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hathor

Tradition v. Contemporary Italian Cuisine

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The antithesis of Picasso was Frank Stella who,I believe, became a famous abstract artist because he was a poor/uninspired painter.

    Does this make any sense? :hmmm:  :hmmm:  :hmmm:  :hmmm:

Some.

Informed and relevant regarding points concerning Picasso and the general comment applies to most contributions to fields, society or culture.

Remark about Frank Stella may reflect personal taste, but is either not informed or misinformed. (Quibble, but his work tends to be non-objective as opposed to abstract.) To keep this brief comment on topic, I will mention that Frank Stella's wife fed their baby by nursing in the back of the auditorium during a panel that inaugurated an exhibition of the artist's works. At that time, he had moved from the stark minimalist paintings that remind one of contemporary trends in dinnerware (square, linear, often executed without color) to exuberant hybrids of painting and relief filled with dynamic color, texture and curvilnear forms evocative of tangled spaghetti even if none of the forms was abstracted from nature/culture.

I take back my comment about Mr. Frank Stella. Thanks for the info. As usual I am awed by the depth and breath of your knowledge :cool:..You are very gifted at educating others. I wonder if you are a professional educator, if not, you would make a good one :cool::cool::cool: Thanks again!


Edited by Naftal (log)

"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex.Except for salami and eggs...Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced"--Alan King (1927-2004)

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Please forgive tone. On a more gracious note, I'd like to develop the comparison between Italian cuisine and the visual arts and make a distinction that is relevant to the ongoing discussion.

The great Russian artist Malevich said that if you want to see a cow, go out to the fields and look.

His point was that art ought to provide something different from the everyday and what you can see elsewhere. It was also in defense of current trends in the visual arts, particularly the painters of his country who rejected the tired same-old academic practices of the establishment and refused to create unimaginative landscapes with traditional subject matter.

In this respect, this is what Hathor and other chefs (or cooks) can do in the face of tradition. Malevich may have abandoned imagery altogether, but he used the traditional tools, paint, colors, lines and geometic shapes previous artists used. He painted on the same rectangular surfaces that landscape artists filled with pastures and cows. The gist of a number of comments here is that one ought to know the history and traditions of one's chosen profession in order to draw from them selectively or reject them utterly. (Ignorance sometimes is a blessing, but that's another point.)

Like artists, chefs can turn to books to learn that tradition, following recipes, instructions or simply using the pictures.

However, the analogy falls short in that chefs also resemble performing artists when they create classic or traditional dishes such as those in the repertoires of Italian regions. Like a musician, actor or director, chefs perpetuate tradition to make of the past a living present. Nonetheless, we tend to honor those who add something to the familiar that is unfamiliar, new, and distinctly their own. Over time, such contributions alter tradition.

Should you add tomatoes to a dish that dates back to a fifteenth-century Italian court?


"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Traditional Italian cuisine wouldn't exist if anybody had listened to the traditionalists. The notion of a traditional cuisine is, as a basic concept, deeply problematic. It assumes that a snapshot of a point on the continuum of culinary evolution constitutes traditional cuisine -- nothing after. But without that continuous process of evolution, we would never have arrived at the snapshot moment, and if we stop at the snapshot moment the everything stagnates. Nobody in Italy would be using tomatoes if the snapshot had been taken in 1400. Nobody would be eating pizza Margherita if the snapshot had been taken in 1850. Nobody would be drinking espresso . . . etc.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Traditional Italian cuisine wouldn't exist if anybody had listened to the traditionalists. The notion of a traditional cuisine is, as a basic concept, deeply problematic. It assumes that a snapshot of a point on the continuum of culinary evolution constitutes traditional cuisine -- nothing after. But without that continuous process of evolution, we would never have arrived at the snapshot moment, and if we stop at the snapshot moment the everything stagnates. Nobody in Italy would be using tomatoes if the snapshot had been taken in 1400. Nobody would be eating pizza Margherita if the snapshot had been taken in 1850. Nobody would be drinking espresso . . . etc.

I don't think anyone here is suggesting that there shouldn't (or won't) be evolution of cooking styles. As cooks and eaters we have options as to which culinary path we choose to take. Mine will be the exploration and rediscovery of traditional or historic cooking methods and ancient ingredients as opposed to the often contrived and experimental methods employed by what I call "cutting edge" chefs.

My objective is to cook and eat as well as I can before I die and I place my bets in the past rather than what I think will amount to little more than a fad. It is simply a personal choice and there are many paths out there.

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Traditional Italian cuisine wouldn't exist if anybody had listened to the traditionalists. The notion of a traditional cuisine is, as a basic concept, deeply problematic. It assumes that a snapshot of a point on the continuum of culinary evolution constitutes traditional cuisine -- nothing after. But without that continuous process of evolution, we would never have arrived at the snapshot moment, and if we stop at the snapshot moment the everything stagnates. Nobody in Italy would be using tomatoes if the snapshot had been taken in 1400. Nobody would be eating pizza Margherita if the snapshot had been taken in 1850. Nobody would be drinking espresso . . . etc.

So to follow your timeline, when I go to the next snapshot, in Modena, 2010, to enjoy a Lasagne Bolognese, and the waiter brings me a plate that on the left has a pile of dust which is the noodle component, freeze dried and pulverized, and on the right are shimmering quarter-inch cubes of tomato and pork essence, and in the middle a lighter than air foam that represents the Béchamel, and the waiter instructs me to take a little of all three on my spoon at the same time, I am supposed to... enjoy this? Find it as satisfying (after a long journey flying into Milan and renting a car to get to Emila Romagna) as a hearty plate of actual Lasagne Bolognese?

If this is an academic exercise in extrapolation, then I guess that for technical marks the creator gets high marks from his instructor. But for eating pleasure, I'm really going to lament that the cook took a wrong fork in the continuum of culinary evolution, or forced the wrong direction in that continuous process of evolution.

Of course, if I assemble a bit of pasta dust, tomato/pork aspic, and Béchamel foam on my spoon and taste it and think that this is way more pleasurable than biting into a bowl of old-fashioned Lasagne Bolognese over which the waiter has just grated some Parmigiano-Reggiano, then I retract my comments.


Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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But Mark, that kind of thinking puts one in the camp that would have said, "Ha, now you're going to tell me they'll put tomato sauce and mozzarella on a pizza and we're supposed to like that!" or "Ha, now you're going to tell me someday we'll eat these little round red fruit things. Yeah, right." It's not the case that 100% of experiments are going to work out. But if you have no experimentation, you fossilize. And while it's easy enough to come up with funny examples of avant garde cuisine gone awry, the reality is that powders and foams are no more manipulative than the processes for making dried pasta, gelato, espresso, bread or salume. And, as with all those things, when it's good it's good and when it's not good it's not good. But if you cut yourself off entirely from new techniques and approaches, there's little room for improvement.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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But Mark, that kind of thinking puts one in the camp that would have said, "Ha, now you're going to tell me they'll put tomato sauce and mozzarella on a pizza and we're supposed to like that!" or "Ha, now you're going to tell me someday we'll eat these little round red fruit things. Yeah, right." It's not the case that 100% of experiments are going to work out. But if you have no experimentation, you fossilize. And while it's easy enough to come up with funny examples of avant garde cuisine gone awry, the reality is that powders and foams are no more manipulative than the processes for making dried pasta, gelato, espresso, bread or salume. And, as with all those things, when it's good it's good and when it's not good it's not good. But if you cut yourself off entirely from new techniques and approaches, there's little room for improvement.

'there's little room for improvement.

Are we taking about 'improvement'? Adding tomatoes to a classic dish may or may not have improved it, that's subjective, but it most certainly changed that original recipe. For me, that is the evolution of cooking, to tweak a recipe, to use a new ingredient, and still balance it between the comfort of the known and the delight of the unexpected.

I'm feeling my way in terms of how far I can push the envelope and still please the local palate, so here's an interesting example of breaking with tradition. Everyone here fries zucchini flowers, they aren't a 'chic' ingredient, they're a commodity. I took some zucchini flowers, tore apart the petals, fried those and dusted them with smoked adobe chili powder. They were served at a picnic as an aperitivo snack. I sat back to see what would happen. They vanished! And the woman who ate the most was a little old nonna who was completely taken with the flavor and crunch.

What's the moral? At the end of the day, it's gotta taste good.

Once the populace figured out that tomatoes weren't going to kill them, they were smart enough to realize they taste good and they became incorporated into the kitchen lexicon.

I don't think comparing tomatoes to esoteric food pairings is a valid comparison, but that is simply my opinion.

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I don't think comparing tomatoes to esoteric food pairings is a valid comparison, but that is simply my opinion.

Pairing tomatoes with anything was an esoteric food pairing when it first happened. It's the same as bringing some esoteric fruit from Asia to Italy today and putting it on pizza. What today's traditionalists are saying is that we should no longer try to do what got us to where we are in the first place.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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But Mark, that kind of thinking puts one in the camp that would have said, "Ha, now you're going to tell me they'll put tomato sauce and mozzarella on a pizza and we're supposed to like that!" or "Ha, now you're going to tell me someday we'll eat these little round red fruit things. Yeah, right." It's not the case that 100% of experiments are going to work out. But if you have no experimentation, you fossilize. And while it's easy enough to come up with funny examples of avant garde cuisine gone awry, the reality is that powders and foams are no more manipulative than the processes for making dried pasta, gelato, espresso, bread or salume. And, as with all those things, when it's good it's good and when it's not good it's not good. But if you cut yourself off entirely from new techniques and approaches, there's little room for improvement.

You are correct, for sure. I understand the process and concede your point.

What I'm saying then, what works for me, is that I would like to hole-up in time at a very specific point, and wait, while the process continues around me.

Here's a dish I ate on a daily basis in 1973 in the town of Busseto (where Giuseppe Verdi was born) in Emilia Romagna; it's poetically called "Le Chicche del Nono Giuseppe Verdi", and it is gnocchi (turned green with spinach) in a sauce of heavy cream, parmigiano-reggiano, smoked bacon, and [gasp] tomato; indeed, it's from the period after tomatoes were introduced, and though the legend may not bear out the fact, it's claimed that the previously traditional golden gnocchi were turned green in Verdi's honor, and that this was his favorite dish (the latter statement is probably true, the former, who knows?)

gallery_11181_3830_105369.jpg

But that's the moment in time, and the exact trattoria, where I want to freeze and wait, and perhaps fossilize, while they experiment around me. I'd be willing to come out every ten years to taste what they've come up with, and I promise that if it's better than what I'm eating in my cave, I will admit it.

I understand fully what you're saying, and concede that when we stand still, we lose, not the other way around. I'm just saying that I don't want to be a guniea fowl for the process. I just want to be awakened when they've got something I think I'll like. And if I oversleep, and the molecule and foam thing turns out to be a fad and we're right back at those gnocchi, I won't kick myself and feel that I missed something. That's just speaking honestly for myself.


Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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Hi-Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes :biggrin: SWISS CHEF and markk express my personal view exactly. And they do it much better than I can .Just let me ask: Has anyone read Daniel Rogov's take on molecular gastronomy? It's in a thread on molecular gastronomy in Israel(Middle- East forum). If I really knew what I was doing, I'd creat a link. But, I don't, so I won't :unsure::unsure::unsure::unsure::shock:


Edited by Naftal (log)

"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex.Except for salami and eggs...Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced"--Alan King (1927-2004)

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I don't think comparing tomatoes to esoteric food pairings is a valid comparison, but that is simply my opinion.

Pairing tomatoes with anything was an esoteric food pairing when it first happened. It's the same as bringing some esoteric fruit from Asia to Italy today and putting it on pizza. What today's traditionalists are saying is that we should no longer try to do what got us to where we are in the first place.

I am guilty, too, for bringing up the subject of tomatoes in an earlier post. However, I am getting tired of this example being entered into the discussion of contemporary vs. traditional or authentic Italian cooking since the reference is to a phenomenon that took place centuries ago. Was the word "pomodoro" in what some call the first Italian dictionary of 1612? I don't know, but tomatoes are firmly rooted in Italian culinary history by now. In terms of living memory, most Northern Italians have probably eaten them, too, even in lasagna.

I'd also call pistachios traditional even though the Arabs brought them to Sicily. Russ Parsons may have been the first to inform me here that zucchini are a 19th-century Italian transformation of squash imported from the Americas, but I wouldn't bring them into this discussion either.

Otherwise, many of us are simply using different words to say that it is wrong to essentialize tradition or to view it either as unvaried or unwavering.


Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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But that's exactly why the tomato example needs to be repeated again and again every time anyone starts going on about traditional Italian cuisine: because the tomato is so clearly a part of Italian cuisine now, yet at one time it -- just like, say, cooked food -- was an innovation. So once you close yourself off to innovation, you close yourself off to Italian cuisine ever finding the next tomato.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Thinking about the issue in terms of context, I am going to define the context as Erba Luna and the practical concerns the original poster has in feeding Montone, Italian tourists and tourists from abroad. Second, how does a chef balance a desire to be distinctive--or to transform palates by introducing new pleasures--with a need to fill tables?

Simplistically put, and there are exceptions to the rule, traditional regional Italian cooking is home cooking and "contemporary" stems from the more self-conscious, stylized artfulness (Maniera) of the culture of restaurants. The former tends to be insular and site-specific and is tied to issues of identity, family, comfort and nostalgia. It's retrospective. The latter is more open to foreign influence, defining "foreign" in terms of countries as opposed to in-laws, generations, towns, regions or North vs. South. It looks forward, glancing over its shoulder with anxiety and desperation at times since it can be defensive. Chauvanism gets wrapped up with the long-held opinion of outsiders that French cuisine is more accomplished and refined; nowadays, the creativity of Spain matters just as much. What allies tradition and contemporary cooking are beliefs in the importance of impeccable ingredients and the role of the cook in enhancing their integral qualities.

How do the restaurant's patrons fit into the picture? The diversity of the group presents challenges. Americans may not be familiar w regional Italian cooking let alone Umbrian specialties. Do you want to teach them that tradition or fulfill expectations if this is their sixth annual trip to the country? Do Romans want to eat Umbrian food as part of the foreign experience? Does your neighbor go out to eat just to socialize or take a break from the kitchen, but expect to eat exactly what he has at home? Does she actually prefer French pastry to the local crostate, but balk at foam after noon and not made from milk?


Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Not entirely on point, but this is an interesting article from about 20 years ago in Nation's Restaurant News, titled What's hot in Italy. The first thing that struck me about it was the simple notion that anything could be hot in Italy -- in other words, if traditional cuisine is the paradigm, how can there even be any trends? But, of course, there are trends. In the 1980s, traditional cuisine itself was the trend:

Cucina nuova has fizzled out as surely as the Medici line, and young chefs of Tuscany and other regions of Italy are returning to simpler, more traditional dishes, altered to suit modern tastes and modern chefs' creative urges.

"Nuova cucina del territorio" is the newest label offered by the "Guide de L'Espresso," Italy's answer to Gault-Millau. "La cucina regionale retrovata" (refound regional cooking), "antica cucina," and "cucina rustica" are others in what seems to be an endless string of appellations for modern cooking sytles since Gault-Millau coined the phrase "nouvello cuisine" a few decades ago.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Intending absolutely and positively no disrespect to the OP whatsover, (and not realizing when I read it who she was, actually), I was thinking of a restaurateur (not hathor) who uses sodium alginate to form cantaloupe pearls, then inserts a tiny straw into them to blow them up like spun-sugar globes which he then dips is liquid nitrogen to solidify them, pokes a hole in, fills with freeze-dried prosciutto powder, and serves to the guest with the instructions to take a little shell and a little powder from the inside in each spoonful, add a drop of Italian spring water to, and eat, and discovering that it's not as good as a plate of old-fashioned Prosciutto e Melone.

I'm not sure that this is a forward-looking approach, just because it is a new one. Moving forward to decide that the best results are gotten from obtaining the best melons possible, and possibly combining them with Pata Negra ham (no insult to the people of Parma), might be the next step in culinary evolution here.

As for restaurants vs. home cooking, there are no easy answers. You go to a small town in Italy with a centuries old culinary tradition. The restaurant cooks have been cooking those dishes all their lives, and want to try their hand at something different; they can eat those foods when their grandmothers cook them at home on the day their restaurant is closed. And you probably have people in town who want to eat something different when they go out. Whether it's molecular versions of their traditional foods, or whether it's Thai food for the first times in their lives, who can say? But you also have townsfolk who are working now and may be too busy to cook, and when they go out, they expect to eat the dishes that their dearly departed grandmothers used to make. The permutations are endless.

All I can say for sure is that when I travel all the way to Emilia Romagna and get the nouvelle nonsense I got at San Domenico instead of the bowl of gnochhi I posted earlier, I'm really pi--ed. And if it turns out that all the people who knew how to make that have passed away and the chefs at some point only know how to make molecules and foam, I'm going to be even more p-ssed.

I'm willing to state on the record that for me, I don't need anything that hasn't already been cooked, or invented, or fused by the year 2000. If I miss out on the next thing that turns out to be as big and as significant as the introduction of the tomato to Italian food was so many centuries ago, I'll still die happy.


Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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Intending absolutely and positively no disrespect to the OP whatsover, (and not realizing when I read it who she was, actually), I was thinking of a restaurateur (not hathor) who uses sodium alginate to form cantaloupe pearls, then inserts a tiny straw into them to blow them up like spun-sugar globes which he then dips is liquid  nitrogen to solidify them, pokes a hole in, fills with freeze-dried prosciutto powder, and serves to the guest with the instructions to take a little shell and a little powder from the inside in each spoonful, add a drop of Italian spring water to, and eat, and discovering that it's not as good as a plate of old-fashioned Prosciutto e Melone.

I'm not sure that this is a forward-looking approach, just because it is a new one.  Moving forward to decide that the best results are gotten from obtaining the best melons possible, and possibly combining them with Pata Negra ham (no insult to the people of Parma), might be the next step in culinary evolution here.

As for restaurants vs. home cooking, there are no easy answers.  You go to a small town in Italy with a centuries old culinary tradition.  The restaurant cooks have been cooking those dishes all their lives, and want to try their hand at something different; they can eat those foods when their grandmothers cook them at home on the day their restaurant is closed.  And you probably have people in town who want to eat something different when they go out.  Whether it's molecular versions of their traditional foods, or whether it's Thai food for the first times in their lives, who can say?  But you also have townsfolk who are working now and may be too busy to cook, and when they go out, they expect to eat the dishes that their dearly departed grandmothers used to make.  The permutations are endless.

All I can say for sure is that when I travel all the way to Emilia Romagna and get the nouvelle nonsense I got at San Domenico instead of the bowl of gnochhi I posted earlier, I'm really pi--ed.  And if it turns out that all the people who knew how to make that have passed away and the chefs at some point only know how to make molecules and foam, I'm going to be even more p-ssed.

I'm willing to state on the record that for me, I don't need anything that hasn't already been cooked, or invented, or fused by the year 2000.  If I miss out on the next thing that turns out to be as big and as significant as the introduction of the tomato to Italian food was so many centuries ago, I'll still die happy.

I'll doe happy having enjoyed both traditional cuisines and novel, creative ones. They are not in the least bit mutually exclusive and each is much poorer without the other. Your prosciutto and melon example is an interesting one. For that dish to really work it has to taste at least as good as the original, but then on top of that one can enjoy the cleverness and inventiveness, which is food for the mind. If it doesn't taste as good, then I agree, why bother?


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

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I'm trying to remember where I had a dish that made excellent use of a Serrano ham powder. There were slices of the actual ham, and the powder made from the same ham was sprinkled over them like salt. I thought it was an interesting flavor reinforcement technique. Anyway, the point is that not every use of liquid nitrogen or a dehydrator (I can't remember which technology was used to create the powder) yields an absurd result.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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And I surely didn't mean to say that it does.

All I meant to say is that if I go back to Italy, and they've forgotten how to make Bolognese sauce, I'm holding you, and Doc and BryanZ responsible :laugh: .


Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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I don't believe the argument here is if modern or traditional should exist or not.

I believe the argument is: From where do you currently draw the most culinary inspiration or dining pleasure, from traditional preparations and ancient ingredients or from the "cutting edge" modern attempts?

It is a personal question and we all have an answer based on our own experiences.


Edited by SWISS_CHEF (log)

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For me, my ponderings had to do with how to balance tradition and still have some contemporary elements. Pontormo summed up my dilemma perfectly, or let's call it, my challenge.

Last night was a textbook example: we had a party of 11 local people, it was a young woman's graduation celebration with family and friends. For the meat course they chose the pork medallion with agrumi (a citrus peel sauce). This was a mistake. We should have gently insisted on serving them a roast miaolino (young pig with herbs). None of the older people at the table 'got' the pork, they were looking for Umbrian porchetta, period, end of statement.

The flip side of this is the Australian group who came back a second night, this time for their farewell to Italy dinner as they are leaving this morning to go back to Australia. They came back because they love what we do with meat.

I'm listening to all your posts, and I feel the tug towards tradition, but I still have to follow my instincts and look for ways to enhance those traditions.

And going back to that tomato....a tomato is an ingredient, and with the exception of those nifty chemicals, we are basically talking about the differences in preparation, not ingredients. Is anyone working with an ingredient that is relatively unknown but has the potential to completely revolutionize a national cuisine? Not that I'm aware of, but that's not to say it doesnt exist. Maybe it will be a type of seaweed. But this dearth of new ingredients is probably why,to a certain extent, contemporary cuisine will always be angels dancing on the head of a pin.

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Hathor,

I've been following your adventure of your restaurant and am exhileratingly, blindingly, thrillingly....well, something. maybe envious (in a good way not an evil eye way). maybe simply enthusiastic for you (oh yes!). maybe very very thrilled for you and impressed by your courage (definately!).

the conflict of traditional vs modern is difficult to get a grip on or even address, because each wave of modern leaves a souvenir upon the until-then traditional. Nothing, not even traditional cookery, stays the same. It changes (for the good, and for the bad...both).

When its a natural progression, when it comes of evolution, or of inspiration, or of excitement, i think it works. if the eaters are ripe to "get it" of course.

the worst meal of my life was in a restaurant not a million miles from you, in umbria, and by a chef who had been awarded so many different plaques, stars, awards, etc. the food was just ick. because it was prentious, silly, for the menu rather than the eating, in other words: all for show. i was thinking (with each more disastrous course): where is the italian soul in this food?

your photo of those green gnocchi of verdi's, absolutely reeks of soul.

on the other hand, i'm now chomping at the bit to taste jamon serrano with jamon powder sprinkled on top, as described by Fat Guy.

Its all about good cooking, isn't it. and the passion behind it.

I often feel like Babette of Babette's Feast: living in the english countryside as i do, no really good places to go and eat, and people around me not understanding or placing the same value on really good food as i do, or perhaps not having the ability to discern....

i might run away from home and show up on your doorstep, with my wooden spoon in hand...

sincerely: if i could eat those gnocchi right this minute, and start off with that ham, i'd be happy. oh, and ripe tomatoes sprinkled with sea salt for dessert. or tiny tomatoes dipped in hot caramel (a trick that a Campanian chef tried one afternoon when we had too much leftover caramel from making a semifreddo. the tomatoes dipped in caramel were better than the semi-freddo. semi-freddo: traditional; tomatoes dipped in caramel: modern.

its all about if a food is good (delicious) or not. and our ability to discern the difference...?

big deliciously good vibes to you!

marlena


Marlena the spieler

www.marlenaspieler.com

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Probably the most identifiable technique in the molecular gastronomy arsenal is creating foams with an iSi Profi-Whip NO2 canister. Foams are the basis for lots of molecular gastronomy jokes, however they are also when used properly one of the most conservative elements of molecular gastronomy. In some cases, the Profi-Whip produces almost exactly the same results as traditional cookery, as with its primary intended use: making whipped cream. Needless to say, whipped cream is nothing new. It's just that with the iSi you don't have to whip it -- you just plug in the NO2 cartridge and you have instant whipped cream. But beyond that, blended sauces and emulsions exist throughout traditional Italian cookery, for example salsa verde. One of the appeals of the iSi is that it can take sauces and other fluids that don't normally emulsify, and it can make them into light, airy emulsion-like foams. I imagine more Italian restaurant kitchens are using the Profi-Whip than let on, giving a knowing smile when people rave about how magically light and airy their sauces are.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Hathor,

I've been following your adventure of your restaurant and am exhileratingly, blindingly, thrillingly....  your photo of those green gnocchi of verdi's, absolutely reeks of soul.

marlena

Thank you! But you meant my photo of those green gnocchi :shock: :

Here's a dish I ate on a daily basis in 1973 in the town of Busseto (where Giuseppe Verdi was born) in Emilia Romagna; it's poetically called "Le Chicche del Nono Giuseppe Verdi", and it is gnocchi (turned green with spinach) in a sauce of heavy cream, parmigiano-reggiano, smoked bacon, and [gasp] tomato; indeed, it's from the period after tomatoes were introduced, and though the legend may not bear out the fact, it's claimed that the previously traditional golden gnocchi were turned green in Verdi's honor, and that this was his favorite dish (the latter statement is probably true, the former, who knows?)

gallery_11181_3830_105369.jpg

 

BTW, I admire hathor tremendously for posting this comment:

Last night was a textbook example: we had a party of 11 local people, it was a young woman's graduation celebration with family and friends.  For the meat course they chose the pork medallion with agrumi (a citrus peel sauce).  This was a mistake. We should have gently insisted on serving them a roast miaolino (young pig with herbs).  None of the older people at the table 'got' the pork, they were looking for Umbrian porchetta, period, end of statement.

I understand that at the moment she realized the mistake, it was too late to roast a porchetta, and i feel her pain.

And in response to Doc's comment,

For that dish to really work it has to taste at least as good as the original, but then on top of that one can enjoy the cleverness and inventiveness, which is food for the mind.

I say that I too sometimes feel the need to shake things up a bit, and enjoy it. But the farthest I've gone, with Italian food, are these two examples: One night I took an ultra-ripe cantaloupe and honeydew, and scooped each into a blender to puree. Then holding them in two large measuring cups with spouts, I poured them simultaneously into opposite edges of serving bowls - the purees of orange and green meet at the center of the bowl, and then I used the back of a spoon to make a swirl pattern along the edge where they met, and I served this with prosciutto curls. Another night, in the height of great NJ heirloom tomato season, I sliced some tomatoes and let them sit a while with fresh basil and some olive oil; then I breaded and sauteed some chicken breasts, topped them with thick slices of the fresh tomato, obtained some of Hoboken's finest and freshest warm, homemade mozzarella, and melted it a bit over the top, for an updated version of "Chicken Parm". But there was no foam, and there were no molecules, and no dust.

But what jerk (with obviously too much marijuana in his past) dreamt up this dish ??!!?? :wacko: :

you use sodium alginate to form cantaloupe pearls, then you insert a tiny straw into them to blow them up like spun-sugar globes which you then dip in liquid  nitrogen to solidify them, poke a hole in them , fill with freeze-dried prosciutto powder, and serve to the guest with the instructions to take a little shell and a little powder from the inside in each spoonful, add a drop of Italian spring water to, and eat.


Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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[

And in response to Doc's comment,

For that dish to really work it has to taste at least as good as the original, but then on top of that one can enjoy the cleverness and inventiveness, which is food for the mind.

I say that I too sometimes feel the need to shake things up a bit, and enjoy it. But the farthest I've gone, with Italian food, are these two examples: One night I took an ultra-ripe cantaloupe and honeydew, and scooped each into a blender to puree. Then holding them in two large measuring cups with spouts, I poured them simultaneously into opposite edges of serving bowls - the purees of orange and green meet at the center of the bowl, and then I used the back of a spoon to make a swirl pattern along the edge where they met, and I served this with prosciutto curls. Another night, in the height of great NJ heirloom tomato season, I sliced some tomatoes and let them sit a while with fresh basil and some olive oil; then I breaded and sauteed some chicken breasts, topped them with thick slices of the fresh tomato, obtained some of Hoboken's finest and freshest warm, homemade mozzarella, and melted it a bit over the top, for an updated version of "Chicken Parm". But there was no foam, and there were no molecules, and no dust.

I think the more experience from an early age one has with a traditional cuisine the harder it is to veer from it towards creativity. While I like creativity in Italian food too (Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana in Modena is a prime example), I grew up with traditional Italian food as a base and probably still lean towwards that. While I love traditional Spanish food, I didn't grow up with it and only really came to it after experiencing creative modern Spanish cuisine. The important thing, of course, remains that the food still tastes good and is a pleasure regardless of the style and the methods.
But what jerk (with obviously too much marijuana in his past) dreamt up this dish ??!!??    :wacko: :
you use sodium alginate to form cantaloupe pearls, then you insert a tiny straw into them to blow them up like spun-sugar globes which you then dip in liquid  nitrogen to solidify them, poke a hole in them , fill with freeze-dried prosciutto powder, and serve to the guest with the instructions to take a little shell and a little powder from the inside in each spoonful, add a drop of Italian spring water to, and eat.

Sounds more like something else than marijuana to me. Not enough of an appetite payback there! :raz::laugh:


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

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