Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Sign in to follow this  
Steve Plotnicki

Has the light dimmed on French cooking?

Recommended Posts

Suvir, that's a very profound and thought-provoking post, and I agree entirely with the philosophical foundation. But why do you have to keep introducing the American propensity for self-deprecation ? If there is one thing that regularly infuriates me about the American psyche, it is that diffidence about saying firmly "We say we are right, and we will brook no argument to that thesis".

Examples in your post are

"We [America] have given the world a lot.  Have we shared it the right way?  No."  

"What is shared [by America of its culture] is only PR driven"

"While France, India and China and other old nations may not be on the cutting edge, they will certainly have victory over the US in having lasting successes"

America's tolerance for innovation is an inherent and essential part of its culture, and its success. Why should America need to ape the 'old world' principles of what is good or bad, of value or worthless ? Why should America feel the need to justify its cultural precepts in the language of the 'old world' ? Come to that, why is it America's responsibility to actively share its culture with others ?

I have said earlier in this thread that I believe the influence of French cuisine on the cuisines of the world will last for a thousand years. But so what? Where is the value to humanity in that? Well, there is a value only if people find a value, repetitively, century after century. If people look at the fundamentals of French cuisine and say "That is good, and I wish to take advantage of it", then that is indeed value. But if the reason for longevity is simply that no better alternative is available, or people have become too lazy to seek alternatives, or people are afraid to resist the 'old guard', then the effect is simply stultification. That is true of cuisine, and also of culture.

America has 'invented' many new forms of food. The various "fast foods" may not stand the test of time unless someone comes along to improve them. But the variations on the 'old world' ethnic cuisines, such as Chinese and Japanese and Italian and French, which have developed in the USA over decades may well become the haute cuisine of the future.

It is interesting that Babbo (my favorite NYC restaurant) is regularly described on this site as an Italian restaurant. As a regular eater in Italian restaurants, in the UK, Italy and USA, I have to say that I would never have described it as such. Of course I detect it's Italian roots, but for me the cuisine is so far, and so innovatively, derived from Italian that I would describe it as an American restaurant. The same principles are true of Gramercy Tavern, which does indeed bill itself as an American restaurant.

What I am saying is that I believe America makes a mistake in accepting the language and philosophical precepts of the 'old world' to define itself. America has defined whole new concepts in its own culture and cuisine, and should refuse to argue its case in others' terms. SteveP started this thread by implying that the influence and relevance of French cooking (to the rest of the world) is continuing to wane. I agree with that proposition. That is nothing to bemoan, any more than the death of an old tree in your garden --- PROVIDE THAT you know someone is planting new trees. That someone is most likely to be America.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Now what does any of this have to do with the question I raised which is whether French cooking is as relevent today as it used to be? "Relevent" can mean influential, it can mean practiced, or it can mean trend setting. And the question isn't unique to what is happening in America either. So going through these responses.

Project-The quote in question doesn't criticize Pacaud for just using curry, it criticizes him for sprinkling it on a dish like he was sprinkling oregano on an antipasto. To the author of the quote, it is a sign to him that the chef doesn't understand curry (in fact I have never heard of sprinkled curry powder) and he says that in times when authors like Madhur Jaffrey are available to read there is no excuse for using curry in a manner that he thinks is wrong. And the author of the book uses the way the author of the quote feels about it as an example of how French cooking has hit the wall, or might even be declining. The point (by the author of the book,) isn't that this is a misuse, it is that here is a sophisticated diner (well-known chef) who feels that way about it. The inference is that people feeling that way about a 3 star restaurant is a new phenomenon. Hope this clarifies it because I certainly have no problem throwing a few pinches of curry powder (which I bought at Izrael in Paris) into the pot with my Mussels and Curry Cream Sauce.

Bux-Thanks for unknowingly making my point. The person you are holding up is the most famous chef in the world right now who has invented an original technique of cooking. The reason that he can communicate his creations without speaking any other languages is that people are pulling the information into their own countries. And that was the case for French chefs up until the last decade. Now what they cook isn't as interesting anymore and clearly not as interesting as what Adria is doing. So they have been left in a position to have to "push" the information and that is where their poor English hurts them.

As for Hoffman's ordering skills, I didn't say that he was looking for "classical" French cuisine when he ordered the curry dish. I said (and so did Hoffman) that he went to dinner there wanting to eat classical cuisine and was "talked into" the curry dish by a captain. You always manage to skip over that part of the story which is what makes the quote relevent. Here is a captain in a 3 star restaurant hyping a particular dish as a house specialty and it turns out that the customer feels that the dish is evidence of where the French have gone wrong.

In general I think in order to make your points you are attaching a certain specificity to my question when it is asked in general terms. Nobody is saying the French aren't influential. In fact you can say that Adria is still mostly French and end the argument right there. It is a point of view. And nobody is saying they won't continue to be influential. The question is how much relative to the influence they used to have. And the only fair answer would seem to be less because for the first time I can think of, chefs from outside of France are garnering lots of attention to the use of both ingredients and technique that is foreign to France.

Suvir-This conversation is not based on the billions of people who have never heard Beatles recording or have never seen those golden arches of MacDonald's. This conversation is about people who are part of the globalized culture, and to whom the references we raise would have any meaning to.

As for the French and their linguistic skills, I personally haven't noticed much improvement in their English and I am there 3-5 times a year. But even if you are right, the point the author(s) make is that the French are behind the curve in almost all matters of globalization and speech is merely one thing. As for French cooking being the beacon from which all light emanates, that is absolutely correct. But someone else made the point earlier (Macrosan?) that what is happening is that it is now indirect light. And the analogy is that while you might hear the influence of Beethoven when you listen to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, you are not listening to classical music. You are listening to Rock & Roll. Classical music as a format is at least once removed. And one can argue that French cuisine is experiencing the same phenomenon as Beethoven. Always influential but, when performed, no new repetoire. It's influence is shown through other forms of music.

I guess I am making the argument that what is commonly known to be French cuisine is really a science of preparing ingredients in a certain manner, and applying specific types of heat to them in order to manipulate textures and balance tastes in a way that is commonly known as "French."

And I guess the big question is, not whether people will practice the artform. Of course they will. People still play Beethoven although there is another strain of this discussion that asks whether cuisine is more fashion than high culture. And people will also cook in the "French style." But the question I asked was about how it will impact cooks who cook, in the style that is now considered modern, and those who will cook in what would be described as a modern style?

I would love to hear from Steve Klc and other chefs here as the scientific aspect of this question is a bit above the head of people who are merely diners.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The quote in question doesn't criticize Pacaud for just using curry, it criticizes him for sprinkling it on a dish like he was sprinkling oregano on an antipasto. To the author of the quote, it is a sign to him that the chef doesn't understand curry (in fact I have never heard of sprinkled curry powder)

In a parallel post, I asked you to explain what you think Hoffman meant when he used the term "sprinkling." I did not see sprinkled curry powder when eating that dish. Cabrales has affrimed that is not what she experienced. You may be pushing your friend into a hole he didn't mean to dig. I'm still trying figure to if it's a wider one or just deeper.

What I think is that Hoffman was offended by any use of curry, and used the word "sprinkling" in a pejorative manner to denigrate what others see as Pacuad's subtle infusion of flavors into the sauce.

You always manage to skip over ...

When I don't have to repeat my question about "sprinkling," I'll get to what I always avoid.

The question is how much relative to the influence they used to have. And the only fair answer would seem to be less because ...

when you're at the top, there's only one way you can go. Along with globalization there's decentralization and the French influence is not declining so much as the top chefs in other countries have learned how to cook French food and Catalunya and the Basque country become extensions of France at the level of haute cuisine. If the French influence a smaller percentage of chets in American today, they may still influence a greater number of chefs as there is a greater focus on fine food in the country.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And I have no reverence in my mind for French cooking and I was not saying for a moment that French cooking should influence the world.  I actually was pointing to a salient fact, that French cooking has not had much influence in the majority of the world.  It has had its influence in the west and in some small colonies overseas.  But that still did not make it close to a major influence.  The world lived without any knowledge of its existence.  And today, the world lives in the knowledge that boundaries are blurring and life is changing.  Those that choose to ignore it are at a loss of intelligence and will awaken to rude shocks.  Post September 11th, America itself, the single super power, woke up to a very rude today, where in its own backyard, life was not as perfect as it believed.  So, I feel, chefs too have to realize the gift they have in their midst of accepting the new order and taking it to natural new heights.  And it is happening.  In different ways in different parts of t he world.  Some may be doing it more loudly, others in a more understated fashion.  I would not agree that France is behind, I simply feel, they will rise and share the new turns in their cuisine if and when they are ready to do so.  We are seeing much of what is yet to come already.  And it would be silly for us to compare chefs in the US with chefs in France.  Chefs in the US mirror the populace of the US, that thrives in being on your face.  France is more understated and will remain so.  What we will share in the US very quickly, will take time in France to come out.  It does not mean it is not happening.  It is simply not being exposed as much as we expose every small turn in the right direction.  

All I have said again and again is that any cuisine, be it from any part of the world, can only succeed when it is more than just a fad.  

Going to America and its success, do we call 9/11 success?  Do we call carpet-bombing of poor starving masses in Afghanistan success?  Do we call Columbia and its drug lords success? And the millions who died, in Somalia, Haiti, Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Vietnam etc. etc. who died at the hands of governments, dictators , terrorists and armies that America either directly trained, armed, supplied with food and tactical training and money… and yes Yugoslavia, are they American success??  …. These bombings in Afghanistan are not revenge, it is yet another form in which America terrorizes the people of the world that may think differently.  We can label America a terrorist state if we lived in the other side of the world.  And America alone would form every part of the Axis of Evil.  So, while our propaganda machine may be able to sway the masses of this country that have never traveled much within the US alone, forget overseas, it is difficult for a person that travels and lives with others from foreign cultures and worlds to view this as the Success of America.  And yet, I agree, the success we have seen in America came from the need for respect in Plurality.  But when it comes to foreign policy, we have fractured any sense of plurality in any debate.  It is only a need to dominate, erase and gather from the others that which can feed, enliven and benefit our own state.

There is little ease in getting out of the mess that America and every part of the world has created in the last many centuries.  It would be foolish for any one nation to feel they alone have a higher moral ground.  Today, the call of the day, is to be silent for a bit, reflect on all that has happened, delve into the ocean of wisdom that exists both in the old and new world collectively and see where we are.  When we have done that, we would have understood real success.  

Whose purpose are we feeding in the mass hysteria that envelops America after the bombing of innocent lives overseas?  The news media is slave to the White House's need for creating terror within its boundaries with threats of more hijacking, bombs, anthrax and terrorist camps existing within our boundaries.  The deflection suits our politicians perfectly.  But it does not hide the need for the world to see itself shrink into a much more united force.  It certainly will not suit the politic of every country to see people happy across culinary, religious, language and social divide, but we are a new people today.  The Internet, and such boards have shrunk the world.  To live in isolated belief that we alone and our country alone know best, is to doom failure.

And just for a brief moment, this whole dialogue goes into the belief that the French were superior and relevant once but not today.  America and its need for dominance will be reduced one day as well.  And so will the fanaticism one sees in India.  These are all extreme positions and they last not very long.  In fact, they kill their own selves.  The very terrorists that she had trained to win elections killed Indira Gandhi.  They later realized that power that they had been given could be theirs for themselves.  They fought against her, and killed the very artery that was giving them life-sustaining blood once.  The groups of mad men that are anti-US were the same people that the US created and transplanted from the Middle East into Afghanistan.  When it suited us to destabilize that region, we created them and armed them and gave them shelter, today, after we dumped them for their being no use for those people, they turn against us.  As some had said in India after Mrs. Gandhi's assassination:  what goes around comes around.  America witnessed that 9/11.  

So, do we still call that supremacy which we feel in our country Success?  Or shall we think of new creative ways in which we can share our countries successes with others without forcing infinite injustice on them?  Why should it be that Justice for us means infinite injustice for every other developing nation?  I am sure you do not mean that to be success do you?  

For if that is what you want, why bother with fusion.  In fusion lies the very longing of life and people wanting more that just the usual.  Change is beautiful, necessary and cannot be stopped.  Madness and mad men can be watched for and we can try and not let them do what Hitler did in Europe.  The Turks with the Armenians and the British with India.   America would have been very different had it not been for the immigrants that have given it the very life it now breathes.  And actually, America was very different.  We erased as we came here, that which made this place different.  And that part of our person, has not changed, we have done a damn good job of aiding and abetting in crimes against minorities or vice-versa the world over.  Let us not pretend that history has not seen what America did.  It has.  We may not read history accurately in America but that does not mean others do not know.  While US New Agencies are driven by the White House Agenda, there are many others around the world that are free from bias.  Or at least freer than the American press.  And do a reasonably good job in showing all sides.

The skeletons from the large US closet lay bared and exposed to billions t he world over.  Their rage may be hidden in many cases, but it would be foolish to believe it does not exist.  Not every hurt soul would attack in revenge, but each victim of Americas greed for capitalist gain, will share their pain with the younger generations that is all ears for them.  

The same applies to art and all its many forms.  No one country or culture has supremacy over another.  We all have our own styles.  And today, our styles are getting fused with what is being exposed to our lives.  It may vary from country to country, but it is happening.  And it is a unique and brilliant time to be living.  Only if we can watch the mad men we choose to govern us around the world.

And the example of Babbo being American is correct.  In fact I love it and its food is not truly Italian at all.  But again, it goes to roots that have some legs.  And from there, it has found the roller blades that fit it, and created something that many can enjoy and for a lasting time.

That is all I say... I have also no belief in accepting that we have to forget the billions that do not consider any of this relevant.  To live today, and if we have to use the word SteveP uses to call us, Globalized people, we ought to bring every part of the world and its people into our dialogues and our life.  Otherwise, lets just be parochial and from one small niche.  Why use a heavy word as global.  Your dialogue loses its great nature in that one sentence.  Where you ask to forget those billions that form a majority and call the rest of the world the minority the globalized.  That is your perspective.  And yours alone.

It is also a frightening specter from which to view the world.  As these are the heavy handed approaches whereby we in our own little ways feed the seeds of separation and bias and superiority of some over the others.  You are questioning rightly the superiority that the French claim on cuisine, and then do the same in saying we are the globalized and the billions that have not heard or care of French cooking are not important, or do not matter.  

A sound dialogue is based on the need to understand the many things that happen around us.  And actually, the billions you choose to ignore here are the spirit behind the cultures that we talk about having brought about the waning of the French influence on cuisine.  Fusion would not have happened if the world could be as isolated and separate as we may want it to be.  It is in tensions that come from friction and coming together of cultures very separate that creates new and better art forms.  And food is not separated from that social phenomenon.

Change is the way of life.  It is lives yearning for freedom from its own past.  A way life lives.  And those that choose not to learn and change, will be left behind.  I am sure  the French chefs are smarter than that.  We only need to let them bring out at their own pace, that which they surely will, when they are ready.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That easy to get killed, eh?  

I think not.  The conversation could last as long as time.  But we need to know that globalized means something to some of us and another to another set.

Would you not agree?  No one person or group has the privilege to consider his or her agenda being superior or correct.  They can only have opinions and thoughts, and they are correct in existing.  And lose their intelligence when forced or made to subjugate on others rights to exist as they choose.

This debate is wonderful.  I only wanted to share the very real world that lives without any of this influence and yet influences all our lives even today.

And for the sake of the life of this debate to not get killed by me, I would be happy for you all not bother about what I said.  I will look and chat on other boards.

Why should one persons thoughts influence a majority.  No big deal.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Suvir-What did you eat for lunch?

Look we are speaking about high culture. When one says that French cooking is "superior" to some other type of cooking, all we are saying is that the art of preparing a meal in the French style has evolved more than the culture we are comparing it to. Clearly, Vitello Tonato is a more complex use of cooking technique than a tuna fish sandwich and in my book, it would be okay for a speaker to say that Italian cuisine is a "superior cuisine" to what they serve in coffee shops.

Of the course of time, different nations have been the cultural and economic leaders of the world. And over time, who the leader is changes. England had it's period when it was culturally dominant (Shakespere?), France had its period and America is having its period now. Will it change in the future? Sure. Who will it be? Looks like India from where I sit. Just look at how many people of Indian background use this board?  Do we have any Dutch? Any French and Italians?

Bux-Here is what Hoffman said, word for word,

"But then I got talked into ordering one of the chef's specialties, a mille-feuille of langoustines with curry, and it was infuriating. It was a French dish with powder. It was such an insular approach, as though nobody understood that curry isn't a powder that you don't apply cosmetically. Nobody had read Madhur Jaffrey, or really understood that curry isn't just a spice you shake but a whole technique you have to understand."

Now answer my question.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
"But then I got talked into ordering one of the chef's specialties, a mille-feuille of langoustines with curry, and it was infuriating. It was a French dish with powder. It was such an insular approach, as though nobody understood that curry isn't a powder that you don't apply cosmetically. Nobody had read Madhur Jaffrey, or really understood that curry isn't just a spice you shake but a whole technique you have to understand."

It remains the dumbest thing I read in the book and possibly the smuggest most infuriating remark I've read on this site. It's a patently insupportable statement that smacks of great arrogance. It was made by a cook who has no problem admitting he's clueless about French cuisine and totally enthralled by what he recently learned about Indian cuisne. He's just wrong. A man of Pacaud's talent can do anything he wants with edible products in the kitchen. That's the nature and way of western art and cooking.

This page make a good claim that "there is just as much evidence to suggest the word [curry] was English all along." The page then goes on to say "In the time of Richard I there was a revolution in English cooking . In the better-off kitchens, cooks were regularly using ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, galingale, cubebs, coriander, cumin, cardamom and aniseed, resulting in highly spiced cooking very similar to India. They also had a ‘powder fort’, ‘powder douce’ and ‘powder blanch’.

Then, in Richard II’s reign (1377-1399) the first real English cookery book was written. Richard employed 200 cooks and they, plus others including philosophers, produced a work with 196 recipes in 1390 called ‘The Forme of Cury’. ‘Cury’ was the Old English word for cooking derived from the French ‘cuire’ - to cook, boil, grill - hence cuisine."

I have no sense that Hoffman did any research or investigation in the subject. He, like so many young Americans, just fell under the thrall of an Indian guru and spouted the prejudice of his foreign master. There is no supporting evidence that Hoffman has a clue about Pacaud or French cooking at any time in history but Gopnik allows him to criticize it from an Indian perspective. I'd find that specious journalism even if some reason were given why we should believe Hoffman understood Indian cuisine.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Steve Plotnicki:

Thanks for your

    Posted: Mar. 06 2002,08:52

with

    Project-The quote in question doesn't criticize

    Pacaud for just using curry, it criticizes him

    for sprinkling it on a dish like he was

    sprinkling oregano on an antipasto. To the

    author of the quote, it is a sign to him that

    the chef doesn't understand curry (in fact I

    have never heard of sprinkled curry powder) and

    he says that in times when authors like Madhur

    Jaffrey are available to read there is no

    excuse for using curry in a manner that he

    thinks is wrong. And the author of the book

    uses the way the author of the quote feels

    about it as an example of how French cooking

    has hit the wall, or might even be declining.

    The point (by the author of the book,) isn't

    that this is a misuse, it is that here is a

    sophisticated diner (well-known chef) who feels

    that way about it. The inference is that people

    feeling that way about a 3 star restaurant is a

    new phenomenon. Hope this clarifies it because

    I certainly have no problem throwing a few

    pinches of curry powder (which I bought at

    Izrael in Paris) into the pot with my Mussels

    and Curry Cream Sauce.

Generally I hate to gloss over details and draw

conclusions anyway, but the question

    French cooking has hit the wall, or might even

    be declining.

is quite broad.  You did clarify the details for me.

Still, I have a hard time, from 40,000 feet up on

the wrong side of the Atlantic Ocean, concluding

that there is anything seriously wrong with French

cooking, will be soon, or has been since yesterday,

last week, 1995, 1985, 1960, etc.

Maybe sprinkled curry is an anathema and an

abomination.

Sure, maybe a restaurant reviewer visiting a place

with sprinkled curry should write

    "This culinary experience has much that is good

    and new, however the good is not new and the

    new, not good."

Or, we have to believe that single cooks with single

efforts to do something both good and new have long

made mistakes.  To make a good omelet, it is

necessary to break some eggs; mistakes are standard,

even necessary, in efforts to make progress,

especially in artistic efforts.

Single awkward steps or single mistakes are small

things, and such things tend to find their way out

of the favor of the customers, off the menus, and

out of the favorite efforts of the chefs, all soon

enough.

French cooking is not a small thing; it's a big

thing, and it doesn't hinge on some case of

sprinkled curry, that some French chef comes to NYC,

or that some chef in Spain does some things new that

really are good.  And, I believe that French cooking

will survive the invasion of McDonald's, economic

fumblings of the French government, and even the EU.

Let's make the rounds of the nations and cultures:

    o    France.  Good cooking, wines, cheeses,

         etc., are taken seriously all over the

         country.  This has long been the case and

         is much of the reason French cooking

         became the world's most respected.  It

         still is.

    o    Rest of Europe.  They have their cooking,

         long ago made their peace with French

         cooking, and the situation is in

         equilibrium.  Kirschwasser, bratwurst, and

         bier come from Germany, not France.

         Sachertorte mit schlagobers comes from

         Vienna, not Paris.  When the English want

         good food, they import it.  That French

         cooking is so terrific is a declaration of

         war in Northern Italy.

    o    The US.  Here real men don't eat quiche.

         Here real men like big, thick, juicy, red

         T-Bone steaks, washed down with lots of

         really cold beer, potatoes on the side,

         and maybe a green salad with both Thousand

         Island and Ranch dressing.  Their opinion

         of curry is the same as that of Sherlock

         Holmes "Curry?  Horrible stuff".  For

         delicate efforts on 'European' food, real

         men sense effete aesthetism, might use it

         to seduce bimbos, and otherwise say "you

         know I hate that glop".

         The US likes efficient productive

         processes, e.g., the greatest weight in

         chicken white meat per dollar of cost.

         For people interested in the 'flavor',

         that's why we have herbs and spices.

         A little French cooking can prosper for a

         while in a few small areas of the US,

         total area smaller than one good cattle

         ranch, and otherwise the US will do to

         French cooking what the Phylloxera did to

         vinifera.

         For the world's best cooking, the US is

         perfectly content to vote for the French.

    o    Japan.  Tough to say they don't know about

         making awesomely intense, expert, precise,

         and artistic efforts with food, especially

         seafood.  But, they are terribly short on

         good farm land per person and, really, are

         mostly concerned about future economic

         productivity and past cultural tradition.

         Nearly all the rest of the world finds the

         best Japanese food nearly impossible to

         understand.  People in the US and Europe

         voting for the world's best food have a

         tough time voting for Japanese food they

         can't understand.

    o    China.  At their best in cooking, they

         have awesome expertise and creativity, but

         their cooks, and their culture, are

         missing the advantages of the Western

         tradition of precise specification,

         description, documentation, education, and

         promulgation.  In most cultures, the best

         cooking of today stands on a foundation of

         palace cooking of, say, 200 years ago, and

         the culture of the Chinese palaces then

         would not favorably impress people in the

         US and Europe selecting the world's best

         cooking today.  And, China is now mostly

         concerned with getting their economy going

         while feeding their population.  The best

         in Chinese cooking does not travel well

         outside of China; thus, people in the US

         and Europe voting for the world's best

         cooking have a tough time voting for China

         based just on some one awesome banquet in

         China with a thousand inscrutable dishes

         apparently never seen before or since.

The rest of the Asia and the world sometimes bring

interesting ingredients, flavors, techniques, and

dishes, but tough to believe that any one of these

countries will threaten the position of France in

the minds of people in the US and Europe.

Someone misused some curry powder?  'Sacre bleu!'

Rush right out and see if the Eiffel tower is still

standing, that the bread is still rising, that the

Chiberta isn't rancid, that the Chambertin isn't

sour.


What would be the right food and wine to go with

R. Strauss's 'Ein Heldenleben'?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bux-How can you say it is unsupportable? It's the guys opinion. It doesn't need support. That's how he feels about it. I don't find it arrogant either. What's wrong with a person who has some understanding of curry being unhappy with what they think is less than the perfect use? As for Peter's knowledge of French food, I think he's pretty knowledgable. I mean I've had a number of discussions with him about it.

You know you keep overreacting to this quote and I don't know why? Have you and Peter had a falling out? Did he not treat you well at the restaurant? I mean it's easy enough to say you just don't agree. What's the big deal? And you still haven't answred my question that you said you were going to answer once I posted the quote.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You said:

I said (and so did Hoffman) that he went to dinner there wanting to eat classical cuisine and was "talked into" the curry dish by a captain. You always manage to skip over that part of the story which is what makes the quote relevent.

I replied:

When I don't have to repeat my question about "sprinkling," I'll get to what I always avoid.

and you posted:

"But then I got talked into ordering one of the chef's specialties, a mille-feuille of langoustines with curry, and it was infuriating. It was a French dish with powder. It was such an insular approach, as though nobody understood that curry isn't a powder that you don't apply cosmetically. Nobody had read Madhur Jaffrey, or really understood that curry isn't just a spice you shake but a whole technique you have to understand."

and later on you asked:

And you still haven't answred my question that you said you were going to answer once I posted the quote.

Actually you phrased it as an accusation, not a question and quite obviously, I didn't find a relevant point so I don't know which one I shouldn't have skipped.

--

How can you say it is unsupportable? It's the guys opinion. It doesn't need support. That's how he feels about it. I don't find it arrogant either. What's wrong with a person who has some understanding of curry being unhappy with what they think is less than the perfect use? As for Peter's knowledge of French food, I think he's pretty knowledgable. I mean I've had a number of discussions with him about it.

My problem is that the opinion is not presented as an opinion. I don't see the "in my opinion" or "I think that," what I read is "It was such an insular approach, as though nobody understood ..." Nobody understood and not even a second to contemplate that maybe he's the one who's wrong. "Nobody had read Madhur Jaffrey, or really understood that curry isn't just a spice you shake but a whole technique" He's saying they're all wrong and you ask me why it sounds arrogant. A simialr blend of spices has been in use in England for the better part of the last millenium, but truth will only come from the east. I'm sorry after 700 years the west has some knowledge of its own and its own idea of how to use spices and they have a validity. Indian cuisine is an option, but it doesn't negate western cooking where there are similarities. Had he spoken of an option, or an alternate course, I would not have found him arrogant. Had he spoken with some respect for the greatness that is French cuisine I would not have found arrogance. Had he offered more than his tutelage with Madhur Jaffrey to pose as the expert on the use of curry in the west where we have a long tradition of of using the spices that go into every blend we use, I might not have found him arrogant.  

Here's an interesting web page with information on European curry history going back to the 1300's and with support for the derivation of "curry" being of English origin from contemporary cooking terms of that time.

I've never met Peter, nor have I eaten his food, although I live near the restaurant. Not suprisingly, it's not the kind of food that most appeals to me. Or at least I should say that the posted menus were not all that appealing and the reviews didn't inspire us. We often considered that we should try it, but just never got around to it and then I read that article in the New Yorker and my interest waned even further. It's not him, it's what he said in the article and I'd really be surprised if he hasn't softened his views. How recently have you discussed this with him? I have no reason not to believe he's anything but a fine fellow. I've never heard his name used in a negative way, although truthfully, I've not heard it mentioned often. Then again I have a narrow range of friends and acquaintances in the industry. In a way, I've not enjoyed making these posts. I'd much rather support an artist I like than criticize another negatively. I suppose I'll have a hard time convincing you of that in the near future.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Steve,

I choose not to participate in what I clearly see as a very chauvinistic debate about culture.  People have used carelessly words like globalized and now high culture to give comfort to their fractured sense of self, maybe?

If there was comfort with which we are talking about and why, we would not need to put others down to bring out our points.

Well, it is interesting reading, but gives me little need to join in as we even dignify first what was written without much care to begin with, and now debate with little care today, even in the aftermath of September 11th and what has happened in Afghanistan and is happening in the Middle East.  

I will observe and say little on this thread.  I am sorry I joined in.  But I could not keep quiet as cultures east of France were being labeled as lesser etc.... Even if only in quotes.  

And in my final posting on this thread, I would still like to say, no one chef Indian or otherwise can ever have the perfect recipe for a garam masala.  Recipes change from home to home and from season to season and region to region.  

Curry powder is the same and like all foods, takes new flavors in new hands.  And there is no telling which form is better or more accurate.  One can only enjoy what is done with it.  And if it makes one happy, so be it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Project-You are taking the quote out of the context of the article and saying that by itself it doesn't support the thesis.  But the article has numerous examples of where French cuisine has "dimmed." But your variations of how the curry could be viewed are all correct. He could have passed it off as a "one-timer." But if you read the article, the rest of the paragraph about L'Ambroisie talks about the perfect Hare dish he had. So the curry dish is isolated as a "single" example. But it is the writer (Gopnik,) he's the one who plucks the quote out of the air to make the larger point. The author of the quote is only making a small point. He thinks the curry dish is wrong. As for the rest of your post, that is a terrific analysis. But I don't think it is speaking to my question. Like I said earlier, nobody said French cooking isn't relevent. The question I asked is, is it as relevent as it used to be? Now there are many definitions of what relevent means but, I have used it as if to ask if it is as influential. And one would think that just based on the fact that chefs who cook with other techniques now have global impact, and that is a phenomenon of no longer than 15 years or so, the answer seems like they must have.

Bux-It is presented as an opinion. If he had liked the dish instead of not liking it you would have gladly accepted his "opinion" about it. But you disagree with him and it seems that in order to undermine his opinion you have now reached the point where you are willing to say that you don't like his opinion because you don't like the way he stated it. As for how the curry was used, he's isn't complaining that Pacaud used curry, he is complaining that they used it incorrectly (sprinkled it.)

I am surprised to hear you say that you have never eaten at Savoy, even after reading the menu. It was at one point, among the more interesting restaurants in NYC. It had this strange combination of tradition and the new, California and the Mediteranean. And the fact that Peter is a chef without formal training shows up in how the food is prepared and gives the place a feel of originality. It was the most organic restaurant I knew of (and it still might be) in NYC. Sort of one foot in Chez Pannise (in fact Alice Waters came and cooked there for a night) and one foot in the downtown art scene.

Over the years I probably ate there 30 times, but haven't been in a few years now as I think there are more interesting places to go to these days.

My conversation with Peter about his quote was at the time the article was published. Just to show you how people take things differently, Peter and I marveled at how Gopnik captured the essence of what he was trying to say while you find it "arrogant." But it seems the difference between you and I that I see is that I believe the basic premise of the article (that the cuisine is in crisis) and you don't. And you have "attacked" the quote because it is arguably a pivotal point in favor of the argument that it has dimmed.

Suvir-Your posts are out of line, espcially for a moderator. It would do you well for you to remove them. Nobody here has a "fractured sense of self" and how dare you say that about anyone who is participating in earnest about a discussion that has been instigated by another one of the moderators.

As to the merits of what we are discussing here, especially comparing the gastronomic culture of different countries and parts of the world including creating a hierarchy of them, it is nothing different than what is discussed in universities all over the world every single day. Nobody calls them arrogant or chauvenistic. Is it arrogant to say that at the time of the ancient Romans they had a superior culture or more evolved society than the rest of the world? Gee I don't think so.

And I find your last point about curry, again, especially from a moderator to be especially disruptive. In the context of this discussion it is as intelectually dishonest as it comes. You are the first one to flock to, and or criticize a place that serves good and/or bad food, including using a good or bad garam marsala. The world isn't all a big blob of garam marsalas that are all the same and which are all interesting no matter who uses them, at least not to the discussion here. And finally, I have refrained from saying this but;

BABBO *IS* AN ITALIAN RESTAURANT

Now do me a favor, the next time you choose not to participate, please make sure your decision coincides with your actually not posting.  Don't first post a meandering political thread that has nothing to do with the discussion and which is intended to make the participants feel bad and also insults them and then announce you're not going to participate in the thread. D'uh, we're not stupid you know.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Steve Plotnicki:

Thanks for your

    Posted: Mar. 07 2002,09:04

with

    Project-You are taking the quote out of the

    context of the article and saying that by

    itself it doesn't support the thesis.  But the

    article has numerous examples of where French

    cuisine has "dimmed."  But your variations of

    how the curry could be viewed are all correct.

    He could have passed it off as a "one-timer."

    But if you read the article, the rest of the

    paragraph about L'Ambroisie talks about the

    perfect Hare dish he had.  So the curry dish is

    isolated as a "single" example.  But it is the

    writer (Gopnik,) he's the one who plucks the

    quote out of the air to make the larger point.

    The author of the quote is only making a small

    point.  He thinks the curry dish is wrong.  As

    for the rest of your post, that is a terrific

    analysis.  But I don't think it is speaking to

    my question.  Like I said earlier, nobody said

    French cooking isn't relevent.  The question I

    asked is, is it as relevent as it used to be?

    Now there are many definitions of what relevent

    means but, I have used it as if to ask if it is

    as influential.  And one would think that just

    based on the fact that chefs who cook with

    other techniques now have global impact, and

    that is a phenomenon of no longer than 15 years

    or so, the answer seems like they must have.

"Out of context"?  Wow!  A tough crowd!

Of COURSE it's "out of context":  I didn't see the

article!

An article?  There was an article?  'We don't need

no stinkin' article' ....

In the old school of "ready, fire, aim", I just

posted after seeing

    Topic:  Has the light dimmed on French

    cooking?, What do those guys count for these

    days?

and a little about curry.

Okay, now that, for the second time, you have

written me a custom tutorial to get me caught up

with the crucial points of the discussion ...

Let's see:  We're not saying that French food is

'bad' or might not still be the best but just that

comparatively it is less influential than it once

was -- that is the only sense of 'dimming' or some

such.

Wow!

Well, the promoters of French food might be pleased

to see such finely formulated concerns about their

favorite subject!

But, okay, it a fair question, if a less pressing

one.

Glad to see we're not afraid that the Chambertin's

going sour, that people are about to plant cucumbers

for McDonald's pickles everywhere between Beaune and

Dijon, and all of the cheese factories in France

will be converted over to making Velvetta!  Those

WOULD be disasters!

So, for the question:

Sure, it used to be that a person or family was

lucky to have enough to eat of anything; to be able

to 'play with the food' and to have a big kitchen

and staff to do expert 'playing' and to construct a

body of knowledge and a serious art form based on

playing with the food took some serious

'comparative' economic advantage and interest in

art, sensory experiences, and food.  France did.

Maybe in 1789 some lost heads over it, but the

knowledge about the food remained!

But, now, due to rising economic productivity in

many places of the world, many people can toss in a

few Shitake mushrooms, etc. and otherwise play with

the food.

So, sounds like the 'comparative' lead of French

food is less large than it once was.

But ....  As standard of living continues to

improve, someone can go shopping on Saturday, buy a

few pounds of dried Morel mushrooms, and then get

out what the French say to do with them in cream

sauce for chicken.

Or, there are a lot of ingredients and flavors

coming forward and spreading around the world.

Then, what culture, country, and cuisine stands to

make the most of these?  I claim the French.  They

have more to stand on, more interest, and more

existing density of communicating and competing

expertise.  And, their 'methodology' is better:

First, they actually believe that there should be a

good 'framework', that things really should have

some sense and order to them.  Second, they work

hard to discover what a good order would be.  Third,

they borrow a little from science in that they are

'cumulative', e.g., stand on the shoulders of

giants.  Fourth, they work carefully, repeat over

and over, teach it, and write it down, fairly

clearly, right out to saying how much garlic to use

in grams (e.g., Escoffier).  So, in the end, the

dishes are built on the best foundation, are well

tested and practiced, fit well into a good

framework, are definite, documented, taught, and

repeatable, and, net, move the 'state of the art'

forward.  And, as part of that work, they can argue

for days about how appropriate it is to "sprinkle"

curry powder -- we have to note that this argument

is not just whether the specific dish was good or

bad but whether the practice was good in principle

and appropriate in a larger framework.  Right away,

then, we see the lion by his paw -- we are deeply

concerned with frameworks, principles, practices

that might be repeated.  Those concerns are very big

advantages.

So, to answer the specific question, I vote that

these advantages of French cooking continue to put

French cooking essentially as far ahead as before.

That is, some cook somewhere can make an interesting

use of a flavor, ingredient, or technique, but in 10

years, their effects will have been picked up by,

exploited by, incorporated in, and enriched French

cooking or likely just have been lost so that, net,

French cooking will have stayed the same or moved

ahead while the rest will have had a few good new

dishes on a few good days and then returned again to

what they had before.

Ah, back to coarsely chopped yellow globe onions,

coarsely cut sweet carrots, fresh parsley, fresh

thyme, dried bay leaves, fresh garlic, and clarified

butter mixed with vegetable oil!


What would be the right food and wine to go with

R. Strauss's 'Ein Heldenleben'?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
and it seems that in order to undermine his opinion you have now reached the point where you are willing to say that you don't like his opinion because you don't like the way he stated it.
I've always tried to be clear that I didn't like his opinion of the dish in question, nor his view of curry in French cuisine and that I didn't like the disrespect shown to the chef he used as an example.
As for how the curry was used, he's isn't complaining that Pacaud used curry, he is complaining that they used it incorrectly (sprinkled it.)
Once again I will question your use of the word "spinkled" which Hoffman did not use. You quoted him as saying It was such an insular approach, as though nobody understood that curry isn't a powder that you don't apply cosmetically." I don't know what he meant by "cosmetically," but he did not mean visually cosmetic, as there was no trace of curry powder to be seen in the dish  or on the plate. I've said this before. The flavor of the spices had been infused in the exquisite sauce which was strained before it was put on the plate. No powder was used to decorate my plate and cabrales noted that there was no powder on her plate, nor any graininess in the sauce when she was there some years later.
It had this strange combination of tradition and the new, California and the Mediteranean. And the fact that Peter is a chef without formal training shows up in how the food is prepared and gives the place a feel of originality. It was the most organic restaurant I knew of (and it still might be) in NYC. Sort of one foot in Chez Pannise (in fact Alice Waters came and cooked there for a night) and one foot in the downtown art scene.
Sounds trendy. That's enough to keep me away. I am not a fan of "fusion," eclectic or trendy, although I am seduced from time to time by certain aspects of these things. I've eaten too many meals at the hands of American chefs who don't know how to walk, but think they can fly. Perhaps I have too much respect for chefs with professional training and can cook well enough myself not to pay others to create at will. When I am jaded by haute French cuisine, I find relief and interest in traditional rustic cuisine, such as that of Spain. Creativity without the basis of a firm tradition rarely works for me.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bux-All you have said is that you do not want to accept Hoffman's opinion as an expert because 1) you liked the dish in question and disagree with his assessment and 2)haven't eaten his food furthermore, don't like the type of restaurant he runs. Whereas Gopnik and I like his restaurant very much. So we are perfectly happy relying on his "expert" opinion, even if we might not agree with him. And you also seem to say he is being disrepectful just because he is criticizing Pacaud, an accomplished 3 star chef? I don't get that. So I dug into my archives and pulled out my notes from my meal there last May. May I join the list of those who have been disrepectful to Pacaud because based on the meal I had there last year, he's a pretty mediocre cook. Here goes;

"Dinner was at L’Ambroisie, the 3 star restaurant under the arches in the Place des Voges. This was my first time as I always found it a tough reservation. But again, bovine hysteria and the anticipated doomed economy have made it easy to get a reservation just about anywhere. The dining room at L’Ambroisie is formal. High ceilings and chandeliers and the walls are covered in printed fabrics that if they aren’t actually old, are certainly made in a way that makes them look as if they are hundreds of years old. Madame Pacaud (the chefs wife) is at the door to greet you and she beckoned a Maitre’d to take us to “table neuf.” The menu at L’Ambroisie is short. Aside from Taillevent, it is the only 3 star I know of that doesn’t seem to have a tasting menu. There are appetizers, fish dishes and meat dishes listed and unless you can find a compatriot to split things with, a multiple course meal means having full portions.

Madame Pacaud takes your order herself and she is a bit testy about the way the patrons pair their food. This is small problem because the menu isn’t very large. There couldn’t have been more than 15 dishes listed in total. She tried to reject my wife’s main dish as “two yellow dishes in a row” but my wife prevailed. And when I enquired about the leg of pigeon in pastilla (phylo leaves) and explained I had an intolerance to wheat flour, instead of being told that the leg was just a small piece served on the side and that the breast would be enough to eat (which is what I was asking her) I was led to order something else.

I sized up the wine list and decided that Marc’s late afternoon criticism was too harsh and that there were a bunch of listings that were worthy of our attention. But it was ages before the sommelier finally arrived. When he came into the room we were seated in, he checked what we had ordered for dinner before coming over to take our wine order. I asked him for 1992 Trimbach Clos St. Hune and he said “it’s too sweet for your meal "(Clos St. Hune too sweet?) which steered us to a different choice. And the second bottle we ordered was sold out so instead of getting a 1988 Henri Jayer Vosne-Romanee Cros Parentoux, we were talked into a 1987 bottling of the same. The following falls into the category of don’t listen to the sommelier when your gut instinct tells you not to

category.

1990 Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet Les Follatieres-Gee I thought this was sweeter than the Trimbach could ever be. Nice for a 1990 and in keeping with the good work Leflaive did that year but, I never resolved my palate around to drinking it as I it was calibrated for a Clos St. Hune. 89 points

1987 Henri Jayer Vosne-Romanee Cros Parentoux -I had heard that in spite of the vintage that this was really drinking well. Well I wished I had passed and ordered the 1990 Rousseau Gevry Clos St. Jacques they had listed instead. While there was nothing wrong with it, there was nothing special about it either. If the label didn’t say Jayer, it wouldn’t be worth drinking as it tasted like a million other wines 88 points

We fared no better with our food. My Crawfish Soup was lacking the intense “gout de coquillages” that one usually finds in the better French restaurants and my Tranch de Foie Gras avec Epices (a large slice of foie roasted with spices atop) was boring. A three star ambiance with one and a half star food. I must make a special mention of what we thought was poor service. Our captain was neither engaging nor did things on a timely basis. My wife summed it up perfectly as we were leaving, “there’s no reason to come back here” and we all agreed. Enough said."

Now I can tell you that now that I am reading my notes, the resemblence to Peter Hoffman's experience is striking. Peter obviously wanted to order something other than the curry dish but was "talked into it" by the captain. And I had an amazingly difficult time both ordering the meal I wanted to and the wines I wanted to. In fact, ordering them was a struggle. They treated us like we knew nothing about food. I mean I know more about wine than that sommelier does, Clos St. Hune is sweet? Give me a break. What am I a moron? If anybody was arrogant it was the staff at L'Ambroisie, and that goes for the sommelier and Madame Pacaud. So I can now see Peter's experience in the same light. He came for a reason, and they "forced him" to change what he wanted why? BECAUSE THEY ARE FRENCH AND THEY KNOW BEST RIGHT?  And this is who you think should get my (and Peter's) respect?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Perhaps Hoffman was ill served by the quote as Gopnik used it. At several junctures along the way, I've noted that Pacaud is not my favorite chef, but I respect his food. I did love that one dish, by the way.

All you have said is that you do not want to accept Hoffman's opinion as an expert because 1) you liked the dish in question and disagree with his assessment and 2)haven't eaten his food furthermore, don't like the type of restaurant he runs.
Certainly not what I said, although perhaps what you read. I think it was a misreading of what I said. If you feel I cannot evaluate a person's statments fairly, honestly or properly because I had no interest in eating in his restaurant, there's no argument that will change your mind. I can only hope you will develop greater respect for me as you read what I say. But yes, having had the dish and having found it a sublime example of the evolution of the classic style of haute cuisine in France, I am bound to disagree with an assessment that finds the opposite.

It would be a whole other thread for me to enumerate the subtle differences between what I read in Gopnik's book and what you wrote as a criticism of your meal at l'Ambroisie. Without reference to anything else you've posted here and just on the words in this "review" I find all the evidence I need to feel you know the subject at hand. I may still disagree with your conclusions, but I understand your points. I also note that they are not presented as a claim that the whole of French cuisine is in decline either. You make a smaller point with a lot of corroborating statements. Gopnik attempts to make a much larger point by presenting an overreaching statement on a much smaller point and I found it a curious statement based on a narrow alien view. Your criticism is based on your understanding of French haute cuisine, while Hoffman's was based on his knowledge and recently gained expertise in a foreign tradition. That alone would make a major difference in how I react even if I didn't feel his recent focus on Indian tradition didn't blind him to an appreciation of western tradition.

That I understand you perfectly and that you misinterpret me, doesn't help this a whole lot either.  :wink:


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bux-I really don't know what you are talking about. You either believe Peter or you don't. Think he is competent to make the statement or not. Think he understands French food or that he doesn't. Think he has enough expertise about curry or that he doesn't. It seems to me, if you don't think he can do any of those things, you can't rely on his opinion and you would also wonder why Gopnik did. But for Gopnik and I, Peter is both competent as well as knowledgable enough so we believe him when he says he feels that way about it. But you're perfectly happy to feel otherwise.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think that I pretty much presented my views as my subjective fellings on the matter in the beginning.

I supposed the main reason I found the quote annoying is that it really read as disrespectful. Moreover, I had that dish and found it well composed, refined and delicious. Not the most exciting dish I've had a major restaurant, but that's even more to the point. He used "curry" as it has been used in western kitchens for what I expect is the better part of the century. I've had American shrimp curry at least forty years ago and run into French use of curry on and off for almost as long. It's just an accepted part of the western flavor palette. Hoffman came off as weird and pretentious in my mind, by making it an issue and by attempting to criticize Pacaud for not understanding the mystique which I find needn't exist. If Hoffman's own menus were not so eclectic and if Hoffman had Pacaud's training I might have found his comments less offensive.
Since then I've been attempting to explain why I felt the way I did. What I found is certainly not what others may find.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
What I found is certainly not what others may find.

Um. Is it a cube of demi-glace? It's kind of shivery and translucent. Or is it...


"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

" supposed the main reason I found the quote annoying is that it really read as disrespectful."

Bux-I'm still lost here. What does respect have to do with the merits of the criticism? I mean how can he be respectful and still criticize the guy? And even if he can, how does being respectful or disrepectful impact on how Peter thinks the dish both tastes, and how appropriate he feels the dish is for that type of restaurant, including what his expectations for the restaurant were before he went there? See what Cabareles has taught me. How to frame a question in her truly original food probing style.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It seemed disrespectful, because I felt he hadn't done his homework on western use of curry for 700 years before he criticized Pacuad for not having read Madhur Jaffrey on curry. It seemed disrespectful in that he spoke of absolutes after emeshing himself in the "mystic" of one side of the issue. It seemed disrespectful, because he used the word cosmetically cosmetically in what struck me as a term of disrespect for Pacaud's command of French technique. Thus it struck me as disrespectful and arrogant when he said:

It was such an insular approach, as though nobody understood that curry isn't a powder that you don't apply cosmetically. Nobody had read Madhur Jaffrey, or really understood that curry isn't just a spice you shake but a whole technique you have to understand.
how does being respectful or disrepectful impact on how Peter thinks the dish both tastes, and how appropriate he feels the dish is for that type of restaurant, including what his expectations for the restaurant were before he went there?
He didn't talk about taste, as I recall, it was all about technique and the audacity of use without reading Jaffrey. Curry can be no more than a flavor to a chef in the west and it's rather absurd to deny that, in my opinion.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bux-Let me try this one.

Disagree with how Pacaud used curry = Disrespectful

Disagree for the reasons Peter stated = Disrespectful

Think chefs should understand curry   = Disrespectful

Is that it?

It must be because the way you have laid it out, there is no room to disagree without being disrespectful.

The fact of the matter is that regardless of whether Peter might have been respectful or disrespectful, it has no bearing on how well Pacaud used the curry powder. The statement is either a true statement or not, and when Peter said it he is either being honest about it or not. I don't see how Peter's manners in any way impact a fair evaluation of Pacaud's dish? Maybe you can explain that to me and then I will understand what you are getting.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
There are other reasons Nobu's signature dishes are what they are because of his Japanese influences -- (1) black cod with miso -- miso is rampantly utilized in Japanese cuisine and sweetening it in the way it is would not necessarily be natural to French chefs, . . . .

[in another post]

The reason that Nobu created that dish(es), was that he was eager to experiment. That draws the inference that French chefs weren't the ones to come up with any of those dishes because they weren't looking to experiment . . . . Why Savoy only stuck a toe in the water as opposed to someone like Nobu jumping in over his head is one of the things this discussion is about. . . . .  But exactly how far can a 3 star chef push the envelope before what he serves isn't French food anymore?

As for it being dominant, you mean dominant as in the best? I agree with you there. But something that is the best doesn't neccessarily have more relevance than something inferior to it. In fact, quite often things inferior have more relevance than things that are great.

Steve -- I don't disagree that Nobu might have been willing to experiment, but why do certain French chefs have to experiment drastically if what they have is already widely sought after and considered very good? Also, in pointing out the potential Japanese ingredient or Japanese cuisine inspirations of some signature Nobu dishes, I was trying to pursue whether the experimental "leap" might have been more natural for Matsuhisa, given his background and training, than it might have been for a traditionally trained French chef. Meaning, I do think leading French chefs experiment, but, for their background and sensitivities, they are less likely to have come up with Nobu's signature dishes.  You might view Nobu as "jumping" into the water, given your appreciation of French food and background. For him, the steps might have been less drastic. I am not saying they were or not; just that one could imagine they might have been.

That Nobu's black cod miso was less of an experimental leap for him, given his background, than for a French chef is supported by Jeffrey Steingarten's article "Nobu's No-No" (US Vogue, March 2002):

"Nobu marinated it for three days in a special miso -- the tangy, sometimes sweet, paste of long-fermented soybeans and rice or barley -- then broiled it for cirspiness and roasted it to finish. A twist on the traditional Japanese veresion, which is marinated in the lees (or sediment) from the brewing of sake . . . ."

The article describes Nobu's use of monkfish liver in a manner that supports the above point:

"We happily went on to a pate made from the liver of the monkfish -- a traditional Japanese recipe transformed by the salty, oily pop of salmon roe."

The obvious Japanese inspiration relating to the choice and preparation of raw fish is described, among other things, in the context of the influence of Nobu's travels on his preparation methods:

"Nobu's raw-fish dishes were powerfully flavored with cilantro, red-pepper paste, olive oil, and fresh chilies. These are ingredients that Nobu . . . had discovered during a three-year sojourn working in Peru -- where raw fish (used in pungent ceviche and tiradito) is as common as in Japan." (Nobu also has some Peruvian-inspired meat preparations.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Suvir-Your posts are out of line, espcially for a moderator. It would do you well for you to remove them. Nobody here has a "fractured sense of self" and how dare you say that about anyone who is participating in earnest about a discussion that has been instigated by another one of the moderators.

As to the merits of what we are discussing here, especially comparing the gastronomic culture of different countries and parts of the world including creating a hierarchy of them, it is nothing different than what is discussed in universities all over the world every single day. Nobody calls them arrogant or chauvenistic. Is it arrogant to say that at the time of the ancient Romans they had a superior culture or more evolved society than the rest of the world? Gee I don't think so.

And I find your last point about curry, again, especially from a moderator to be especially disruptive. In the context of this discussion it is as intelectually dishonest as it comes. You are the first one to flock to, and or criticize a place that serves good and/or bad food, including using a good or bad garam marsala. The world isn't all a big blob of garam marsalas that are all the same and which are all interesting no matter who uses them, at least not to the discussion here. And finally, I have refrained from saying this but;

BABBO *IS* AN ITALIAN RESTAURANT

Now do me a favor, the next time you choose not to participate, please make sure your decision coincides with your actually not posting.  Don't first post a meandering political thread that has nothing to do with the discussion and which is intended to make the participants feel bad and also insults them and then announce you're not going to participate in the thread. D'uh, we're not stupid you know.

Steve - Yowza! I hope I never get on your bad side. Methinks you came down hard on Suvir. He sounds very knowledgable to me and just because he's a moderator on e-Gullet, he's still entitled to his opinions. He stated he was only going to respond once, in that particular post, because I got the impression he didn't want to get sucked into a long drawn-out debate.

I love good repartee and clever analysis of any subject but your response to him hit me as a bit mean-spirited and cranky. After all, this is a food forum, not war. Just my two-cents.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...