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Does the ideal gastronomy exist or is it the gastronomy of every one of us?

Hablamos . . .

Call me a romantic, but I believe it does exist - we just haven't discovered it yet. Relativizing taste ( I read somewhere, Ferran, that you wisely made a point of never asking your diners whether they'd liked a particular offering) may be more polite, commonsensical and easier to accept by all and sundry, but it's also just a tad lazy and over-consensual - I'd say, in the case of great artists such as yourself, even slightly similar to a cop-out. I'm (and not a little!) reminded of those philistines who, despite their careless attitude to painting, insist on, whenever they fulfill their obligatory, Frommer's-based visit to a museum of contemporary art, loudly making a point of saying "I may know nothing about Art, but I know what I like.". And then proceed to select the most reactionary and least challenging pieces they chanced upon. Even more annoying is the current vogue - inexplicably followed by not a few very talented chefs - of saying "Hey, it's only food..." That "only" rankles as particularly disrespectful, ignorant and even downright ungrateful.

And yet - how can you not swoon at your first sight - however tiny and degustation-menu-sized - of the Gioconda/ Mona Lisa? Or at the first first spoonful of a freshly-made onion soup or lobster bisque, "Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá" or old-fashioned but perfectly prepared "crepes Suzette"? It's this common ground - beyond experience and subjectivity, way above all the variations and subtleties in individual and culturally-conditioned preferences - which is still unknown and exciting, giving encouragement to those courageous, curious and skilled enough to dare approach the "gastronomic ideal" you speak of. Plato's "ideal forms", after all, are tragically misunderstood and misapplied, just as "platonic", for some time now, is vulgarly taken to mean "without sex". Imagine if "Adrianesque" meant "without salt" or "without physical, gustative pleasure"...!

It's somewhere very hidden within this unexpectedly common territory, between the heathens and the far-too-arrogant experts, where the greatest riches (and, better still, gastronomic truth!) lie. Only the very brave and talented venture there. I've always imagined you as one of these - in fact, the explorer way ahead of the rest of the party, undaunted by the undergrowth, trusting in the sharpness of your eyes and machete.

The "gastronomy of every one of us" is generously and democratically inspired but the awful truth is that the world is grossly unfair and distributes its privileges blindly or, even worse, according to pure luck, money or connections. In my experience (and I was lucky to be born into a wealthy, food-loving family), most of my glimpses of "the ideal gastronomy" have no relation whatsoever to those with similar or entirely different opportunities. In fact, to be honest, they most often arose from supposedly (but materially) unprivileged, untravelled and unsophisticated bons garfos, Portuguese for, literally, "good forks", or discriminating and enthusiastic food-lovers.

I don't think you can be truly inventive and creative like you without a deep knowledge of what is simply delicious, whoever you are and how much money you have.

There are at least seven culinary preparations I can think of which, allergies and aberrations apart - and whatever their background or current status - I can't imagine anyone on earth not delighting in. The ideal gastronomy exists - we (i.e. you and a few others) just haven't conquered it yet. When it has been discovered and mastered, I dream it shall be like electricity - or, say, August-plucked white peaches impossibly made better or, to be more precise, re-appreciated and reconsidered.

No one will trouble to ask whether it's universally good, simply because it will be.

Or, at least, for long enough to seem so...


I've never had the pleasure of tasting your work (in May! In May!) but, from reading and keeping up with all available information, I could honestly say, in "the ideal gastronomy" framework, that I can't live without it. Like all great artists, philosophers and scientists, the most fertile goal of those as gifted as you are shouldn't be to "solve" or "definitively find" that holy grail (this has handicapped a majority of even the most able and clear-minded philosophers throughout the ages). Much less, though, should it be to relativize and subjectify individual efforts (i.e. the gastronomy of every one of us). Striving towards and tirelessly searching; achieving undeniably universal gastronomic pleasure (however slight) and enthusiastically contributing to the quest - even if it's seven centuries into the future - is surely more than enough...! :)

Edited by MiguelCardoso (log)
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No. Yes.

"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

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My interpretation of the question is that you are asking whether the future of cuisine should be to converge, perhaps towards some homogenized or "fused" global ideal, or remain divergent as it is now, largely based on geography and cultural history.

We are already seeing a breakdown in the traditional cuisines, with international procurement of foodstuffs and chefs employing fusion techniques. I personally don't see this as a positive trend, but it is an inevitable consequence of globalization. How far this will go remains to be seen.

If a single best gastronomy were to exist, it would necessarily have to be reproducible anywhere, which implies commercial foodstuffs and possibly industrial techniques. As someone who appreciates diversity, I would not find this desireable, even if it could be shown to be best by some obective measure.

So for me, the "ideal gastronomy" does not and cannot exist.

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Maybe to produce the 'true' gastronomy we need to return to the beginning - ignorant of the french culinary tradition etc[...]

That's impossible. Moreover, I would disagree with the premise that the primordial form of a thing is automatically the best, true, or only authentic form (which may not be quite what you mean). For better or/and for worse, things change over time, and all of us are in large part a product of the past, including those who, in full knowledge of the past, choose to break with it.

Michael aka "Pan"


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If the ideal gastronomy existed, perhaps you are the closest to taking it to newer heights. The paradigm shifting that is your trademark is certainly the closest to a next evolution that is making many others think (for years to come) about the boundaries that we already knew.

If I was sitting in front of you, I would ask "Is this a rethorical or philosophical question"? Well, you have already generated a lot of rethoric, judging by the posts here. But philosophically speaking- and I suspect that this where you get a lot of your intellectual creativity- gastronomy is part art, part fashion so it will thrive and die on innovation, no matter what personal opinions might be.

But to think of gastronomy as whatever each one of us thinks it is, although is a humbling statement- somehow lessens the sublime that can be achieved when the synergy of taste, technique, presentation and smell converge magically.

If great food awakens pleasant emotions; in my view- the ideal gastronomy is when an orgasm of emotions has been reached.

"I hate people who are not serious about their meals." Oscar Wilde

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