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  1. Call me a romantic, but I believe it does exist - we just haven't discovered it yet. Relativizing taste ( I read somewhere, Ferran, that you wisely made a point of never asking your diners whether they'd liked a particular offering) may be more polite, commonsensical and easier to accept by all and sundry, but it's also just a tad lazy and over-consensual - I'd say, in the case of great artists such as yourself, even slightly similar to a cop-out. I'm (and not a little!) reminded of those philistines who, despite their careless attitude to painting, insist on, whenever they fulfill their obligatory, Frommer's-based visit to a museum of contemporary art, loudly making a point of saying "I may know nothing about Art, but I know what I like.". And then proceed to select the most reactionary and least challenging pieces they chanced upon. Even more annoying is the current vogue - inexplicably followed by not a few very talented chefs - of saying "Hey, it's only food..." That "only" rankles as particularly disrespectful, ignorant and even downright ungrateful. And yet - how can you not swoon at your first sight - however tiny and degustation-menu-sized - of the Gioconda/ Mona Lisa? Or at the first first spoonful of a freshly-made onion soup or lobster bisque, "Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá" or old-fashioned but perfectly prepared "crepes Suzette"? It's this common ground - beyond experience and subjectivity, way above all the variations and subtleties in individual and culturally-conditioned preferences - which is still unknown and exciting, giving encouragement to those courageous, curious and skilled enough to dare approach the "gastronomic ideal" you speak of. Plato's "ideal forms", after all, are tragically misunderstood and misapplied, just as "platonic", for some time now, is vulgarly taken to mean "without sex". Imagine if "Adrianesque" meant "without salt" or "without physical, gustative pleasure"...! It's somewhere very hidden within this unexpectedly common territory, between the heathens and the far-too-arrogant experts, where the greatest riches (and, better still, gastronomic truth!) lie. Only the very brave and talented venture there. I've always imagined you as one of these - in fact, the explorer way ahead of the rest of the party, undaunted by the undergrowth, trusting in the sharpness of your eyes and machete. The "gastronomy of every one of us" is generously and democratically inspired but the awful truth is that the world is grossly unfair and distributes its privileges blindly or, even worse, according to pure luck, money or connections. In my experience (and I was lucky to be born into a wealthy, food-loving family), most of my glimpses of "the ideal gastronomy" have no relation whatsoever to those with similar or entirely different opportunities. In fact, to be honest, they most often arose from supposedly (but materially) unprivileged, untravelled and unsophisticated bons garfos, Portuguese for, literally, "good forks", or discriminating and enthusiastic food-lovers. I don't think you can be truly inventive and creative like you without a deep knowledge of what is simply delicious, whoever you are and how much money you have. There are at least seven culinary preparations I can think of which, allergies and aberrations apart - and whatever their background or current status - I can't imagine anyone on earth not delighting in. The ideal gastronomy exists - we (i.e. you and a few others) just haven't conquered it yet. When it has been discovered and mastered, I dream it shall be like electricity - or, say, August-plucked white peaches impossibly made better or, to be more precise, re-appreciated and reconsidered. No one will trouble to ask whether it's universally good, simply because it will be. Or, at least, for long enough to seem so... P.S. I've never had the pleasure of tasting your work (in May! In May!) but, from reading and keeping up with all available information, I could honestly say, in "the ideal gastronomy" framework, that I can't live without it. Like all great artists, philosophers and scientists, the most fertile goal of those as gifted as you are shouldn't be to "solve" or "definitively find" that holy grail (this has handicapped a majority of even the most able and clear-minded philosophers throughout the ages). Much less, though, should it be to relativize and subjectify individual efforts (i.e. the gastronomy of every one of us). Striving towards and tirelessly searching; achieving undeniably universal gastronomic pleasure (however slight) and enthusiastically contributing to the quest - even if it's seven centuries into the future - is surely more than enough...! :)
  2. Ah, dear Robert, stop already with the flooding of cherished memories of those balmy, carefree days when ten pills and minor surgery was all it took and the word omeprazole evoked an unknown Neapolitan knack for making an omelette in a particularly pleasant way; when I took endoscopy to mean some dubious, New Age psychological technique to look into ourselves and get in touch with our inner selves; when I spent more time with my best friends than with my gastro-enterologist. You - and our fellow sufferers - ( don't the things we do for the Culinary Arts, with not an ounce of recognition, much less public gratitude, for the service we provide, make you dizzy? They certainly do me!) - you and all our friends I regularly and cheerfully toast and shamelessly butter up as often as I do fresh bread. Don't tell me you haven't felt the benefits of these incantations recently?! Surely your doctor has remarked on the unusually rosy blush that's lately blooomed on your cheeks, far beyond the rigorous chomping and wine-chewing workouts you insist on submitting them to? On this specific trip - since Roses isn't currently around the corner from Lisbon - I intend to drink your health (and the final stages of mine, such as it can still be spoken of) for the length of the journey, wherever I stop for succour and refreshments. On a not-unrelated topic, I wonder how many eGulleteers with reservations were tempted to try to influence the course of culinary events at El Bulli by taking advantage of Luis Garcia's polite invitation to mention any food allergies they might have? My voracious brother, sister and I (before we became the discriminating gastronomes we are today...), faced with what seemed like (at the very least) three elaborate, multi-course wedding meals every month, became wily experts on eating as many expensive delicacies as we possibly could (regardless of whether we actually liked them - say you what you like, but we were open-minded), by claiming we were allergic to any trivial, unnecessary accompaniments, such as we could get at home on a bad day. Though no waiter, however gullible or sympathetic to the whims of spoilt brats, ever believed that, say, plain boiled Basmati rice was as f****** poison to our delicate systems - and could he please make up for this misfortune by adding another helping of those fat, fragrant curried jumbo shrimps he was so miserly doling out? As it happens, Robert, my gastro-enterologist is approaching 90 and reminds me of me when I was 25, such are his epicurean readiness and health. And, although he's had the grace never to actually pronounce the words, I'm sensitive enough to know, from the pity and contempt on his Lord of the Rings face, that every three or four syllables he says are to be symbolically understood as ritually interrupted by the unspoken but vibrationally deafening mantra of "It's your own fault, you know, you greedy bastard, you!" Thank God it's another, entirely separate doctor - alas, even smugger - who deals with my liver. No sane physician with the least drop of sanctimony or an appreciation for medical justice and appropriate moral punishment could handle both. Para que vivas, Roberto! ["Here's hoping you stay alive!"] - for that is the traditional Portuguese toast. Being a melancholy and pessimistic people, we seem to regard just about keeping alive as the best possible blessing there is. When you get to where I am today, you'll appreciate it, believe me! :)
  3. My guess is as good as anyone's, but, fwiw, I agree with Bux. A truly professional restaurant - apart from certain provisions for friends - will operate on a "first come, first served" basis. When the book is full, the book is full. Open requests have the advantage of being considered for the dates not yet filled in, after definite reservations have been dealt with. Think about it: Luis Garcia carefully reads those who applied in time. Others (applying now, for instance) will necessarily get a standard, honest "sorry, we're full" reply. I don't think it's intelligent to read anything else into his procedure - such as it being more democratic or biased towards people with more passion (or connections) than others. This is the time-honoured civilized practice and El Bulli, imo, does well to follow it. What is outstanding and praiseworthy is the attention and care Luis Garcia dedicates to those lucky enough (Louisa-warned enough!) to apply earlier, when a lazier and less considerate maître d' could just wait until next year and just send out confirmations, rather than (as he does) take the trouble to acknowledge requests and be so extraordinarily polite and civilized, as if El Bulli were desperate for customers. I don't want to praise Louisa yet again but, by golly, the first glass I raise in El Bulli shall be to her health.
  4. What a scrumptious blog, Louisa! You must be tired already of so much gratitude and, indeed, whenever you've posted lately, I feel like one of those 18th Century courtiers who, from so much bowing, walk about with a permanent hunchback - and not only that, but backwards. But I'd burst a blood vessel if I didn't thank you again. So *bowing a little lower, not without concern, since only approximately four inches now separate the tip of my nose from the shellfish and rosepetal-littered floor*, obrigado once more! P.S. It may be a telling sign - a warning even - that I'm becoming too attached to fellow eGulleteers and eGullet but last night I had this happy dream that, for the duration of the entire Spring and Summer of 2005, Roses and all surrounding areas - whether in Catalonia or France - are entirely populated by eGullet's cool customers, bumping into each other and annoyingly brushing each other's eager fingers whenever one reaches for a "cigala", being obliged by the stern, binding rules of eGullet to cede ownership of all shellfish, however rare and tasty. Already I've had the good luck of my mid-May reservation for El Bulli coinciding with Bux and his party's reservations - as well as a less stressful, tentative collective commando raid of Rafa's, mission being to exhaust all fresh stocks and guarantee that it will be closed on the morrow, satisfyingly disappointing many equally deserving and early-rising lunchers who, despite their indisputable sincerity and general human goodness, had the gall to appear in that sacred area without the previous imprimatur of eGullet. I promise - even if it requires my wife stuffing a napkin or two into my mouth - I shall resist the temptation, while merrily delighting in Adrià's masterpieces, to chummily enquire "And so how is our good friend Louisa". This is an embarrassment I must spare you - and will. Thanks too to all the other members who've shared state secrets about the surrounding areas. A dream might just be a dream but, even very early in the morning like now, I logically envisage a lot of bumping-into-each other of eGulleteers in the coming season! :)
  5. Asola: Sure, if you want to calculate the amount of cod per se - whether fresh or salted and dried - according to the FAO 300% overmark. This would be the case if you were FAO and wanted an estimate of the total weight of cod fished before processing - or, in fact any other responsible body quite rightly worried about the depletion of cod stocks in the North Atlantic. However, this wasn't what prompted me to correct Victor's claim that Portugal consumed dried cod to the tune of 50% of its total seafood consumption. The amount of dried cod consumed, according to the Dutch study he bases himself on, is actually 8.28%. This is what's gastronomically interesting - as opposed to ecologically. Ecologically - if you follow FAO's highly arguable but rational criteria - it doesn't matter one iota if Portugal eats the 30.10 as fresh cod, transforms it all into fish flour or indeed throws it away as part of a religious ritual. Ecologically, depletion is what matters and, as I said before, if this had been the issue, I might well agree. But eGullet is a gastronomic forum, so it matters just how we eat our precious cod. I'd argue that by drying and salting, cod is made tastier, more durable, versatile and economic than if it were consumed fresh without further ado - though God knows how much I love the British and Irish way with battered cod - ideally fried in beef dripping - and chips, which quite a few places in Manhattan honour and replicate with great skill. I also prefer canned anchovies - in which the Spanish are masters - to fresh anchovies and am hard put to choose between the pleasure of good mojama (dried salted tuna belly) and the best raw tuna sashimi, same as I prefer cured ham - whether Italian, French, Spanish or Portuguese - to the same leg of pork simply boiled or roasted. Gastronomically, what's interesting is the myriad ways in which different cultures and individuals transform (or not) the raw materials, from the simplest smoked salmon to Ferran Adrià's breath-taking metamorphoses, never forgetting the seemingly simple but actually very complex Japanese way with what could grossly be considered raw fish but is, in fact, sashimi. Ecologically, it's all the same. And very important: without this basic commonsensical care, there wouldn't be any raw fish to transform and elaborate on. These numbers and percentages may seem boring - may indeed be boring, asola (I know I myself nodded off more than once) - but they're important to characterize different gastronomic cultures. Portugal is a poor country, though blessed with a rich coast (still) full of fish. Spain itself is relatively poor, compared to the EU average. Salt cod is now damned expensive - it's a treat - so it's ridiculous to say that half (50%) of what the Portuguese consume is in the form of salt cod. Hey, it's what's served on Christmas Eve! I suppose you know that the European countries who love fish will - for political-ecological reasons (to negotiate quotas and what-have-you) - do their best to disguise the amounts of fish they consume and fish. In the same way, countries who are not nearly as in love with fish but have large coastal fishing grounds will exaggerate their fish consumption in order to justify their higher quotas, which they can export. Portugal and Spain are clearly the villains here, as they can't get enough. Whether it's fresh, canned, frozen, wild or farmed, they deservedly stand as greedy bastards. Both Portugal and Spain - whatever the cost - import most of their fish, they're that desperate for it. Portugal's two biggest suppliers are Morocco and Mauritania - the first contracts were negotiated by my own father, when he was director-general of fisheries. He secretly negotiated - instructed by the then dictatorship - with the Polisario Front guerillas and, in the 60s, when the Cold War was hot, with Moscow. The Portuguese will do anything for their fish - and the Spanish are just as bad, er, good. My boring efforts to reach a reliable figure for salt cod consumption in Portugal were intended to present a realistic figure which would take into account the general appetite for fish, whether imported or local, frozen or dried. Of course we eat an inordinate amount of salt cod - hence the 1001 ways of cooking it - but, if you exaggerate its consumption (already astronomical), you just further the false paradox of "How come a country with so much fresh fish at its disposal eats so much salt cod from thousands of miles away, which must be imported and paid for?" The awful (delicious!) truth is we love both. Since Pedro allowed other statistics to be used, it's only honest to say that, in my estimation, based on privileged knowledge, I'd put salt cod consumption at between 25 and 30% of total seafood consumption. I'd also like to add that, so far as I know, the FAO weighting is not based on the weight of salt cod after it's been soaked in water (wouldn't it be just great if 1 kilo of dried codfish would produce 3 kilos of ready-to-eat "bacalhau"? Just add water!) but on the weight of the whole codfish when landed and its subsequent weight after being gutted and dried. FAO doesn't care what you do with the fish - you could add lots of potatoes and onions and make 1 kilo into 7 kilos of "pastéis de bacalhau" or whatever - but on the oceanic cost in terms of depletion. On a lighter note - what a relief - I'd like to remind all Spanish members of this board that they really should heed the recent heartfelt plea from their government that urges them to eat more fish already! I would have resisted if the brief article didn't seem to offer what appear to be interesting figures on seafood consumption in Spain. P.S. I'd be delighted as a fish-eater if Portugal were to become #2 or #4 or ideally #23 in fish consumption, as this would allow us to, well, eat more fish on the sly. It's not easy being #1 in fish-gobbling. With all eyes focused on dwindling wild fish stocks, how much easier it would be, even risking French culinary passions, being green like Kermit. Not to mention the added ecological advantage, of course. ;)
  6. Victor, you may be as sarcastic as you like but, since this is an interesting discussion, perhaps you could make your case in a more rigorous, even-handed way? Thank you.
  7. That was a good call, Pedro - by splitting the thread, we might better discuss the whole ever-more-important question of salt cod consumption in Spain and Portugal. Since we're number-crunching, I'd like to show how my original rebuttal, based on the figures quoted in the Dutch study, was actually much weaker if the FAO conversion weren't taken into consideration. Let's forget, for a moment, the wide variety of other important fish species - of which I provided a small list of the most obvious examples not taken into consideration by the Dutch study - consumed by the Portuguese and pretend, for the sake of argument, we don't consume any of them. I know it's silly, but it proves an interesting statistical point. Salt cod consumption in Portugal is a constant at 8.28 kilos per capita per year. However, when FAO-weighted and converted into its equivalent in fresh fish (which is the standard measure used internationally) those 8.28 become a whopping 30.10 of total codfish, adding, as it does 21.82 kilos (in non-consumed fresh codfish) to the final tally of total seafood consumption. The best way to do the sums, in my own opinion, is to add up the quantities of other fish, as it is considered constant by FAO, as estimated by the same Dutch study. I did list them all in my original rebuttal, but I didn't bother to actually add them up, as they proved, even roughly guessed, to be considerably less than 50% (never mind 66%, as vserna's second, revised claim stated). Here they are: 5.36 3.89 1.48 3.84 1.51 0.32 2.33 0.30 0.14 0.14 0.75 This comes to 22.69 kilos. Now, it all depends, as the Dutch study goes out of its way to make clear. Add the 8.28 of salt cod and the total becomes 30.97 kilos. In this case, the percentage of salt cod comes it at just under 30%. (No, I haven't got a calculator handy...!) If, as figure 9.2 makes clear, you add the FAO weighting, then you must add the conversion into fresh codfish of the 8.9 kgs of salt cod, which adds an extra 21.82 kgs of fresh fish equivalence to the total seafood consumption. Instead of a total 30.97 kilos, you get a new total of 44.51 kilos. In this case, the percentage of salt cod consumed (still 8.28 of course) is no longer around 30% but nearer 20%. The total of cod consumed - all statistically weighed to be equivalent of fresh - has nothing to do with the matter under discussion, which was Victor's claim that Portugal's consumption of dried codfish was around 50%. His subsequent claim - no longer about dried codfish but just codfish - of it being around 2/3 was obtained, I imagine, by considering a total of 44.51 kgs in relation to 30.10 of a fresh and dried codfish equivalence. His mistake - I'm guessing - is that he forgot completely that what we actually consume is always dried codfish, i.e. not 30.10 but 8.28 kilos. This is not only what he claimed but what is gastronomically significant, since, I repeat, we don't consume fresh cod. However, the FAO estimate of 1999 used by the Dutch study is not 44.51 kilos but 58 kilos. So the salt cod percentage is 14.13%, as 8.28 kilos are what is actually consumed. "Lies, damned statistics and lies!", as the famous saying goes - but even statistics have limits. As an interesting footnote, almost all our cod is imported from Norway, Iceland and other countries. A long time ago it used to be dried here in Portugal but, sadly, this is no longer the case. So the responsibility for actually fishing cod should at least be shared by the countries who actually fish it and sell it to Portugal and other countries. I say "shared" because, morally, those who create the demand for salt cod should also be held responsible. Now, I'd like someone to estimate what percentage of salt cod in Spain's total seafood consumption could be said to be, according to the same Dutch study. We all have other statistics but I think it helps the discussion if we all base our estimates on the same source.
  8. Victor: let's keep to what you said and the data you presented to back it up, shall we? This way it will be easier for you to understand, as I refuse to believe you're being deliberately dishonest. First, you said 50%(i.e. 1 of every 2 kilos) of fish consumed by Portugal was "dried codfish". Then, after having consulted your data again, you revised it to claim that 2 out of every 3 kilos are "codfish". Please note the discrepancy between the two claims. The first refers to "dried codfish" (i.e. bacalhau). The second to just "codfish". This is important because, in our debate on the matter, I was debating your first claim. Your second claim was made after my rebuttals. In Portugal, we don't eat fresh codfish - only dried, salted codfish - so obviously, it's salted codfish that is relevant to what we consume. Leaving aside all other data, I'll continue to use the study you linked to, from which you got your figures. I never said it was Spanish - it was clearly presented by you as Dutch and the study itself clearly identifies itself as Dutch. Neither did I say it wasn't serious - only incomplete, as the study itself honestly acknowledges. But I'm glad you regard it as very serious, as I shall be using its data to show you, once and for all, how it fails to back up your claims of 50% consumption of salted codfish. I'll use your own summary first. If our total consumption is "about 50 kilos" and we consume 8.3 salted cod, then all you have to do is to divide the total (50) by the number of kilos of salt cod (8,3) to come to the conclusion that salt cod actually accounts for one-sixth of total fish consumption, since 8,3 times 6 is 49,8. I think we've established that it's not half (which is 3/6) . Therefore, your claim was actually three times greater than the data allowed. That's 300% over. However, if you look at figure 9.2 (the one you suggested I read), you'll find that the actual figure quoted is 58 kilos . Your "about 50 kilos" would be more correctly rounded up to "about 60 kilos", but let's stick to the actual figures. What the study says is "Portugal is one of the top world seafood consumers with an estimate of 58 kgs seafood consumption per capita (FAO, 1999)." Since the actual salt cod consumption they use is 8.28 kgs and the 1999 (not 2000, as you said, btw) FAO estimate is 58 kgs, salt cod actually represents a neat one-seventh of total seafood consumed, since 7 times 8.28 is 57.96. That is, 14.3%. A big difference from your 50% claim, you'll agree. The fact that the FAO methodology chooses to multiply salt cod consumption by a factor of 3 to even out calculation of fresh fish consumed has nothing to do with it, since what Portugal consumes is salt cod ("bacalhau"), not fresh codfish. In any case, we're discussing your own claims that: In your second claim, you were inconsistent. Your original claim was about dried codfish but somehow the crucial "dried" part got lost in your second claim: I was, of course, disputing your first claim. With the second, revised claim I may even agree, if I chose to accept the FAO methodology. But since the codfish we consume is all salted cod, it's hardly relevant. FAO uses this methodology because it's interested in the total quantity of fish consumed before it's processed (as well it should, if it wants to keep track on general exploitation of ocean resources) and it calculates that it takes 3 kilos of fresh codfish (weighed whole as it is landed) to make 1 kilo of salt cod. With this in mind, the Dutch study says: "The Portuguese seafood consumption per capita (kgs/year) depends substantially on how cod is included in the estimate. As an example, between 1992-94 the Portuguese seafood consumption per capita was 37.4 kgs if cod was included as dried fish. However, if it is was converted to fresh codfish (which is the normal procedure in FAO), then the Portuguese seafood consumption per capita would be 61.6 kgs/year." Please note, for the sake of accuracy, that if we accept FAO's calculations - which obviously produce a far higher total seafood consumption - then the actual amount of salt cod consumed as a percentage of the total goes significantly down! Your claim of 50%, of course, referred to consumption of salted cod - i.e. what we buy and eat - so let's not veer off track, though the Dutch study does also say, after recording that the figures they chose to use - the ones I've been using exclusively - would be different if FAO's methodology had been used, that a wholly different set of figures would be obtained if another equally noteworthy methodology had been used: "Another important factor that should be considered is edible consumption (...) If the gross total for 1992-94 were used, then it would be 37.4 (...) However, if only the edible portion (the weight of the product which may be consumed entirely as food) is considered, we would have a [total seafood consumption] of 24.8. According to our information's (sic), the total seafood consumption per capita statistics elaborated by FAO take into consideration only gross consumption." (All quotes from pages 33 and 34 of the study you linked to, figures 9.1 and 9.2; all emphases mine) I shall not comment on your personal remarks as eGullet deserves to be spared that kind of stuff. I have carefully shown you, beyond dispute, that your claim that 50% of the fish consumed in Portugal is salted cod is wrong. I have used only the data used by the serious Dutch study you linked to in order to back up your claim. I have used it fairly and almost fully and, even though it wasn't pertinent to my rebuttals of your initial 50% claim, I have considered the FAO methodology you cited in your second, revised claim; even overlooking the fact that you changed your original claim, which referred to salted cod, not to just to generic codfish. I established that the actual figure for salted cod consumption, using the figures from the study you referred to, is not 50% but 14.3 %. Moreover - though, again, it was not pertinent to the claim being discussed - I've showed that, if the FAO methodology is used, then the figure for salt cod consumption as a percentage of total seafood consumption would be dramatically lower, as the total is inflated by multiplying salt cod consumption (what Portugal consumes) by 3, in order to obtain an equivalent figure for fresh codfish, allowing for multi-national comparisons with countries which consume mainly fresh cod (such as the UK). It is a statistical distortion, with no bearing whatsoever on things gastronomical. FAO's own figures for salt cod consumption in Portugal are obviously no different from those used by the Dutch study. However, I think it's fair to suggest that even a casual visitor to Portugal who goes to a dozen or so restaurants would easily conclude that, even by the most cursory glance at all the fish he saw on menus and being eaten by fellow diners, it's plainly not true that every second fish dish we eat is "bacalhau". We do eat a lot of bacalhau - one in seven is astronomical, which is more than enough to explain why we eat more of the delicious salted cod than any other country. I took the trouble to go through the figures precisely because on the Spain and Portugal forum, it's surely interesting to know how much fresh fish and how much salted cod is consumed in Portugal and Spain and it would have been a pity if this information and discussion had been obscured by extraneous personal remarks. Since it's a gastronomical forum, it's obvious that what matters is what people eat and how they eat it. Like Spain, Italy and France, we Portuguese do enjoy our "bacalhauzinho" - but it must be salted and dried! The actual amount of codfish - weighed whole, with everything - is as relevant, say, as the total weight of all the plants needed to extract saffron is to Spanish consumption. For every gram of precious saffron consumed, how many plant grams are thrown away? How funny saffron consumption statistics would be if, total weight being considered, every Spaniard was shown to consume ten kilos of saffron a year? In gastronomy, what matters is the final form of each ingredient and how it's cooked. Bacalhau is very important to Portuguese gastronomical culture and, for this reason, I felt it necessary to correct your wild over-estimation. I hope this will be the last we hear of this. Warm regards, Miguel
  9. Glad to hear it Victor! The figures are from the study you linked to in order to justify your 50% claim. If it's not authoritative, well, you shouldn't have cited it as the basis for your "fact", should you? ;) Anyway, I enjoy your opinions far too much to pursue this any farther. I was a fool once and apologized for it - but I learnt my lesson. Please believe I've evolved since those early hot-headed days. You're a knowledgeable and generous poster and well, to be honest, I actually dislike disagreeing with you nowadays. But, to paraphrase that great gastronome John Wayne, a man's gotta say what a man's gotta say and it's good to know you agree. :)
  10. I'll ignore the personal slights and, since you pride yourself on being such an objective reporter, concentrate on the study you cited, which just happens to mention that they were unable to include Portugal in the general comparison and so made an estimate based on what data they were able to gather. You said that 50% of the fish we eat in Portugal is salt cod. Please note that heavily consumed fish such as pargo (legítimo e mulato), sargo, chocos (cuttlefish), cachucho, raia (skate), cherne, robalo (sea bass), pregado (turbot), linguado (sole), salmão (these last four farmed and very cheap), lulas (squid), peixe-espada (scabbard fish), generic "redfish" and countless others (like the ubiquitous sapateira crab) weren't included in their tally, making it a fraction of actual consumption. Still, even by this very partial list, it's obvious to the researchers that Portugal eats an awful lot of fish. I can't be bothered to do the arithmetic as it obviously shows your figure of 50% salt cod consumption is an invention. The consumption per capita for salt cod given is 8.28 per capita (all figures from page 33 of your source). For the other fish estimated the numbers are respectively: 5.36 3.89 (already these two fish alone would be more than half, but the list goes on: 1.48 3.84 1.51 0.32 2.33 0.30 0.14 0.14 0.75 That would be at least another half again. If you added all the other fish, I'd say you'd have to add at least four other halves. That's a lot of halves to make salt cod half of the total. In other words, isn't it a bit late for you to be confessing that the very study you based your 50% claim actually has the honesty of "pointing out that 'statistical data concerning seafood consumption is not available for Portugal'"? I won't bother citing actual statistics. As you can imagine, being such a big importer and fisher of fish and fishing being so important to our economy, the Portuguese government and international fishing organizations, not to mention the EU, do have some idea of how much fish we consume. Your own government has good figures. Two phone calls should do it. These are facts available to anyone - no expertise needed or claimed. Is it also a scientific fact that anyone who disagrees with you is not only wrong but anti-Spanish? Really, Victor, for such a modern guy you really need to deal with the meaning of "in my opinion" and accept that not only are there often more than one about anything but that, for some strange reason, they may not even coincide with your own. I maintain my opinion (that difficult word again) that everyday cheap cooked food in restaurants in Portugal is, by any standard, far better than in Spain. The fish and shellfish are better too - though Spain's are very good. Spain buys a hell of a lot more of it than any other country. The fact that Spain is more industrialized and richer doesn't really carry any weight, as you well know. In fact, it tends to be a negative factor as far as food quality is concerned. Only last Saturday I read a magnificent column of yours in "El Mundo" about freedom of expression and my wife and I both spent some time praising it. Perhaps you should read it too? ;) P.S. I love Spain, as you also well know!
  11. Hey, Silly - don't feed the animals! Nah, thanks for the encouragement and the opportunity to ramble on a bit more (the Christmas hamper is in the post and, yes, it does include that kilo of white Alba truffles you insisted on): 8) "People say one doesn't eat badly at X..." ("Dizem que não se come mal no...X") Translation: Though I myself don't believe a word of it, stupid buggers. Solution: Immediately ask "But where do you generally eat?" The answer is bound to be valuable. 9) "It seems that in X they don't serve badly..." ("Parece que não servem mal no X...") Translation: I could kick myself for not having been yet - I have a hunch it's great. 10) "People who aren't from around here generally go to X..." ("O pessoal de fora geralmente vai ao X") Translation: Poor bastards. 11) "If it was a Tuesday, I'd definitely go to X..." ("Se fosse terça-feira, era o X!") Translation: A good restaurant every single day of the week. Go already! 12) "If you're not expecting great things, X may be a modest establishment but at least it doesn't fool anybody" ("Se não estiver assim com grandes ideias, o X é modesto mas também não engana ninguém.") Translation: Expect great things, at a quarter of the price they'd deserve. 13) "X is expensive but one does eat well there." ("O X é caro mas lá que se come bem, ai isso come-se.") Translation: A great inexpensive restaurant. 14) "I've never been, myself, but X is always full..." ("Nunca lá fui, mas o X está sempre cheio") Translation: Very boring; not worth going. Might be quite good or cheap for what you get, but is assuredly banal. 15) "Well, if you particularly want to eat lamprey rice [or whatever], then X is the place to go, as it won't disappoint." ("Bem, se fôr para comer um arroz de lampreia, o X, verdade se diga, não desilude.") Translation: Go but stick to the damned lamprey rice [or whatever]. The rest is probably crap. 16) "X is impeccable - top notch!" ("O X é impecável; alto luxo!") Translation: The food is lousy but for the well-satisfied locals, used to eating superbly in their own homes, it's worth putting up with the trendy attempts at international cuisine to bask - once every six months- in the illusion they're dining swankily in the capital city. 17) "It's no longer what it used to be - but, still, they deliver the goods." ("Já não é o que era mas, enfim, continua a servir bem.") Translation: Remains sublime, indifferent to the winds of change and its only sin is not to charge what they did when they first opened, two decades ago. 18) "Well, X has got good wine..." ("Bem, o X tem bom vinho...") Translation: But the food is even better. The wine is probably sweet, atrocious but unique in the worst local way, inasmuch as, for a very good reason, you can't get it anywhere else. Choose something that goes well with beer. 19) "As long as you say I sent you, you'll be sure of a treat." ("Se disser que vem da minha parte, garanto-lhe que é bem servido.") Translation: A disgrace where the informant likes to go for a post-prandial whisky and would much appreciate the prestige of directing a stranger towards its unspeakable offerings - or even the commission. Avoid and warn others. 20) "Hey, my friend, around here you eat well anywhere you go" or [slightly more literary variation] "What's difficult here, pal, is finding a place where you eat badly!" ("Isto aqui come-se bem em qualquer lado! Difícil, difícil é comer mal...!") Translation: Not one decent restaurant within a twenty-mile radius. 21) "Hmmm...let me phone my friend Y - he'll know!" ("Deixe-me telefonar ao meu amigo Y que ele já lhe diz!") Translation: You've struck gold and are about to be connected to an expert. Sharpen your pencil accordingly. 22) "You want to eat well? In these days? Tell me, my friend, no disrespect, do you know of anywhere where one eats well nowadays?" ("Comer bem? Hoje em dia? Ó meu amigo, mas há algum sítio onde se coma bem nos dias que correm?") Translation: Lottery win! You are in the presence of an authentic "gourmet". Instantly convert your discourse to the negative mode and sit back to receive sterling recommendations, i.e. "I know, I know - isn't it a fucking tragedy? But, still, one has to eat: is there any place where the food is not so bad?"). I've barely scratched the surface but, having clearly outstayed my welcome, will now shut up and wait for others to provide their own interpretative devices. I blame Silly Disciple myself. ;)
  12. The whole business of finding good restaurants in unfamiliar country might deserve a thread of its own but, since Bux himself brought it up, I'd be very interested in learning of the techniques used by fellow members. To start the ball rolling, I'll translate a few common replies to the standard "Where would you yourself go, Madam or Sir, if you wanted to eat really, but really, really well?" question, with all its variants: such as "Is it really true that to eat well one has go to [insert rival region]? If it was your birthday/all your best friends were coming/someone else was picking up the bill/if you had to convince some stubborn journalist from the capital of the stupidity and ignorance of his low opinion of your region's cooking being merely pleasant, but not something to write home about/if you had to eat there for the rest of your life, day in, day out/if your own mother had been condemned to death and asked only for one decent meal before being guillotined", etc. I'll base the translations on common answers in Portugal, for obvious reasons. 1)"Well, the place which has the reputation is...." ("Bem, o sítio com mais fama é...") Translation: Tourists love it/Know-all ignoramuses flock there/Wouldn't be seen dead there, personally. 2)"Where one used to eat well is..." ("Onde se costumava comer bem era no...") Translation: Still good but now too big for its boots in the local estimation, generally meaning far too expensive "for what it is". Definitely worth checking out, with a high probability of being the best restaurant around. Locals will pine for the days when it was a sawdust and cobweb-friendly dive and one could stub out one's cigarettes on the floor but the spoilt-rotten traveller will be glad that some ambitious local moustache now presents himself as a bona fide wine waiter. 3) "If eating well is paramount, there's unfortunately only one place and it's..." ("Para comer bem, só conheço um sítio, que é...") Translation: It belongs to a cousin or a friend and is probably dire. Badmouthing the whole assortment of restaurants is one of the worst signs, i.e. one of best ways of detecting a false recommendation. 4) "Well, I usually go to...X...and am always well served, though I can't say whether you'd like it..." ("Bem, eu cá costumo ir ao...X.. e sou sempre bem servido - mas o senhor, não sei...") Translation: A magnificent restaurant, ridiculously cheap. 5) "It depends on what you want to eat..." ("Bem, isso depende do que o senhor quer comer...") Translation: You've struck gold and chanced on an expert! Answer immediately "I love everything" and he'll wearily trot out a list of fantastic restaurants according to what they do best, throwing you into a note-taking frenzy. 6) "Well, my opinion is that one only eats well at home but, when we do go out, to give my wife a break, she likes going to..." ("Bem, eu acho que, para comer mesmo bem, só em casa - mas a minha mulher, quando não está para isso, gosta de ir ao...") Translation: Better than gold! Wives' preferences, when they are good cooks, are the most exacting and demanding of all those known to civilization. 7) "Restaurants, I don't know. But if it's only to snack..." ("De restaurantes não percebo nada, mas se é só para petiscar...") Translation: Beyond all doubt, a superb restaurant. Many people with profound gastronomical knowledge and experience regard the word "restaurant" as a silly word for poncing and pseuding about for those more interested in being cossetted than well fed and would staunchly defy any accusation that the places where they lunch and dine are "restaurants". In fact, most of these so-called hicks - in reality, criterious gastronomes who don't know any worse, being so attuned and habituated to the better and the best - don't even grasp the concept of "eating well" for the simple reason that they have no experience whatsoever of eating badly. They're truly spoilt, the lucky bastards! So you may have to substitute "eating well" for something they can understand like "filling your stomach without spending too much money" or "somewhere to get decent food when it's not practical to go home for lunch or, when they're unusually used to excellence for almost nothing, even "Where can a guy get a bite around here?" It's a big mistake to assume those who are materially poorer than we are have the slightest understanding of how exceptional it is to eat really well. Yes, sorry, caught rambling again, so I'd better leave it here... Any other pointers - specially if they're related to provincial France, Spain, Italy or the U.S. - would be warmly welcomed!
  13. Hey, thanks Bux - but I really am enchanted and informed beyond my best expectations by the kind and knowledgeable replies so far. One thing I love about eGullet is that it somehow manages to reproduce one's actual experience of life and food. First, you get a marvellous recommendation for a hotel. Someone seconds it. A third fellow member suggests the East Wing, as the view is better. A fourth goes further and says the best room in the East Wing is the orange one. Everything seems settled. The reservation is made. Then it starts anew. A fresh voice says the Orange Room is indeed the best but only when it's not cloudy. If it is, best stick to the West Wing, which is more spacious and cheaper. Someone else adds they live next door and it so happens that the month I'm going it's been cloudy for the last three centuries, adding that only last month the rooms on the West Wing were redesigned and are now much smaller and, what is more, considerably more expensive - so perhaps it's best to ask for a room next to the restaurant and forget about the bloody view - you get that from the bar just across the corridor. Then the guy who first recommended the Orange Room weighs in and informs that he's just been looking through his photographs and it was probably the Yellow one, as they were all taken when the sun was setting. Finally - this hasn't happened yet - someone despairs and advises sticking to Spain after all until someone like Marc intervenes out of the blue and counsels that, if I'm in a "sticking to" mode, he fails to understand why I'm travelling at all, since staying in Lisbon is by far the best option at that particular time of the year. :) No, really, when I arrive it will be that more exciting. As for finding good restaurants, I have tried and trusted methods - some of them devious but all well-intentioned - and since I devote all time between meals (and during!) to this task, being uninterested in anything else, I hope I can begin to thank those who've helped me by posting names and addresses of all the worthy establishments I "discover". Actually, the trick is not to "discover", but to tap the rich, life-filled well of what is deeply known but, for some reason, people aren't eager to share, out of fear, embarrassment, timidity or downright malice towards strangers. My entire innovation quota for 2005 will no doubt be exhausted by that one dinner at El Bulli, so I'll be devoting all my energy to good, simple, time-tested food, wherever it is to be had, with no regard whatsoever to anything extraneous, including service with a smile and surroundings, however uncharming. The region's strengths - as stated in others' posts - are more than enough to get me panting! Thank you all again! Miguel
  14. As usual, dear vmilor, you are able to transcend immediate dining experience into a larger issue, the same way a clever political analyst will pick on what seems to be a single incident and read it in a way that allows readers to reflect on the wider significance and, more specifically, as a signpost which, if intelligently interpreted, may indicate the general direction of where we're headed. Thanks for that! In the same spirit - unimpeded by my relative ignorance - I've always thought that Adrià's main concern is transport: in the ways flavours can be carried, as well as the meaning of metaphysical delight the word also has. Like an inventive child, he looks at the grean bean carrying the taste of green bean or gamba brains and tries swopping it about onto other vehicles, to see what happens, as children do with Lego men, plopping them on Marklin trains or racing cars to see what happens. Our expectations of taste are so ineluctably wedded to particular textures that it's interesting of itself to see and feel them challenged - if only to confirm them, not blindly as is traditional, but with knowledge of one of the possible alternatives. When we examine these preconceptions, though, we find that many great culinary creations are responsible for man-made changes in our expectation of what texture goes with what flavour. Imitators simply choose one of the vehicles (say, foam) and throw everything onto it, as if all that had happened was an all-round change in method of transport, like airplanes taking over from trains. By doing so, I don't agree that ingredients become secondary - in fact, they're still the primary players. The texture/flavour association is liquid and often changed by large-scale fashions - there are undoubtedly still a lot of them still to be discovered, as long as great cooks like Adrià continue curiously and diligently looking for them. An important consequence - to prolong the childish analogy - is that, when trying his transport-switching creations, our surprise inevitably reproduces the half-forgotten moments when, as children, we tried rice or an omelette for the first time. So the wonder - mixed with a little fear and a natural resistence to the unfamiliar - is actually transported to the diner. This is a rare treat for jaded eaters and, I suspect, even children, so much more staid in their tastes nowadays than their grandparents were at the same age. I hope this doesn't sound too pretentious - it was OK in Portuguese, as it ran through my head.... ;)
  15. Done, menton1 - we shan't let you down or be less than grateful (and, I hope, deserving) of your trust! :)
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