” has been overmodified.



The third
way of consuming a product is perhaps the most complex. It consists of preparing
and modifying its texture (soups, jellies, foams, sorbets, ice creams, mousses,
etc.) while attempting to preserve as much as possible its original flavour.
It has been claimed that a prepared product can never beat the perfect flavour
of the original, but this should not be taken as gospel. Sometimes a new
texture is just as pleasing as the product in its raw state. Back in 1992
we set out on this path with our cold jellies and liquidised soups; by 1994
(with foams, savoury sorbets, etc.) products in prepared textures were incorporated
in a big way and started to become a feature of our cuisine.



Finally, two observations. Firstly, there was criticism for a while of this
idea of preparing products in textures other than their original state in
the savoury world, even though this was common in the world of desserts.
Nobody claims that a pear jelly, banana sorbet or raspberry mousse perverts
the product’s flavour and yet the opposite seems to apply in the savoury
world. This does not mean that we must only offer prepared products; there
should always be a balance in a menu.



Secondly, there are products that
have been prepared and become other products, often as pleasing as the unprepared
product or even more so. One only has to think of tinned molluscs, which
offer two completely different flavours (either prepared in this way or
au naturel), or a product as singular as wine, the result of a preparation
that is so sophisticated that one almost forgets the grapes.





hspace="5" align="left">Up
to 1993, our relationship with dairy products had given rise to a few results,
as we attempted to understand the characteristic of each product. It was
probably parmesan whey that led us to analyse dairy products in a different
way, and this opened up a broad range of uses, no longer limited to just
textures. Thus, in 1994 we began to use yoghurt as a sauce, brie and other
soft cheeses as a soup, or mascarpone as a sort of garnish. In addition,
some of these dairy products enabled us to introduce a touch of sourness,
which was added to our range of flavours
.




align="bottom"> hspace="5" align="left">From
the moment we began to think of playing with basic flavours in our cuisine,
we started to broaden the range of ingredients that could be used in the
sweet or savoury world. In our culinary milieu, it is quite clear at what
point in the meal savoury or sweet dishes are served. The development of
the symbiosis between both worlds in our cuisine opened our eyes as to how
relative these dogmas can be.



In fact, when we analysed a series of products
that were usually consumed in the savoury world or in the sweet world, we
realised that their usage was somewhat bound by convention. Marrows, carrots,
tomatoes, peas or beetroots are more sweet than savoury, yet until recently
they had appeared mostly in savoury dishes. Our contribution was to look
for the necessary harmony for them to be included in sweet dishes effectively.
It is true that some fruits had already often been used in the savoury world:
oranges, pears, apples, grapes and plums. But there was room for further
diversification: raspberries or passion fruits, which possess acidic properties
similar to those of lemons, could replace them in a good many savoury dishes.
Lychees are similar to grapes, mangoes can replace peaches, providing their
own character. The possibilities are endless. All one has to do is rid oneself
of one’s prejudices and concentrate on the intrinsic flavour properties
of each product.





align="top"> Product
association had been one of our main creative methods up to 1993. We had
thoroughly systematised and explored it, and we established the foundations
for certain flavour combinations which had accompanied us and had been added
to over the years. In 1994, our creative approach focussed on other methods
(mainly the search for new concepts and techniques), but we were still open
to new discoveries. One of these was really interesting: the combination
of molluscs and fruit provided us with a superb contrast between the savoury
and sometimes slightly bitter flavour of the former and the sweetness and
acidity of certain fruits. This happy alliance between two families resulted
that year in our rock mussels with coriander foam (with a blood orange reduction),
cold/hot clam chop suey (with lychees), and scallops in holy oil with mushrooms
and redcurrants.




This is the first part in a multi-part series. Part two is here.

El Bulli books may be purchased here.


Our thanks to Juli Soler for his invaluable assistance in this project.


Copyright Ferran Adria, Juli Soler, Albert Adria © 2006. Photographs by Francesc Guillamet.


Introduction by Pedro Espinosa.





#2 tan319

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Posted 13 February 2006 - 07:16 AM

Swell stuff, thanks for the excerpts!!!
2317/5000

#3 Chris Amirault

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Posted 13 February 2006 - 02:01 PM

This is fascinating stuff. I might be missing it, but I can't find a single mention of technology or science here: no sous vide, no pacojet, nothing. Indeed, the only mention of anything remotely scientific is metaphorical: the product's "gene," what might have been called its "essence" in previous decades.

This passage really brings out why Adria has quibbled with the phrase "avant garde." This doesn't describe a cutting edge; it is a return to the product.
Chris Amirault
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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

#4 Kent Wang

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Posted 13 February 2006 - 02:31 PM

What is the asparagus wrapped in?

#5 pedro

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Posted 13 February 2006 - 03:00 PM

Chris, you have to wait for the rest of the excerpts and see if you change your mind. Deconstruction and the first foam will expose a different side of El Bulli's cooking.

Kent, the dish is green asparagus with ceps, parmesan whey and macadamia nuts. The ceps (boletus edulis) are wrapping the asparagus in.
PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

#6 CommissionerLin

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Posted 13 February 2006 - 07:54 PM

There are some sixty varieties, and in each one there is a distinction between the mango (male), fibrous, smaller and tastier (usually used to make purees) and the manga (female) which, because it has a more pulpy texture, is easier to manipulate.



Great article which I enjoyed reading tremendously. Without meaning to detract anything from the article, I feel compelled to query the concept that there are male and female fruits, parts of flowers and plants yes, but fruits? Can someone more familiar with biology or botany shed light on this?

The misconception (if indeed it is one) may arise from a confusion over nomenclature - as far as I know the name of this fruit which is native to South Asia (Genus - Mangifera) originates from the Tamil word "mankay". The English derivative "mango" is in turn derived from the Portugese "manga". In Malay/Indonesian/Tagalog the word for mango is "mangga". As the article correctly points out, there is a huge variety of mangoes (more than 500 named varieties) and some types are more pulpy than others.

The Alphonso mango from India is an excellent example of the less pulpy variety and IMHO ranks far ahead of the "Tommy Atkins" variety found in most Western supermarkets.

#7 docsconz

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Posted 13 February 2006 - 09:07 PM

This excerpt provides some good insight into Ferran's Manifesto that he delivered at the recent Madrid Fusion Conference. In particular item #3 of the manifesto:

3- All products have the same gastronomic worth, regardless of price.

which appears to come directly from

This new perspective opened our eyes to the fact that every product, regardless of its price, is magnificent as long as it is of good quality, and can play a role as important as any other product. A young almond does not enjoy the same gourmet prestige as a Norway lobster in traditional terms, but we believe that both products have the same culinary value. So we decided that as far as we were concerned, a sardine was as important as a sea bass, or an artichoke as a truffle, and that what should govern our choices was sensibility, not price or prestige. This does not mean to say that we place little value on products that, like truffles, caviar or many others, we consider to be divine.

in the excerpt.

Cool stuff.
John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."
- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

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#8 FoodMan

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Posted 14 February 2006 - 09:55 AM

That was a fun and informative read. Thanks for sharing it.

What fascinates me most when reading this is the amount of thought that goes into every dish, well actually every ingredient. It illustrates that what Adria et al are doing is not simply to wow the diners or to just use new techniques for the sake of novelty, as their critics usually say. There is an actual philosophy behind it and to me it can be summed by

A product should be touched, turned over, looked at from all angles


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com


#9 docsconz

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Posted 14 February 2006 - 10:29 AM

That was a fun and informative read. Thanks for sharing it.

What fascinates me most when reading this is the amount of thought that goes into every dish, well actually every ingredient. It illustrates that what Adria et al are doing is not simply to wow the diners or to just use new techniques for the sake of novelty, as their critics usually say. There is an actual philosophy behind it and to me it can be summed by

A product should be touched, turned over, looked at from all angles

View Post


This is what enthralls me about Ferran Adria, El Bulli and a few other like-minded and talented places. The restaurants cater to every aspect of one's soul. The food is delicious, beautiful, fun in a wonderful atmosphere. This certainly appeals to the hedonistic side of me. In addition, though, what sets El Bulli and a few other restaurants apart is the fact that so much thought goes into every aspect of the cuisine. It is food for the mind every bit as much as for the body.
John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."
- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

#10 FoodMan

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Posted 14 February 2006 - 10:48 AM

Doc-
I agree with you all the way. how many restaurant meals have you had that you still talk/think about years later? It's been almost a year since my El Bulli visit and whenever I see fava beans, the first thing that comes to mind is my meal there! Manipulated though it might be, it is still all about the food. The fava bean dish alone highlights the line I quoted above and this excerpt in general. It had fava beans in four or five different permutations, all served together and all unforgetable.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com


#11 eje

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Posted 15 February 2006 - 03:32 PM

Great article which I enjoyed reading tremendously.  Without meaning to detract anything from the article, I feel compelled to query the concept that there are male and female fruits, parts of flowers and plants yes, but fruits?  Can someone more familiar with biology or botany shed light on this?

View Post

I quite enjoyed the article.

I'm only passingly familiar with El Bulli, and expected to find its concepts much more alien. I'm really looking forward to reading more.

RE: Fruit & Sex, I think this is a nomenclature thing from languages with feminine and masculine articles. I remember Mario Batali once saying on his TV show that, in Italy, Fennel bulbs of a certain shape were considered masculine and of another shape were feminine. Yes, the rounder ones were female.

The vast majority of flowering plants have both "male" and "female" parts on their flowers, so it's kind of silly, from a botanical perspective, to call them one or the other.

I suppose, if you really wanted to anthropomorphize your fruit, all fruiting bodies would be considered "female", since they generally arise from the "female" parts of the flower.

Aside from Saffron and fennel pollen, I can't think of many examples where the "male" part of the flower is even eaten.
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#12 pedro

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Posted 15 February 2006 - 04:26 PM

Great article which I enjoyed reading tremendously.  Without meaning to detract anything from the article, I feel compelled to query the concept that there are male and female fruits, parts of flowers and plants yes, but fruits?  Can someone more familiar with biology or botany shed light on this?

View Post

. . . . .

RE: Fruit & Sex, I think this is a nomenclature thing from languages with feminine and masculine articles.

. . . . .

View Post


Quite possibly: in Spanish, for instance, peaches and plantains have a masculine gender while oranges and apples have a feminine gender.
PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

#13 Carrot Top

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Posted 15 February 2006 - 04:43 PM

RE:  Fruit & Sex, I think this is a nomenclature thing from languages with feminine and masculine articles.  I remember Mario Batali once saying on his TV show that, in Italy, Fennel bulbs of a certain shape were considered masculine and of another shape were feminine.  Yes, the rounder ones were female.

View Post


Beyond the masculine or feminine determinants of the articles in certain languages, there are vegetables that are considered (based on their individual shapes or some other defining feature as you mention with fennel) masculine or feminine.

Eggplant is another example. The "sex" is determined based upon the bottom of the eggplant where the bud would have been before falling off. If the eggplant is more flat there it is one sex, more indented another. It is also believed that one sex is more full of seeds than the other, and the other more solid and meaty.

:biggrin: I really don't mind seeds in my eggplants, so I can not remember which is supposed to be which. Perhaps someone else will chime in on this. . .

Really I don't know whether this is folklore or "real". :wink: Either way, it makes the world a more interesting place. :smile:

Edited to add this link: Sex and Eggplants

Edited by Carrot Top, 15 February 2006 - 04:55 PM.


#14 mdouch

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Posted 20 February 2006 - 09:57 AM

This is fascinating stuff. I might be missing it, but I can't find a single mention of technology or science here: no sous vide, no pacojet, nothing. Indeed, the only mention of anything remotely scientific is metaphorical: the product's "gene," what might have been called its "essence" in previous decades.


I've just checked on the translation I did of this book (back in October-November 2004) and don't worry: there is plenty of technology and science there!!

Martin Douch
(English translator of the El Bulli books)

#15 pedro

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Posted 20 February 2006 - 01:46 PM

Was the translation particularly challenging, Martin?
PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

#16 CommissionerLin

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Posted 21 February 2006 - 02:55 AM

RE:  Fruit & Sex, I think this is a nomenclature thing from languages with feminine and masculine articles.  I remember Mario Batali once saying on his TV show that, in Italy, Fennel bulbs of a certain shape were considered masculine and of another shape were feminine.  Yes, the rounder ones were female.

View Post


Beyond the masculine or feminine determinants of the articles in certain languages, there are vegetables that are considered (based on their individual shapes or some other defining feature as you mention with fennel) masculine or feminine.

Eggplant is another example. The "sex" is determined based upon the bottom of the eggplant where the bud would have been before falling off. If the eggplant is more flat there it is one sex, more indented another. It is also believed that one sex is more full of seeds than the other, and the other more solid and meaty.

:biggrin: I really don't mind seeds in my eggplants, so I can not remember which is supposed to be which. Perhaps someone else will chime in on this. . .

Really I don't know whether this is folklore or "real". :wink: Either way, it makes the world a more interesting place. :smile:

Edited to add this link: Sex and Eggplants

View Post



Thanks Pedro, thanks Karen. Checked out the site and hv done a bit more asking around. Its folklore and not rooted in Science. I am not familiar with Spanish but apparently Spanish and other latinate languages assign a feminine or masculine descriptor to nouns. Is this correct? If this is so then I begin to understand how sex and gender can be attributed to objects even fruit. :rolleyes:

#17 Carrot Top

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Posted 21 February 2006 - 07:49 AM

I am not familiar with Spanish but apparently Spanish and other latinate languages assign a feminine or masculine descriptor to nouns.  Is this correct?  If this is so then I begin to understand how sex and gender can be attributed to objects even fruit.  :rolleyes:

View Post


Many do. English escapes this gender curse or pleasure (however one wants to look at it). Our eggplants are just eggplants. :wink:

But in any language, it is a pleasure to read Adria on food and to consider the ways in which he shapes it. :smile:

#18 chromedome

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Posted 26 February 2006 - 09:33 AM

Plant gender is not folklore, at least not entirely. It's not simple, either, or universal; but it is well-recognized and documented. A few links for your perusal:

Plant Facts

Gender comparison in cannabis sativa (Gender is all-important in pot growing, apparently...)

And for further study, if you're truly obsessive... Gender and Sexual Dimorphism in Flowering Plants
Fat=flavor

#19 mdouch

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Posted 26 February 2006 - 11:18 AM

Was the translation particularly challenging, Martin?

View Post


Ufff! It was such a long time ago, I can't remember! Seriously though, if by challenging you mean difficult, then it's probably not quite the right word. Fascinating and absorbing, yes. 1994-1997 was a highly creative period in the life of elBulli, a period when much of its philosophy was being developed. This factor alone made the translation of the book great fun, although I think the book I had most fun translating was the one that came out after this one - elBulli 1983-1993 - which traces the history of the establishment from its early days as a beach kiosk in 1961 under the Schillings to the time Ferrà and Juli Soler took it over in 1990 and the building of the new kitchen in 1993.

Also completed is the English translation of elBulli 2003-2004.

Best wishes,

Martin

#20 pedro

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Posted 26 February 2006 - 12:04 PM

According to Juli Soler, the volume 2003-2004, which from a design point of view takes El Bulli books a higher level, would be the next to appear in the other languages by the half of 2006, without having a date yet for the 1983-93 volume.

In a meeting I had with Juli at the Taller at Carme, he showed me how they were already working in the 2005 book, among other things.
PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

#21 ASM NY

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Posted 26 February 2006 - 12:25 PM

In a meeting I had with Juli at the Taller at Carme, he showed me how they were already working in the 2005 book, among other things.

View Post


I had no idea they were working on a 2005 volume. I recently obtained the 2003-2004 and they are absolutely awesome. I am puzzled on how they could top this latest effort.

I am not surprised that they are going for the 2003-2004 translations first (as opposed to the 1983-1993. I am under the impression that the reception on the first volume has been lukewarm compared to the others.
Arley Sasson

#22 colochef

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Posted 07 March 2006 - 09:48 PM

Amazing im buying them right now.

#23 timmymac

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Posted 08 March 2006 - 07:57 AM

Amazing stuff here. Goes to show that the most avant garde cooking still has to come form the basic love of ingredients. I love the idea that an artichoke is as valuable as a truffle. Can't wait for more!
food has it over sex for variety[COLOR=blue]

#24 Cathar

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Posted 09 March 2006 - 01:51 PM

I come to this site seldom. After a long absence, and then reading this impossible gush about El Bulli (I always start singing "Wolly Bully" in my head every time I hear "El Bulli," that helps offset some of the pretentiousness), I'm reminded why my visits are so infrequent.

Perhaps the worst thing is that, in writing about Wooly Bully, the English language becomes so bastardized, so devoid of the real meaning of words. And no, an almond is not equivalent in importance to, say, a strip steak. Foam is also not the way to get at the essence of a dish, unless we're perhaps talking about milk shakes.

#25 Peter Green

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Posted 09 March 2006 - 08:54 PM

Regarding the fruit sex issue (which is a title impossible to ignore), isn't the sex related to the plant and not the fruit? By definition the fruit is an ovary, a seed surrounded by a "womb". My food science wife grossed out a nephew eating an apple once with this bit of information.

#26 mdouch

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Posted 10 March 2006 - 02:06 AM

I come to this site seldom. After a long absence, and then reading this impossible gush about El Bulli (I always start singing "Wolly Bully" in my head every time I hear "El Bulli," that helps offset some of the pretentiousness), I'm reminded why my visits are so infrequent.

Perhaps the worst thing is that, in writing about Wooly Bully, the English language becomes so bastardized, so devoid of the real meaning of words. And no, an almond is not equivalent in importance to, say, a strip steak. Foam is also not the way to get at the essence of a dish, unless we're perhaps talking about milk shakes.

View Post


I'd be interested to know why you feel an almond is not equivalent in importance to, say, a strip steak. A tender almond is just as important in a dish calling for almond flavour as a strip steak is in a grilled strip steak dish, isn't it?

Martin

#27 joesan

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Posted 10 March 2006 - 11:32 AM

Cathar - 5 out of your 6 posts are about El Bulli and the language that our fellow egulleteers use in their posts.

What upsets you so much about one bunch of people who are truly creative, and another bunch of people who like to write about those truly creative people and their own passions? That surely is one of the points of this fine website.

#28 sizzleteeth

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Posted 10 March 2006 - 12:48 PM

I can see both sides of the argument - though I don't think either side applies
as a blanket policy to all those involved.

When someone reveres something they tend to gush about it, I would imagine
that applies to Cathar as much as it does to me or anyone else - we all simply
have different things to gush about, all place importance on different aspects,
even within the same subject and cooking is a big subject with many facets
to gush about - from the newest experimentations of molecular gastronomy
to the oldest iron pot hanging over a fire in Mongolia.

It's important to remember that it's all just opinions of individuals and on this site
those individuals can become collections of individuals and it sometimes doesn't
really reflect reality.

Most people still don't know who Ferran Adria is and most people have even
less of an idea what molecular gastronomy is or any of the details of it's components,
this isolated world of gastronomy of ours and this isolated segment of that world called
Egullet is only representative of a very minute segment of the overall world of food and
and even more minute segment of the overall world.

Things in this world are often put on a pedestal, people, ingredients, techniques, we're
all guilty of one or all of these things even if we haven't posted about it and sometimes
it warps the sense of reality.

In reality, the newest ingredients, methods and techniques of molecular gastronomy
are not really new at all and the credit does not belong to Ferran Adria, me, you or
anyone else on this site. Most of them are taken out of the context of industrial food
processing or from obscure hundreds of years old techniques and have existed long
before El Bulli or any place like it.

Gellan made Orbitz soft drink, carageenan stabilized your canned whipped cream,
calcium chloride/sodium alginate put the pimentos in your pickled pimento loaf and
cocktail olives, liquid nitrogen has made Dippin' Dots since before '85, foam has
been purposely put on top of cappucino, konnyaku has been a heatable gel made
of yam flour and calcium carbonate in Japan for decades if not over a hundred years.

You could get your photo printed on a birthday cake in edible ink at your local
baker 5 years ago.

Giant food additive companies make massive amounts of these things, texture manipulation products, flavor enhancer and property isolation chemicals and sell them to the commercial food processing industry who has decades old labs established doing research on the food products themselves, focus group testing for target marketing for highly designed aesthetic, textural and flavor qualities of products that contain trademarked and trade secret ingredients and techniques to place endless amounts of new forms and flavors on your grocery store shelf.

These things have simply been moved from column A (commercial food) to column B (gastronomy) and layer of beauty applied over them so they are no longer so technical and the product of their use is accessible to regular people. Like Apple putting a pretty GUI on Unix.

These people certainly deserve credit for doing such a thing and as we have all seen it can produce fantastic results in and out of the world of chefs and the few who exalt themselves are not representative of the collective whole.

Though I recently read an article that quoted Adria as saying he thinks of himself as
"an architect of cuisine, like Frank Gehry." and further quotes him as saying:

"Everybody wants to follow him (Frank Gehry)," he said. "It's normal, and that happens. There are a lot of people who follow the influences of a few, like me. I'm very happy to see young people follow my ideas. The important thing is to understand my philosophy."

That is the kind of thing that Cathar speaks of and that even I find whacked - because in my book - it's fine for others to say things like that about you - but when you start looking at yourself this way...

It's all just cooking and there is art and beauty in it all - old a new - and the credit
belongs to many and not few.

Don't let the attitude of the few who drag down the collective ruin your
opinion of the collective - because the collective is for the most part - good.


I come to this site seldom. After a long absence, and then reading this impossible gush about El Bulli (I always start singing "Wolly Bully" in my head every time I hear "El Bulli," that helps offset some of the pretentiousness), I'm reminded why my visits are so infrequent.

Perhaps the worst thing is that, in writing about Wooly Bully, the English language becomes so bastardized, so devoid of the real meaning of words. And no, an almond is not equivalent in importance to, say, a strip steak. Foam is also not the way to get at the essence of a dish, unless we're perhaps talking about milk shakes.

View Post


Cathar - 5 out of your 6 posts are about El Bulli and the language that our fellow egulleteers use in their posts.

What upsets you so much about one bunch of people who are truly creative, and another bunch of people who like to write about those truly creative people and their own passions? That surely is one of the points of this fine website.

View Post


edit: spelling

Edited by sizzleteeth, 10 March 2006 - 01:13 PM.



nathan gray

"At the gate, I said goodnight to the fortune teller... the carnival sign threw colored shadows on her face... but I could tell she was blushing." - B.McMahan


#29 joesan

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Posted 10 March 2006 - 04:04 PM

Sizzleteeth - nice piece - you make some good, cogent points. Hurrah for the middle way.

My point is - in a website devoted to food and foodies, an interest second only to oenophilism in giving rise to purple prose you are definitely going to get some enthusiastic souls, well,enthusing. Debating, disagreeing too for sure. But that is what you are going to get.

Maybe some peoples' writing style could be called "pretentious" but so what - they should be allowed that in an enthusiasts forum. Often the epithet pretentious is used when the critic dislikes polysyllabism, but if I want monosyllabism there are plenty of places on the web to get it. I like my eGullet fun, light, and heavy, serious, and frivolous and I don't feel the need to judge something pretentious or not.

Your points about FA not being universally known are patently true but surely this is an informed forum, no-one is asking how to boil an egg, and if a group of people want to discuss culinary minutiae I think this might just be the place. It is for me and I love it.

I like Adria's work - when I read his book, I can truly admire his creativity and inventiveness. To me it’s not terribly relevant that some of the chemicals he uses have been used in food processing before. In a reductio ad absurdum that's a little like saying "this dish is not new - its been modified by a heat source and that's been done before". It's a little about the context yes (gastronomic vs. industrial) but also more importantly about the synergy of his techniques and ingredients. The presentation, the artistry, the inspiration. Especially when you've tasted it (which, I note, many of his detractors haven't).

There is not much new under the sun especially in the world of cuisine but you can probably fairly say that much of what is nearly new comes from a certain atelier in Spain.

A popular way of shutting down debate on this topic is saying "it's only food" or "only cooking". Sure it is only food. Michelangelo’s David is only stone. One can have a transcendent experience with food similar to what one has with Art with a capital A. For me I probably have that experience more often with food than with Art. But that's just me. Your mileage may vary.

As for the Frank Gehry simile, well I'd prefer Tadao Ando, but in my opinion Mr Adria is every bit as influential in his sphere as Mr Gehry is in his, probably more so. So it may seem a little immodest but it’s probably fairly accurate. I am not a fan of false modesty and in Mr Adria's position I'd be tempted to be a whole lot more immodest than he is.

Unfortunately it's hard in this type of forum to convey a tone of friendly debate but that's what I am attempting. I'd sum it up by saying let people post how they like here, and about what they like, and if it doesn't appeal there are hundreds of more prosaic venues out there on the web.

Edited by joesan, 10 March 2006 - 04:07 PM.


#30 sizzleteeth

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Posted 10 March 2006 - 05:35 PM

Unfortunately it's hard in this type of forum to convey a tone of  friendly debate but that's what I am attempting. I'd sum it up by saying let people post how they like here, and about what they like,  and if it doesn't appeal there are hundreds of more prosaic venues out there on the web.

View Post



I agree Joesan that all should be able to post as they please in whatever tone, and friendly debate is all I'm interested in.

Though I am not simply saying "some of these things have been used before" - I am saying the entire construct of "examining the properties of the products and trying to figure out what can be done with them outside of their traditional uses", "deliberately changing and designing the physical aesthetic and textural characteristics of a product", "researching the effect of different applications of unconventional 'cooking' methods" and "looking for new flavor combinations" both predate Ferran Adria's work in this area and existed long ago far outside of Spain - and yes, the commercial food industry was in large part the initiator of these things.

Such questions, reflections and discussions can be found here for instance:
http://www.foodproductdesign.com/

Enter the word of your choice, gellan, carageenan, sous vide - whatever and read endless articles on the applications of these things and note some of the dates on the articles, '93, '96 - one thing you won't get any results for is "Adria".

I agree that Adria's application of tools and techniques is admirable, but the man whom chips away at the block of stone owes his sculpture to the man who invented the hammer and chisle , and in using those tools - is using them to do exactly what they were designed to do.

Paco Jets were designed to make finely textured sorbets, Vita-Prep blenders were created to make intense blends and emulsions, food dehydrators were designed to dehydrate food and all of the mention additives were isolated and created to do exactly what they are being used to do.

So in that respect - using a tool to do what it was made to do - is not so amazing. As you elude to - it is the product of your work that is the key.

But even to that point, picture a vast parking lot full of blue cars - and then a single red car. To someone whom all their life has been saturated by the sight of a blue cars, all that ever existed was blue cars - a red car blows their mind. Then everyone starts buying red cars and red cars are everywhere - all of a sudden the blue cars become the obscure and are one again revered.
Molecular gastronomy comes at a time when people are tired of looking at what they've been looking at and is something they are not concious of having seen - whether they have or not in whatever form. Being from the country, when I first moved to Chicago the skyline filled me full of inspiration - now having lived here for so many years - a field of green grass does the same.

If you are not concious of it you can become a slave to "getting excited by the new thing and leaving the old thing behind". That is where cliches like "the grass is always greener" come from, but that seems technically incorrect - because really the grass is only greener after you get tired of looking at the grass you're standing on.

As for the ego, if Mr.Adria truly believes that his philosophy is the way and should be followed and that anyone doing this type of thing is following in his footsteps solely - with no credit to those who created the tools, isolated the chemicals or helped out along the way with work, ideas and research then he has become a shining example of the system he set out to defy and is no better than the iron fisted French chefs who insist that "this is how things are done, this is the way".

I wonder if he truly believes what he is quoted as saying.


nathan gray

"At the gate, I said goodnight to the fortune teller... the carnival sign threw colored shadows on her face... but I could tell she was blushing." - B.McMahan






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