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I come to this site seldom. After a long absence, and then reading this impossible gush about El Bulli (I always start singing "Wolly Bully" in my head every time I hear "El Bulli," that helps offset some of the pretentiousness), I'm reminded why my visits are so infrequent.

Perhaps the worst thing is that, in writing about Wooly Bully, the English language becomes so bastardized, so devoid of the real meaning of words. And no, an almond is not equivalent in importance to, say, a strip steak. Foam is also not the way to get at the essence of a dish, unless we're perhaps talking about milk shakes.

I'd be interested to know why you feel an almond is not equivalent in importance to, say, a strip steak. A tender almond is just as important in a dish calling for almond flavour as a strip steak is in a grilled strip steak dish, isn't it?

Martin

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Cathar - 5 out of your 6 posts are about El Bulli and the language that our fellow egulleteers use in their posts.

What upsets you so much about one bunch of people who are truly creative, and another bunch of people who like to write about those truly creative people and their own passions? That surely is one of the points of this fine website.

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I can see both sides of the argument - though I don't think either side applies

as a blanket policy to all those involved.

When someone reveres something they tend to gush about it, I would imagine

that applies to Cathar as much as it does to me or anyone else - we all simply

have different things to gush about, all place importance on different aspects,

even within the same subject and cooking is a big subject with many facets

to gush about - from the newest experimentations of molecular gastronomy

to the oldest iron pot hanging over a fire in Mongolia.

It's important to remember that it's all just opinions of individuals and on this site

those individuals can become collections of individuals and it sometimes doesn't

really reflect reality.

Most people still don't know who Ferran Adria is and most people have even

less of an idea what molecular gastronomy is or any of the details of it's components,

this isolated world of gastronomy of ours and this isolated segment of that world called

Egullet is only representative of a very minute segment of the overall world of food and

and even more minute segment of the overall world.

Things in this world are often put on a pedestal, people, ingredients, techniques, we're

all guilty of one or all of these things even if we haven't posted about it and sometimes

it warps the sense of reality.

In reality, the newest ingredients, methods and techniques of molecular gastronomy

are not really new at all and the credit does not belong to Ferran Adria, me, you or

anyone else on this site. Most of them are taken out of the context of industrial food

processing or from obscure hundreds of years old techniques and have existed long

before El Bulli or any place like it.

Gellan made Orbitz soft drink, carageenan stabilized your canned whipped cream,

calcium chloride/sodium alginate put the pimentos in your pickled pimento loaf and

cocktail olives, liquid nitrogen has made Dippin' Dots since before '85, foam has

been purposely put on top of cappucino, konnyaku has been a heatable gel made

of yam flour and calcium carbonate in Japan for decades if not over a hundred years.

You could get your photo printed on a birthday cake in edible ink at your local

baker 5 years ago.

Giant food additive companies make massive amounts of these things, texture manipulation products, flavor enhancer and property isolation chemicals and sell them to the commercial food processing industry who has decades old labs established doing research on the food products themselves, focus group testing for target marketing for highly designed aesthetic, textural and flavor qualities of products that contain trademarked and trade secret ingredients and techniques to place endless amounts of new forms and flavors on your grocery store shelf.

These things have simply been moved from column A (commercial food) to column B (gastronomy) and layer of beauty applied over them so they are no longer so technical and the product of their use is accessible to regular people. Like Apple putting a pretty GUI on Unix.

These people certainly deserve credit for doing such a thing and as we have all seen it can produce fantastic results in and out of the world of chefs and the few who exalt themselves are not representative of the collective whole.

Though I recently read an article that quoted Adria as saying he thinks of himself as

"an architect of cuisine, like Frank Gehry." and further quotes him as saying:

"Everybody wants to follow him (Frank Gehry)," he said. "It's normal, and that happens. There are a lot of people who follow the influences of a few, like me. I'm very happy to see young people follow my ideas. The important thing is to understand my philosophy."

That is the kind of thing that Cathar speaks of and that even I find whacked - because in my book - it's fine for others to say things like that about you - but when you start looking at yourself this way...

It's all just cooking and there is art and beauty in it all - old a new - and the credit

belongs to many and not few.

Don't let the attitude of the few who drag down the collective ruin your

opinion of the collective - because the collective is for the most part - good.

I come to this site seldom. After a long absence, and then reading this impossible gush about El Bulli (I always start singing "Wolly Bully" in my head every time I hear "El Bulli," that helps offset some of the pretentiousness), I'm reminded why my visits are so infrequent.

Perhaps the worst thing is that, in writing about Wooly Bully, the English language becomes so bastardized, so devoid of the real meaning of words. And no, an almond is not equivalent in importance to, say, a strip steak. Foam is also not the way to get at the essence of a dish, unless we're perhaps talking about milk shakes.

Cathar - 5 out of your 6 posts are about El Bulli and the language that our fellow egulleteers use in their posts.

What upsets you so much about one bunch of people who are truly creative, and another bunch of people who like to write about those truly creative people and their own passions? That surely is one of the points of this fine website.

edit: spelling

Edited by sizzleteeth (log)

"At the gate, I said goodnight to the fortune teller... the carnival sign threw colored shadows on her face... but I could tell she was blushing." - B.McMahan

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Sizzleteeth - nice piece - you make some good, cogent points. Hurrah for the middle way.

My point is - in a website devoted to food and foodies, an interest second only to oenophilism in giving rise to purple prose you are definitely going to get some enthusiastic souls, well,enthusing. Debating, disagreeing too for sure. But that is what you are going to get.

Maybe some peoples' writing style could be called "pretentious" but so what - they should be allowed that in an enthusiasts forum. Often the epithet pretentious is used when the critic dislikes polysyllabism, but if I want monosyllabism there are plenty of places on the web to get it. I like my eGullet fun, light, and heavy, serious, and frivolous and I don't feel the need to judge something pretentious or not.

Your points about FA not being universally known are patently true but surely this is an informed forum, no-one is asking how to boil an egg, and if a group of people want to discuss culinary minutiae I think this might just be the place. It is for me and I love it.

I like Adria's work - when I read his book, I can truly admire his creativity and inventiveness. To me it’s not terribly relevant that some of the chemicals he uses have been used in food processing before. In a reductio ad absurdum that's a little like saying "this dish is not new - its been modified by a heat source and that's been done before". It's a little about the context yes (gastronomic vs. industrial) but also more importantly about the synergy of his techniques and ingredients. The presentation, the artistry, the inspiration. Especially when you've tasted it (which, I note, many of his detractors haven't).

There is not much new under the sun especially in the world of cuisine but you can probably fairly say that much of what is nearly new comes from a certain atelier in Spain.

A popular way of shutting down debate on this topic is saying "it's only food" or "only cooking". Sure it is only food. Michelangelo’s David is only stone. One can have a transcendent experience with food similar to what one has with Art with a capital A. For me I probably have that experience more often with food than with Art. But that's just me. Your mileage may vary.

As for the Frank Gehry simile, well I'd prefer Tadao Ando, but in my opinion Mr Adria is every bit as influential in his sphere as Mr Gehry is in his, probably more so. So it may seem a little immodest but it’s probably fairly accurate. I am not a fan of false modesty and in Mr Adria's position I'd be tempted to be a whole lot more immodest than he is.

Unfortunately it's hard in this type of forum to convey a tone of friendly debate but that's what I am attempting. I'd sum it up by saying let people post how they like here, and about what they like, and if it doesn't appeal there are hundreds of more prosaic venues out there on the web.

Edited by joesan (log)
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Unfortunately it's hard in this type of forum to convey a tone of  friendly debate but that's what I am attempting. I'd sum it up by saying let people post how they like here, and about what they like,  and if it doesn't appeal there are hundreds of more prosaic venues out there on the web.

I agree Joesan that all should be able to post as they please in whatever tone, and friendly debate is all I'm interested in.

Though I am not simply saying "some of these things have been used before" - I am saying the entire construct of "examining the properties of the products and trying to figure out what can be done with them outside of their traditional uses", "deliberately changing and designing the physical aesthetic and textural characteristics of a product", "researching the effect of different applications of unconventional 'cooking' methods" and "looking for new flavor combinations" both predate Ferran Adria's work in this area and existed long ago far outside of Spain - and yes, the commercial food industry was in large part the initiator of these things.

Such questions, reflections and discussions can be found here for instance:

http://www.foodproductdesign.com/

Enter the word of your choice, gellan, carageenan, sous vide - whatever and read endless articles on the applications of these things and note some of the dates on the articles, '93, '96 - one thing you won't get any results for is "Adria".

I agree that Adria's application of tools and techniques is admirable, but the man whom chips away at the block of stone owes his sculpture to the man who invented the hammer and chisle , and in using those tools - is using them to do exactly what they were designed to do.

Paco Jets were designed to make finely textured sorbets, Vita-Prep blenders were created to make intense blends and emulsions, food dehydrators were designed to dehydrate food and all of the mention additives were isolated and created to do exactly what they are being used to do.

So in that respect - using a tool to do what it was made to do - is not so amazing. As you elude to - it is the product of your work that is the key.

But even to that point, picture a vast parking lot full of blue cars - and then a single red car. To someone whom all their life has been saturated by the sight of a blue cars, all that ever existed was blue cars - a red car blows their mind. Then everyone starts buying red cars and red cars are everywhere - all of a sudden the blue cars become the obscure and are one again revered.

Molecular gastronomy comes at a time when people are tired of looking at what they've been looking at and is something they are not concious of having seen - whether they have or not in whatever form. Being from the country, when I first moved to Chicago the skyline filled me full of inspiration - now having lived here for so many years - a field of green grass does the same.

If you are not concious of it you can become a slave to "getting excited by the new thing and leaving the old thing behind". That is where cliches like "the grass is always greener" come from, but that seems technically incorrect - because really the grass is only greener after you get tired of looking at the grass you're standing on.

As for the ego, if Mr.Adria truly believes that his philosophy is the way and should be followed and that anyone doing this type of thing is following in his footsteps solely - with no credit to those who created the tools, isolated the chemicals or helped out along the way with work, ideas and research then he has become a shining example of the system he set out to defy and is no better than the iron fisted French chefs who insist that "this is how things are done, this is the way".

I wonder if he truly believes what he is quoted as saying.

"At the gate, I said goodnight to the fortune teller... the carnival sign threw colored shadows on her face... but I could tell she was blushing." - B.McMahan

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Interesting points, joesan and sizzleteeth. At this point of the conversation, it may be relevant to link to the so called Philosophical synthesis of elBullirestaurant, aka Adria's manifesto issued in Madrid Fusion 2006. There's more than technique in elBulli's cooking.

I tend to agree with sizzleteeth's arguments to certain extent. I, for one, am not interested in the techniques and technologies applied at elBulli. Or perhaps I should say that interest is secondary. I'm interested in the results they obtain with them. And, in the three meals I've had at the restaurant, I've been served dishes that I'd be surprised if a vast majority of patrons wouldn't rate as 10 out of 10. True, in those same meals I've been served dishes which were just technique demos or attempts to amuse you at a level beyond taste. Those were less interesting to me, at least some of them. But the four or five dishes in each meal that make you feel happy are worth the trip there. And that's the aspect I miss in the discussion so far: let's not forget that Adria is producing great dishes. Some of them, unique dishes.

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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Pedro - I completely agree with you - it's all about the food. To me there's some intellectual interest in the techniques but if it doesn't taste good - well what's the point? Since I am a visual person I also take great delight in the way the El Bulli dishes look too, I think one also eats with one's eyes but that is a whole another argument.

Sizzleteeth - I almost completely agree with you! I just feel that there has to be some credit given for the incredible dishes coming from El Bulli. Many of the building blocks were around before but they were put together synergistcally at El Bulli (also I might add at The Fat Duck). That deserves some admiration. Trust me I am not advocating hero worship (in fact I am really anti that kind of thing) but also there's no need to cut down the tall poppies either. Having said that I think there's more we agree on than disagree on.

Edited by joesan (log)
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Sizzleteeth - I almost completely agree with you! I just feel that there has to be some credit given for the incredible dishes coming from El Bulli. Many of the building blocks were around before but they were put together synergistcally at El Bulli (also I might add at The Fat Duck).

Joesan we can completely agree on the above if nothing else.

If more emphasis was put on "look at the sculpture I have created, is it not beautiful" - rather than "I am to be credited in history as the inventor of sculpting" - then a great deal of these arguments would disappear. One can attempt to dupe history all one wishes by organizing information in a dated and cataloged format and publishing it in a book or manifesto and in some cases history will be duped - simply because others whom have done the same things have not documented them in such a format and made them available to the public. The undocumented occurrences with time will fall out of memory and people will point to the documented occurrence and say "this is the first documented evidence we have of such and such occurring" - though that does not mean by any stretch that it is the first time it has happened.

The context is largely to blame, Adria may have well been the first "chef" (in the haute cuisine, restaurant sense of the word) to gel a puree with calcium chloride/sodium alginate - but by no means was he the first person to gel a puree with calcium chloride/sodium alginate - nor did he invent that technique or discover that those things do what they do.

That technique may be revolutionary in the context of gastronomy, which has largely been relegated to the influence of French Haute Cuisine and its "rules"... in which no such thing exists - just as the first sushi chef to put sauce on a piece of sushi was revolutionary in the context of sushi, which has so many traditional boundaries attached to it that that person must have looked like they created the Piss Christ.

The same could be said of many things.

An example being Adria's Texturas, which in large part is just the same stuff you can get from TIC Gums, in a prettier package with Adria's name on it - and half that stuff shows up in the average McDonalds ingredients list - which puts chefs closer and closer to creating Big Macs which is an example of product who's every aspect has been designed to a "T" from color to texture to flavor of all the individual components as well as their collective interaction so that Big Macs taste the same no matter where you get one.

And is a Big Mac not delicious? Hell, deconstruct one and plate it "a-symmetrically" for me and I might even pay double.

The point is that we agree that the work that has been done is worthy of credit and praise.

I personally would pay even more respect to such things - if the other less desirable elements would turn into vapor.

edit:spelling

Edited by sizzleteeth (log)

"At the gate, I said goodnight to the fortune teller... the carnival sign threw colored shadows on her face... but I could tell she was blushing." - B.McMahan

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Okay now I agree with just about everything (see below).

I like the packaging (in all senses of that word) for me the packaging is part of the product. I am not given to idolatry but I admire the imagination and creativity of the man. I don't think others don't / haven't / won't do it but Mr A does it more consistently,more inventively and more deliciously than the others.

Okay now the disagreement - a big Mac is not delicious.

Happy iconoclasm!

PS - like your food photos on your site

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Okay now the disagreement - a big Mac is not delicious.

Happy iconoclasm!

PS - like your food photos on your site

Hehe - speak for yourself brother. (lips smacking) :laugh:

Iconoclasm begets iconoclasm.

and btw, thanks.

"At the gate, I said goodnight to the fortune teller... the carnival sign threw colored shadows on her face... but I could tell she was blushing." - B.McMahan

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