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butterfly

Spanish cuisines and dependency on raw ingredients

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Note from the host: This discussion started in the Fabada thread. I think the issues discussed deserve their own thread

I met José Andrés on Sunday and he mantains that the ingredients barrier which we tend to identify as one of the major difficulties to recreate Spanish dishes abroad is overrated.

I really like José Andrés' restaurants in DC--and respect him as a chef--but I don't quite agree.

I think the pork products (and fish and shellfish) available in the US are quite inferior to what is so easily available here. The best items from Spain are not imported. It is possible to source decent alternatives for some items, but you will have to look hard at small suppliers and pay quite a premium. All the more reason to come for a visit...


Edited by pedro (log)

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I really like José Andrés' restaurants in DC--and respect him as a chef--but I don't quite agree.

I think the pork products (and fish and shellfish) available in the US are quite inferior to what is so easily available here. The best items from Spain are not imported. It is possible to source decent alternatives for some items, but you will have to look hard at small suppliers and pay quite a premium.  All the more reason to come for a visit...

I think that that was his point: it's harder, but not impossible. You have to work more to find the ingredients but you can get, at least, acceptable results.


PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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Sorry to say so, but José Andrés is full of......

'Decent' chorizo enables one to make a pleasant fabada in the US, granted - but how does he replace Ibérico ham (and Iberian pork cuts of fresh meat), churra breed lamb, red-legged partridges? How about Cantabrian sea bream, red prawns from Denia?

Indian Ocean fish, New Zealand lamb, San Marzano tomatoes, even bread baked in Paris are readily available in the US. But Spanish produce is scarce and usually not of the best quality. Spanish cheeses are kept in laughable condition at Dean& DeLuca, for instance.

As Barcelona-based French cook Philippe Regol rightly points out in his interesting blog (http://observaciongastronomica.blogspot.com/), in comparing the cuisines of Ferran Adrià and Santi Santamaria, Ferran's is much more publicized and celebrated internationally because of its brilliance, but it's actually easier to replicate or imitate all over the world because raw materials play a secondary role in it, whereas Santi's depends on elusive shellfish or wild mushrooms that are local, scarce and expensive, so either you visit Can Fabes or you won't be able to appreciate the experience.

On a more mundane level, traditional Spanish cuisine is heavily dependent on very specific raw materials - even more so than, say, regional French or Italian cuisines. There's not a lot of technique involved in roasting lamb Castilian-style - but if you don't use churra-breed lamb that's just a few weeks old, the result will be entirely different from the 'lechazo asado' as made in Campáspero or Roa...

Possibly José Andrés is too much into sushi these days to spend much time musing on such obvious facts... :rolleyes:


Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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Víctor, I agree with Regol's proposition than Ferrán's style can be imitated easier than Santi's for a number of reasons. Amongst these, one that stands by itself is that Adrià puts all their creations in the public domain through elBulli books. The book covering the season 2005 just appeared.

What I don't agree with is Regol's implication that Adrià uses second rate products. The quality of the products used at elBulli is pristine. Granted, there are much more things happening on top of those products at elBulli, but that doesn't have to diminish the quality of the products they use in their dishes.

PD: For the record, José came across as a very passionate and normal guy, far from being full of anything but love for cooking.


PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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I agree with the statement above from Jose - the ingredients barrier is overrated. That is not to say that Spanish recipes of Spanish dishes traditional or otherwise made in the US will be the same as those in Spain, but they will still usually be quite good. The biggest issues are not with cooked items, but items eaten raw such as really top flight jamones, that are nearly imposssible to come by in the US. Certainly there are other dishes or ingredients that are impossible or nearly so to replicate, but that phenomenon is not limited to Spanish produce. Italian food in the US is not quite the same as it is in Italy either. It really doesn't matter to me how well food can be replicated in one part of the world from another. The replicated dish can be exactly the same, but if I could I would rather have it from the source if for no other reason than the romance of it. That I can get good Spanish or Italian food in the US, and I can, therefore in no way diminishes my desire to visit those countries and experience their cuisines there. Short of being able to do that, I am very pleased to be able to get excellent Spanish food in the US in places like Chef Andres' Jaleo for example.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Ferran's products are pristine, no doubt - but not specifically Spanish. Fine beef, free-range chicken, can be found all over if you have the $$. With, for instance, 'llenega negra' (Hygrophorus latitabundus) from the Montseny mountains, it's not a mere matter of $$, but of going out there and picking those delicate mushrooms, or of knowing the people who pick them...


Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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> Possibly José Andrés is too much into sushi these days to spend much time musing on such obvious facts...

And he has a vested interest in convincing the patrons of his tapas bars that they are getting a reasonable facsimile of what they would find in Spain (I'm thinking of his restaurant, Jaleo, not his other ventures).

Which is true to some extent, because he does a good job working with the materials available and avoids dishes that would produce inferior results. And, instead of specializing, he presents a very broad range of dishes from all over Spain--something that appeals much more to an American clientele than it would to a Spanish one. He basically has the task of creating a full service restaurant from a type of cuisine--tapas--that would span a whole street or neighborhood here in Spain. A restaurant that only serves jamón or only serves simply prepared cordero lechal wouldn't interest an American clientele. They have different expectations and entirely different eating habits.

But, no, I insist that even the best pork (and lamb and eggs..) available in the US is not of the same quality as what you would find in Spain. The diet of the animals is completely different. The climate is different. And in the case of ibérico, the breed is different. I feel quite sure that anyone doing a blind taste test of the best pork available in the US and a cut of iberico (talking about the meat, not the jamón) would choose the ibérico every time. Same goes for all of the other derivatives: salchichón, lomo, chorizo, and of course jamón.

I don't think it is just a romantic notion that most food is best in its natural habitat. I think this is a physical reality, particularly in a country like Spain that has adapted over the span of millenia so well to challenging geographic, cultural, and climatic conditions.


Edited by butterfly (log)

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Víctor, I believe that saying "Ferran's products are [...] not specifically Spanish." is a statement too broad. Just browsing the list of recipes in 2005, you come up with these ingredients:

- Extra virgin olive oil

- Ibérico

- Caballa (mackerel)

- Cañaíllas (Murex brandaris)

- White asparagus

- Chipirones

- Habas and guisantes (broad beans and peas are ingredients used in many Catalonian dishes)

- Iberic panceta and many other cuts from Iberic pork

- Perretxicos (St. George's mushroom)

- Crawfish

- Small monkfish (rapet)

- Turtledove

I'd agree that the results lead to dishes that, generally speaking, don't come across as being Spanish --or from any other national cuisine for that matter-- but we shouldn't disqualify the regionality of the ingredients. Not when one of the major sources when working at the Taller is the Boquería, not farther than 200 meters.


PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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> Possibly José Andrés is too much into sushi these days to spend much time musing on such obvious facts...

And he has a vested interest in convincing the patrons of his tapas bars that they are getting a reasonable facsimile of what they would find in Spain (I'm thinking of his restaurant, Jaleo, not his other ventures).

Which is true to some extent, because he does a good job working with the materials available and avoids dishes that would produce inferior results. And, instead of specializing, he presents a very broad range of dishes from all over Spain--something that appeals much more to an American clientele than it would to a Spanish one. He basically has the task of creating a full service restaurant from a type of cuisine--tapas--that would span a whole street or neighborhood here in Spain. A restaurant that only serves jamón or only serves simply prepared cordero lechal wouldn't interest an American clientele. They have different expectations and entirely different eating habits.

But, no, I insist that even the best pork (and lamb and eggs..) available in the US is not of the same quality as what you would find in Spain. The diet of the animals is completely different. The climate is different. And in the case of ibérico, the breed is different. I feel quite sure that anyone doing a blind taste test of the best pork available in the US and a cut of iberico (talking about the meat, not the jamón) would choose the ibérico every time. Same goes for all of the other derivatives: salchichón, lomo, chorizo, and of course jamón.

I don't think it is just a romantic notion that most food is best in its natural habitat. I think this is a physical reality, particularly in a country like Spain that has adapted over the span of millenia so well to challenging geographic, cultural, and climatic conditions.

While I will in no way disparage the quality of Spanish ingredients as many are truly special, I will not suffer the total disparagement of non-Spanish ingredients either. Unless one has had all the various breeds of pork or lamb available in the US, I do not see how one can claim absolute superiority over them in any culinary situation. Indeed use of different ingredients will make a dish different, but I posit not necessarily inferior. Even if the new ingredient is superior, it is conceivable that someone may prefer the native ingredient for a particular dish, which is fine. To think otherwise in terms of absolute superiority is simply a matter of cultural chauvinism. As for romanticism, I do believe that has a lot to do with it in many but not all cases. I also think that is ok. Of course, there are particular ingredients available only for certain times of the year in minute quantities in limited locations. I enjoy seeking those things out as much as the next person and they cannot be replicated elsewhere. Those things, however special, remain a very small part of a national cuisine. I believe Andres' point remains perfectly valid. His point was not an absolute.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Víctor, I believe that saying  "Ferran's products are [...] not specifically Spanish." is a statement too broad. Just browsing the list of recipes in 2005, you come up with these ingredients:

- Extra virgin olive oil

- Ibérico

- Caballa (mackerel)

- Cañaíllas (Murex brandaris)

- White asparagus

- Chipirones

- Habas and guisantes (broad beans and peas are ingredients used in many Catalonian dishes)

- Iberic panceta and many other cuts from Iberic pork

- Perretxicos (St. George's mushroom)

- Crawfish

- Small monkfish (rapet)

- Turtledove

I'd agree that the results lead to dishes that, generally speaking, don't come across as being Spanish --or from any other national cuisine for that matter-- but we shouldn't disqualify the regionality of the ingredients. Not when one of the major sources when working at the Taller is the Boquería, not farther than 200 meters.

In 1600 piquillo peppers or pimenton would not have come across as being particularly Spanish either.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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We're talking about recognizably Spanish cuisine here, so let's stick to that. I, for one, am not claiming 'absolute superiority' for a product over another one (although I have very little doubt as regards Ibérico pork vs. any other kind of pork in the world...), and that is certainly not my point. My point is: 'lechazo asado' is one of the great Spanish dishes, and you cannot have it in the United States because it demands a specific kind of baby lamb that is not available there, and a 40-lb New Zealand lamb just will not do (although it'll be great for other dishes).

My second point: despite vast improvement compared with a very sad and lacking past that I knew well, the availability of Spanish produce in the US remains absolutely marginal vis-à-vis the availability of French or Italian (or German or even Japanese) produce. Beginning with the still ongoing ban on Ibérico ham, of course, but with many more absences.

Oh. And Jaleo is not really much as a 'Spanish' restaurant, but it's interesting and fun as a 'Spanish-inspired' restaurant.


Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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We're talking about recognizably Spanish cuisine here, so let's stick to that. I, for one, am not claiming 'absolute superiority' for a product over another one (although I have very little doubt as regards Ibérico pork vs. any other kind of pork in the world...), and that is certainly not my point. My point is: 'lechazo asado' is one of the great Spanish dishes, and you cannot have it in the United States because it demands a specific kind of baby lamb that is not available there, and a 40-lb New Zealand lamb just will not do (although it'll be great for other dishes).

My second point: despite vast improvement compared with a very sad and lacking past that I knew well, the availability of Spanish produce in the US remains absolutely marginal vis-à-vis the availability of French or Italian (or German or even Japanese) produce. Beginning with the still ongoing ban on Ibérico ham, of course, but with many more absences.

Oh. And Jaleo is not really much as a 'Spanish' restaurant, but it's interesting and fun as a 'Spanish-inspired' restaurant.

Victor, I wasn't referring to your posts when discussing "absloute superiority" I had quoted Butterfly's post and was addressing comments therein.

But to address your issues: of course there are dishes that are nearly impossible to replicate such as lechizado. Even that though is not necessarily impossible depending upon one's sources. Iberico may very well be the best pork in the world. I am not stating otherwise, but the blanket statement made (not by you) was IMO over-the top and unfair. The availability of top quality Spanish ingredients in the US may not yet be as good as from some other countries, but it has improved markedly in recent years and is in fact relatively reasonable. One can now make a wide array of Spanish recipes in the US without losing too much (if anything in I would argue most cases). All this is not to say that the situation could not be better yet. I very much hope it continues to improve. Yes, I do want my Iberico here!

Jaleo is as much a "Spanish" restaurant in the US as any broadly ethnic restaurant can be in another country to which it is not native.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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If you go back to the original thread (which was bifurcated), you will see that I was never stating that all American ingredients are substandard to Spanish ingredients. Only that--in the context of reproducing certain Spanish dishes like fabada--there are often not good raw materials available in the US to do so. Jose Andrés asserted otherwise, but as I said, I don't quite agree.

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If you go back to the original thread (which was bifurcated), you will see that I was never stating that all American ingredients are substandard to Spanish ingredients. Only that--in the context of reproducing certain Spanish dishes like fabada--there are often not good raw materials available in the US to do so. Jose Andrés asserted otherwise, but as I said, I don't quite agree.

One problem with offshoot threads is that it can be easy, especially when going from the specific to the general, to find misunderstandings. Nevertheless, what I was questioning was not your previous posts in reference to fabada or other specific dishes but your post that responded to mine after the topics had already been split. The inference that I took from your post was that Spanish produce was globally and necessarily better than that in the US.

But, no, I insist that even the best pork (and lamb and eggs..) available in the US is not of the same quality as what you would find in Spain. The diet of the animals is completely different. The climate is different. And in the case of ibérico, the breed is different. I feel quite sure that anyone doing a blind taste test of the best pork available in the US and a cut of iberico (talking about the meat, not the jamón) would choose the ibérico every time. Same goes for all of the other derivatives: salchichón, lomo, chorizo, and of course jamón.

I don't think it is just a romantic notion that most food is best in its natural habitat. I think this is a physical reality, particularly in a country like Spain that has adapted over the span of millenia so well to challenging geographic, cultural, and climatic conditions.

While I will admit that much routine Spanish produce is better than the average and even above average American produce and that perhaps the best Spanish produce is in many cases superior to the same in the US, the best American produce is competetive with anywhere in the world from meat to seafood to garden products. Mind you I did say competetive, not necessarily superior. Dishes produced with top quality American ingredients in the Spanish style may not be quite the same as the traditional ones in Spain, but if done with skill and care will still likely be delicious. It is Andres' general comment that I am agreeing with. using substitutions will almost guarantee that the dish will not be the same, but if the substitution is of good quality the dish should still be good, albeit different. In some cases it may even be better.

I apologize if I was wrong to read your comments the way I did. I appreciate your clarification, even if I still disagree with your conclusion.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Let's see, John. We're not in a macho contest to see which produce from which country is best. The discussion here is on the importance of ingredients for authenticity in Spanish traditional cuisine. I say it's crucial for many dishes, and you say with 'replacement ingredients' the results can be very satisfying, thus agreeing with José Andrés' mantra. They can, but in many cases the dish will be so thoroughly transformed that it will bear no resemblance with the original and therefore should be called something different.

Let's take a reverse example. I've been for many years very fond of a dish that is, nowadays, rather unfashionable (not to mention politically incorrect from a dietary viewpoint): New England clam chowder. Well, I make a pretty tasty chowder here in Spain, but I never call it 'New England clam chowder' even though there are potatoes and smoked bacon and cream in it, because I cannot add what I consider a crucial element: huge, fresh quahog clams, of a size that will allow me to chop them into small morsels, are just not available in Europe. So I cook a very good 'New England-inspired' chowder with nice large Atlantic 'almejas', but the taste and texture are just not the same. I have to go to Boston to taste the real thing again.

You have tasted roast Castilian lamb in Spain, if I remember right. Do you sincerely believe that you can go to any market in New York and purchase a lamb that will enable you to replicate the recipe, the taste, the texture... the whole culinary experience?

(Reminds me of a rather infamous example from way back when Mama Leone's still existed in New York, and a visiting Italian soccer star was taken there for lunch. He later said: "Well, that dish they call lasagna here was not at all like what we call lasagna in Italy"… Of course, Babbo and Il Mulino are much better than Mama Leone's and the whole Italian scene in NYC is so vastly improved now.)

I've thought of some key regional dishes and of their adaptation to US produce availability. For example (a very partial list):

Catalonia:

Cargols a la llauna (seared snails on a metal sheet): impossible to replicate because the specific 'bobero' snail, which lives in vineyards, is necessary.

Fricandó de vedella amb moixernons (a stew of milk-fed veal with rehydrated fiairy ring mushrooms, Marasmius oreades): easy to replicate because the dried mushrooms are available in tins

Calçotada (roasted fresh scallions/onions with a spicy romesco sauce): can only be imitated because the necessary type of Tarragona scallion/onion, always kept underground, is not available in the US.

Mandonguilles amb sèpia i pesols (meatballs with cuttlefish and green peas): easy to replicate.

Botifarra amb mongetes (butifarra pork sausage with kidney beans): can only be imitated because Spanish-made butifarra and the small 'ganxet' beans are not usually sold in the US.

Valencia:

Paella valenciana can only be imitated using dried rosemary instead of snails because the small 'vaqueta' snails that imparts the crucial rosemaryish flavor are not available.

Gambas rojas a la plancha (seared red prawns): cannot be replicated because the Denia red prawn is an entirely different

Castilla-La Mancha

Morteruelo, gazpachos manchegos, perdiz a la toledana: all of these recipes use wild red-legged partridge meat, which is unavailable in the US (unless purchased from Venison America, which rarely carries it), so they can only be imitated.

Castilla y León

Cordero/lechazo asado (roast baby lamb), cochinillo/tostón asado (roast sucling pig), cabrito asado (roast kid): the raw materials are not available in the US, so these roasts can only be imitated, with results that don't resemble the original.

Basque country:

Merluza en salsa verde (hake in a green sauce): impossible to replicate as hake is not usually available in the US. Scrod or codfish can be used for imitations.

Bacalao al pil pil (dried cod in a garlic emulsion): easy to replicate.

Besugo a la espalda (sea bream, split open and grilled): impossible to replicate as sea bream is not available in the US. Porgies and other members of the Sparidae family may be substituted for an imitation.

Angulas en cazuela (baby eels, pre-cooked and briefly reheated in olive oil with garlic and guindilla peppers): impossible to eplicate.

Galicia:

Lacón con grelos y cachelos (pork's fore leg with spicy chorizo sausage, potatoes and turnip flowers): can only be imitated using turnip greens, since turnip flowers are unavailable in the US.

Caldeirada de rape (monkfish stew): easy to replicate if you can find whole fresh monkfish.

Andalucía:

Gazpacho: easy to replicate

Secreto, entraña, pluma, engaño, lagarto, carrillera, sorpresa or pestorejo of Ibérico ham: these pork cuts are impossible to replicate, both in grilled dishes and in stews, because Ibérico pork products are not available in the US.


Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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Victor, I am not sure that we are really disagreeing here. I am not saying that dishes especially specific ones can be absolutely replicated in the US or vice versa. That goes back to the argument about "authenticity". Can any ethnic cuisine really be "authentically" replicated in another venue? What I am saying is that the availability of authentic Spanish ingredients from Spain in the US is better than ever and continuing to improve with companies like tienda.com that will be importing jamones ibericos and othe Spanish meat products.

Even with these products dishes will not be quite the same. What I am saying and what I think Jose Andres was saying is that some pretty good facsimiles can be and are made. In some cases to some people the end result may even surpass the original inspiration. I will give a specific example from Italian cuisine - spaghetti con vongole - spaghetti (or linguine) with white clam sauce. In Italy they use the little vongole clams that are like manila clams. The dish is good, but when made in the US with littleneck or even better IMO, cherrystone clams the dish becomes IMO sublime. These are different versions of the same dish. That doesn't mean that I have any less of a desire to go to Naples and enjoy spaghetti con vongole. That also doesn't mean that this example is the norm. I guess if one is wedded to the tastes of very specific recipes with very specific ingredients, variation from that tends to be less acceptable.

What I believe you are saying, Victor and please correct me if I am misinterpreting your remarks, is that while similar dishes can be made and they may even be good, they could not be the same as the original because specific ingredients for those dishes simply are not available in the US. I agree with this.

Where I think we diverge a bit is the significance of this. I love the fact that I can get calcots in Catalunya in the spring and can never quite replicate them anywhere else. I also love the fact that I or someone else can come up with some pretty good variations that while not the same can be pretty satisfying in their own right. If they make me think of and pine for the original so much the better. As someone who feels strongly about the importance of biodiversity within the Slow Food movement I revere and respect the ultimate locality of ingredients. I may enjoy my faux calcots, but they won't make me enjoy the originals any less.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Some things are fakeable, yes, but some others are simply out of the realm of possibility, John, and let me insist: you cannot, absolutely, have Castilian lechazo asado in New York today - no ifs and buts.

Now if someone begins importing Castilian baby lamb into the US... But see, here's the fact: they are not doing so. Or angulas or secreto de ibérico or saffron-cap agarics... When the products become available, we'll talk about the talent of cooks using them. Since they are not available, it's a moot point.


Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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I've spent the last three years trying to replicate Spanish dishes at home for my cookbook. Yes, it's much easier that it was several years ago. I've just come back from a 25-city tour of America promoting the same book and cooking on TV and getting stuff like marcona almonds, pimenton, piquillos, or Arbequina oil have not been a porblem, even in the deepest Midwest. That said, on some, almost existential level, nothing tastes the same. Forget something as exalted as lechazo...take a simple revuleto or a tortilla de patatas.No matter how much you'll spend on boutique organic eggs here, it just won't taste the way it does in Spain. Vegetables were another porblem...those Mallorcan red peppers and eggplants in season you need for a proper Tumbet, for instance. Top grade bacalao, baby squid, fresh anchovies just off the boat, all the Iberico porkstuffs, the beans and the garbanzos, no you don't get them here. Yes, you can make a very nice cocido or fabada or paella with what''s available here but no, it won't compare with the ones prepared in the right places in Spain. Despite the wider availibility of French and Italian products here, the problem remains the same--you just can't have a "proper" bouillabaisse without rascasse. The problem with replicating Spanish dishes is that the producto-driven cuisine at good restaurants there is very minimalist & transparent, so without the producto you don't really have a recipe & there's nothing even to fake (the more conceptual "chefy" Spanish dishes are actually easier to play with). This isn't to say that Spanish ingredients are uniformally superior--go to a supermarket in Spain and you'll see the same flavorfless Chilean fruit. Yet at good producto restaurants, there's a refinement and rigour and sourcing that's absolutely crucial to the overall flavor of the cuisine. I've written five ethnic cookbooks and have to say that Spain has been the hardest to capture, particularly the simplest dishes. Which probably explains why there isn't a single truly authentic Spanish restaurant in the US. Then again, even in New England, I can count on my fingers the restaurants that do chowder with quahog clams.

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I'm not sure any of us are really in disagreement here.

Can the dishes one eats in Spain be replicated in the US or elsewhere? With few exceptions, clearly not.

Can they be approximated? I would have to think and say that many more dishes can be approximated at an acceptable level.

Can inspiration from Spanish dishes be used to create related ones in the US or elsewhere at a very high level? Here, I think the answer has to be yes. When I eat "Spanish" food in the US I am not necessarily looking to duplicate what I have had in Spain. I am looking for good quality ingredients and cooking that give me the feel of Spain the same as I would for Italian or French food. I would add the same for Asian cuisines, but not yet having been to any Asian countries (a failing I hope to rectify in the not too distant future) the best I can hope for is that I find the cuisine enjoyable and when I do have a chance to experience those cuisines natively, I can have some experiential reference point with which to appreciate them all the more.

To finish this point, I am actually quite happy that at this point in time, the globalization of the world's food supply has not yet reached the point that all the world's cuisines are easily duplicable anywhere in the world. I hope that there will always be dishes from Spain or wherever, that I can only hope to truly experience in their original locations and that the homogenization of our food supply never reaches the point that local variations, uniquenesses and specialties are a thing of the past.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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after reading through his very interesting thread, one question crystallized in my mind: "can terroir be exported?"

it is obvious that some prime ingredients can be exported fresh and others are exported preserved, but the culinary experience cannot be replicated

in a process that is a challenge for all senses, as is the appreciation of a nice dish with the pairing wine in an appropriate environment, al fresco, by the sea, in the mountains, you need all the components and not just a few

even the intensity of light, the humidity and air temperature play a role in the enjoyment of a dish

as you need the proper wine to pair it with, you need the proper view, air, colors, smells, sounds

in short, in my humble opinion, terroir cannot be exported, even if some products are

the consumer has of course the option of indulging in some sort of hallucination and transpose the real environment of the experience with the "original" one

however, he/she should be aware that this is more a mental and psychological trip rather than a culinary one


athinaeos

civilization is an everyday affair

the situation is hopeless, but not very serious

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after reading through his very interesting thread, one question crystallized in my mind: "can terroir be exported?"

Another aspect is that in general, Americans want lots of cheap food rather than the best. They are fine with 10 year old garbanzos as long as they are $1 a pound. We have elaborate pork bbqs with secret sauces and hours of prep but the pork comes from Sam's Club at 69 cents a pound. We are recipe driven, not ingredient driven.

Then again, even in New England, I can count on my fingers the restaurants that do chowder with quahog clams.

But the canned ones are so easy and I'm so darn busy (watching Rachel Ray and the Food Network on TV, telling me how busy I am !!!!!!!!)

It's getting better but we don't enjoy (this aspect of) a monoculture like Spain and Italy. They can agree what makes wonderful pork, paella, pasta, etc among themselves.


Edited by rancho_gordo (log)

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after reading through his very interesting thread, one question crystallized in my mind: "can terroir be exported?"

it is obvious that some prime ingredients can be exported fresh and others are exported preserved, but the culinary experience cannot be replicated

in a process that is a challenge for all senses, as is the appreciation of a nice dish with the pairing wine in an appropriate environment, al fresco, by the sea, in the mountains, you need all the components and not just a few

even the intensity of light, the humidity and air temperature play a role in the enjoyment of a dish

as you need the proper wine to pair it with, you need the proper view, air, colors, smells, sounds

in short, in my humble opinion, terroir cannot be exported, even if some products are

the consumer has of course the option of indulging in some sort of hallucination and transpose the real environment of the experience with the "original" one

however, he/she should be aware that this is more a mental and psychological trip rather than a culinary one

a very engaging idea, and one i agree with. Terroir cannot be exported. the very best recipes (dishes) and for that matter, restaurants have one thing in common; they are a product of their environment and exhibit a sense of place of where they are. In other words, they could not exist as they are if they were moved out of their terroir. It is hard to define terroir in the US because our culinary story is still a young one but just as the new world wine growers are starting to finally understand how not only terroir works but to apply it to their land (remember when they said it wasn't important and overrated? they just did not get it...), it will so happen in the maturing of our culinary story. Rancho Gordo is right. we are recipe driven ( and gimmicky, and novelty, and easily impressed with trends) and not ingredient driven in a general sense but, that will come around. It is part of the maturity process and frankly it can't happen soon enough. Watch.

One can buy a case of a wonderful wine that they had in Sancerre that is the best wine they have ever tasted becuase they had it on a overcast day eating oysters and crottin de chavignol in a small restaurant in the town a few hundred meters where the wine is grown and bring it home. Six months later they have a dinner party at home and proudly open the wine to drink and it is thin, acidic, and resembles nothing that they remember when it was bought. Good enough is unacceptable. If one can piece together a great terroir driven dish far from home with "good enough" ingredients, it is not the same nor should it be considered close enough. that is beside the point. the magic is in the intangibles and the true sense of place, not the "i followed the recipes, this ham is good enough, i worked/staged there for two weeks" mentality that is pervasive. as the finest ingredients become rarer, they will be the hardest part of the equation of truly exceptional fine cuisine.


Edited by milla (log)

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as the finest ingredients become rarer, they will be the hardest part of the equation of truly exceptional fine cuisine.

Exactly how I feel. And those of us old enough (like me, unfortunately) to distinctly remember the amazing quality of prime beef in New York steak houses before the USDA relaxed its standards circa 1978, or those of us old enough to have had 'angulas' (baby eels) two or three times a week in Madrid taverns at about twice the price of a dish of sardines (whereas the almost-extinct 'angulas' are now around $300 a pound...) are acutely aware of the dwindling availability of top-notch ingredients.

This has been largely masked by a parallel phenomenon - the worldwide availability of products from very exotic locations. (Any Spanish fishmonger now sells Indian ocean prawns and Korean octopus - fresh, air shipped, not frozen.) But, let's face it, greater variety is not always synonymous with greater quality.

The obsession with fine natural ingredients, OTOH, may be a southern European oddity (I'm thinking specifically of the attitudes in France, Italy, Portugal and Spain), and possibly this is not felt so acutely in other culinary cultures, where comfort and price and easy availability may be sufficient, and there is not so much anguish about the freshness of fish or the taste of eggs....


Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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I think there are several differrent points being made on this thread. I don't think that anyone has suggested that the best available ingredients should not be used or that a particular dish derives its magic from a number of different areas including specific ingredients and terroir. I certainly cannot nor would not refute that.

I also think that people are celebrating particular, special ingredients as well we should. No one is arguing against "truly fine cuisine". At this point I think we are all in pretty firm agreement.

However, after this we begin to diverge.

For all who are saying that such and such a dish can't be made or isn't the same, who really cares if it is the same? Why should I deprive myself of enjoyable food just because the experience of eating it is not the same as it would be if eaten in its natural habitat with the "proper" ingredients? Now mind you, I'm not saying it is a better experience or as good or making any value judgement on it other than it is pleasureable, the best that I can do or get and makes me happy eating it. Authentic is great and when it can be attained so much the better. This sentiment offers nothing against terroir. Terroir is wonderful. I wish I could afford to eat in Spain or California more often not to mention New York, Italy, France, Chicago and any countless number of other places, but then I would lose the wonderful terroir I have right here in upstate New York farm country. Unfortunately I can't have everything and sometimes I need to make trade-offs.

I certainly agree with Milla's wine analogy to a point. While that wine may never be quite the same as the moment one fell in love with it, it can still elicit a spark of that memory and feeling or even be accepted on its new terms. I also hope that the analogy does not extend to other things as I would hate to discover that my Rancho Gordo beans are not as good when made in upstate New York than in California (then again that may be true to no fault of the beans :laugh: )

I just don't understand why Jose Andres' statement as related by Pedro is so controversial. While not perfect the availability of good Spanish ingredients in the US is better than it has ever been and sufficient to allow for a good number of excellent Spanish-inspired dishes. In looking through this thread again more closely I think the controversy comes when specific examples are applied to the general statement. Certainly there will be specific dishes that are not duplicatable even if the setting can be set up a la virtual reality because the ingredients can not match those from the origen. I can't believe that was ever Jose Andres' point. I may not be able to make Castilian lechazo asado, but I can make a pretty good gambas al ajillo, pan con tomate and tortilla Espanola. :wink:


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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The topic on Identita Golose 2006 in the Italy Forum has an interesting discussion that is somewhat pertinent to this topic in that the primacy of the ingredient has been presented as a principle focus. I think it would be interesting reading for the people who have posted on this topic.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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