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Everything posted by SWISS_CHEF

  1. That is, with all due respect, a pretty shortsighted remark. Because then you could also ask: why write/read about art? literature? film? music? I'll give you an answer: to understand it better! ← Reading about or photographing food is quite a bit more "shortsighted" than cooking and experiencing it in real life. One has to peel the vegetables, sear the flesh and actually put the food in one's mouth to totally appreciate the millions of subtle nuances and complexities that accompany the preparation and pleasures of good food. Photographs and words can only take us so far and are a poor substitute for the real thing. Imagine if Madame Butterfly could only be explained on paper or photographed in a magazine. Would anyone care about it then? Do you feel different when you stand in front of a real Van Gogh as compared to a picture in an art book? Are you more inspired by a critique of a great film than the actual film? Can anyone describe Shakespeare in such a way that might rival his original masterpieces? I don't think so. The genuine article is always preferable to a rendition.
  2. You are right you can't get those things from written descriptions. So why read about food? Not much point really, unless you like trivia. No words written can equal the real thing. We shouldn't take pictures of people and expect to "understand" all about them. You can't learn that from a picture. You can only look at the two dimensions and guess at the rest. We take comfort in things that can't talk back to us but real life is infinitely more complex and interesting.
  3. I'm devoted to the passionate simply because they speak opinionated thoughts. What else is so pure?
  4. Not true, some times these things are not important. With food they are.
  5. Problems with pictures: Only 2 dimensions. Can't smell. Can't taste. Can't feel the élan of the room or the evening. Can't feel the anticipation. Can't see your lover. Can't hear your lover. Can't touch your lover. All of this is simply too much to remove from a great meal. Whats the point of taking a photo? It tells us nothing.
  6. What is so consoling about eating the food of the original creator? As a diner, if I have two plates of food sitting in front of me, one modern and one traditional and they both thrill me equally, then the only difference is the age of the ideas that created them. One has its origin in a new idea and the other in an old one. So what? Of all the possible criteria by which to judge food, judging by the age of the idea seems imprudent to me. Additionally, I think it would be almost impossible to perfectly recreate any recipe. There are simply too many variables, so to some degree or another all chefs are altering or creating some aspect of every recipe. However, I have to say that from a chef's prospective you are spot-on. There is little solace in repeating the same recipe day in and day out. I detest cooking with recipes and I use them only as a suggestion. At home I rarely make the same thing twice and my cooking is ever-changing depending on my mood, what's available and more importantly what I know (that changes too). I have never had a signature dish and I will never will and if I had to cook the same truffle soup, over and over like Paul Bocuse has for 30 years, I would probably quit cooking and follow in Vatel‘s footsteps. But, I am under absolutely no illusion that this makes my food taste better.... probably the opposite.
  7. Actually, (this is directed toward others more than you Judith) traditional food is every bit as creative (if not more) as modern food. The big difference is that traditional food is not new. If Pizza had never existed and was suddenly created tomorrow, it would still sweep the world in no time, because it is a brilliant idea. The approach I (and many others) take is that many of the old preparations are actually based on very innovative thinking and are no less refreshing (particularly if they have been lost and rediscovered) than their modern counterparts. I don't covet food because it is new, I covet it because it is remarkable.
  8. Interesting point. I have lived in Switzerland for the last eight years and for part of that period I lived right on the border of Germany so I know this region pretty well and the two country's cuisines are rather similar and generally speaking the food is kind of uninspirational (I am speaking of German Switzerland). Both kitchens are largely based on fatty cuts of pork, würst and root vegetables. If ever there was a place to install cutting edge chefs, this has to be where to do it. Trust me, they could use some innovation! However, it is possible to eat well there, I found that the trick is you have to eat the classics and appreciate them for what they are. The dried/smoked meats like Bundner Fleisch and Black Forest ham are really special. My favorite sliced meat of all time is the Swiss version of Bologna called Lyoner. The Swiss have refined this lowly cold-cut to a level you would not think possible. I have found cheeses in Germany are often flavorless but Switzerland's artisanal cheeses are certainly worth getting excited about. Of course there is chocolate but other desserts like meringues and Gruyère cream, Aargauer Rüblitort and Cremeschnitte are all sensational. Even the old clichés like fondue and raclette can be really fantastic when made with the artisanal cheeses. Much praise can be given to the thousands of different black breads of Germany too. Last but not least...Rösti, cooked slowly, in cast-iron, with lots of butter... has be the ultimate use of a potato!
  9. I think of food as I do fashion. There are famous designers parading fantastic designs on the runway for a adoring public and press, but in reality, very little of that "creativity" actually trickles down to the everyday wear of the real world. I forget who it was (maybe Coco Chanel) but a famous designer once said (about her show) "this is not how I make my living. I make my living making rather boring suits for over-weight women. All of this is done to demonstrate my imagination." Coexist? Sure, it has to be so. Like it or not, experimental cooking will be always be in demand by a society that prizes its food, especially these days when chefs are more famous than writers and professors and even doctors and lawyers have become food experts!
  10. You are beginning to sound like a traditionalist FG.
  11. Hi kkwchan, The truffles in the "zone" are the best in Italy The zone runs from south of Alba up to Just north of Moncalvo. The prices for these truffles are higher and rightfully so. If you want these truffles at a discount come to the Monferrato especially between Moncalvo, Montechiaro and Murisengo. All of the quality and very few tourists so you don't have to pay Alba prices. Also timing is everything... the first truffles sell dear but taper off until about two weeks before Christmas when they shoot back up again. Buy in late November and January for the best prices. Read up-thread for more info on fair dates.
  12. Good, then you might enjoy this. I am also very fond of the Franche Comté. So what's your take on Indian morel mushrooms? Rumor has it that some of the FC chefs are using them... separate thread???
  13. I think the relevance depends on how you spend your time here. I have attended countless events like Salone del Gusto, farmer's markets and food and wine fairs. I export the wines of a dozen tiny producers and spend time with them talking about rare grapes. Last month I had dinner with the Giorgio Ferrero the Piemonte president of Coldiretti and the whole dinner topic was about protecting rare ingredients. In Italy, Coldiretti is bigger than Slow food. I write articles for my blog about rare ingredients like Ruché andCuneo Peppers I'm not googling this information, I am living it and therefore I feel compelled to write about it. For me it is less about "my 2 cents" than a desire to communicate what I have heard and learned from my Italian neighbors.
  14. FG your comments are in italics and mine in bold But what you said was: "because of fusion and other events that have brought new ingredients into the mix, some traditional preparations and ingredients have become lost or even extinct. This is the mantra of organizations like Slowfood and Species Pro Rara" And nothing you quoted above says that. It's not a zero-sum game. Can you please explain how it does not? I believe they all stated that there is a good deal of concern about losing traditional ingredients to various modern methods. Sure, if you want to expand the definition of fusion to include everything bad, then everything bad is fusion. But if McDonald's is fusion cuisine, or contemporary cuisine, then those are totally different definitions from the ones that are commonly understood. WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT??? I'd like to see where Slow Food says it's officially opposed to Ferran Adria's work, or to Nobu. I doubt there's any such claim being made. And if there is, it's nutty. Who said that??? Certainly not me. I said that modern methods often cause the demise of ancient ingredients and therefore ancient ingredients should be guarded and protected. If you think ancient ingredients aren't important why don't you just say so? Until you spend some time on the ground here in Europe you will not understand the importance and uniqueness of many of the local ingredients. In Switzerland I attend the “chästeilets” in the mountains every year and I can tell you that the cheeses available there are not available anywhere else in Switzerland and certainly not anywhere else in the world. The obscurity of these cheeses makes them easy for the world to forget but if this happened it would be a disaster. Knowing this, I can very easily understand how the same situation could also be translated to an Italian salami or a French cheese. These things are delicate and deserve to be protected. Personally, I would rather see the entire demise molecular cuisine than let any of these ancient preparations or ingredients disappear.
  15. Misguided? Perhaps you should spend some time at the Salone del Gusto next year in Turin. I would be happy to show you around. Their projects are amazing and they are working too. From the Slowfood, Ark of Taste Manifesto: "To protect the small purveyors of fine food from the deluge of industrial standardization; to ensure the survival of endangered animal breeds, cheeses, cold cuts, edible herbs - both spontaneous and cultivated - cereals and fruit...." Slow Food Presidia Project: "to promote artisan products; to stabilize production techniques; to establish stringent production standards and, above all, to guarantee a viable future for traditional foods." Also, this article by Swiss news should help sum things up. The issue here is that countless species of animals and plants are being lost because of cheap imports and other influences. What is so bad about reviving these ingredients? Couldn't they also be considered a form of fusion...modern...cutting edge?
  16. You can also argue that because of fusion and other events that have brought new ingredients into the mix, some traditional preparations and ingredients have become lost or even extinct. This is the manta of organizations like Slowfood and Species Pro Rara. So from that perspective the traditional cuisine has been diminished. The primary reasons that food is "better" today than 50 years ago is largely due to transportation logistics and the fact that food is enjoying a lot more attention than it used to, especially by Americans. Chefs have become celebrities and top restaurants make huge profits, this was never the case in the 50's.
  17. Two days ago the mother of my neighbor from Puglia brought over some stuffed red peppers. The dish was good but (as it often happens) I tossed and turned over it because it was lacking something. Today I made a fusion version of her dish but this time incorporating basmati rice instead of bread crumbs. This addition of the basmati is derived from an Arab dish called Machboos where the meat and rice are baked together. Basmati has a way of absorbing the meat flavors that I find is unique. The result of fusing it with the traditional stuffed red peppers was surprising. The rice was mixed in the ground beef and it swelled up when it was cooked. the mixture was very light and had a lovely aroma. Traditional...no, but it was a successful incorporation of traditional ingredients from two very different cultures. I love cooking like this.
  18. I found an interesting article in the New York Times and here are a couple of quotes: ....''Some people explain that in the old days salt was very expensive and the Florentines are stingy,'' said Giuliano Bugialli, who teaches cooking in Florence and in New York, ''but that is not correct. The fact is that Tuscan food is highly seasoned and has always been so and the bread, which is eaten with the main course and is an essential part of the meal, provided a better balance without salt.'' Guido Tersaghi, chef of the Hotel Minerva in Florence, who is organizing a school of regional cooking, also remarked that salt-free bread was preferable with typical Tuscan salami such as finocchiona and soprassata, which are extremely salty. The Tuscans even call the traditional air-dried Parma ham ''sweet'' prosciutto in comparison with the saltier local products. ... also ...It is possible that this repertory evolved because the bread becomes rock hard when it dries, and appetizing use was made of the bread instead of discarding it. Florentine parsimony might not account for the lack of salt in the bread but it has dictated that every crumb be consumed. Other peasant cuisines find similar uses for leftover bread - bread pudding is a classic - but Tuscany is one of the few places where such dishes appear on stylish restaurant menus or are proudly served to guests.... It seems that salt-less bread has always been and will always be a part of Tuscan culinary heritage, like it or not.
  19. Compared to Switzerland, I can't do much but complain about Italian bread but fortunately I can bring back very good Swiss flour and do it myself and Essalunga supermarkets bake a really good chewy, crusty yellow bread, (I forget where it is from originally) for €1.50 a loaf.
  20. Regionalism is an important aspect to Italian food. My neighbor (48) who was born and raised in Asti had never had pasta with tomato sauce until he met his wife (from Puglia) For him pasta always had oil or butter on it or perhaps the Piemonte sugo which has almost no tomato in it. Even pizza is a fairly recent import to Piemont.
  21. Same here. Most purchases are for vacation use. There is very little property on the market here because the families tend to hang on to it unless they need the money. Property tax is almost non-existent here, so it costs nothing to keep the houses and let them sit vacant until a family member wants to use it. Additionally, there isn't much incentive to sell because the property values are very low, inhabitable village cottages can still be had for 20,000 euros.
  22. There is a demographic aspect to Italian cuisine which we have not really discussed. During the first half of the century our village had 3000 people and today we have 200. For the last 50 years Italians have moved out of the country and into the cities. That is especially true in the Piedmont where the car factories in Turin practically vacated the small villages like mine. Additionally the "city" Italians tended to look forward to the future and shun the past and small town ways. This led to a big decline of the traditions and local foods and a boom of cheap, fast food. Today people like Paolo Massobrio and Carlo Petrini are helping Italians to be proud of their roots and look with-in instead of constantly craving everything new from the US and other trendy countries. And it is working. Italy had an image problem and part of the recuperation process is getting in touch with their roots and feeling good about their cuisine. This explains the current fascination with tradition... it's the "big new thing" here. Once this period cools off, they will have the self-confidence to experiment on a larger scale.
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