A Week in Food

March 27, 2011

Thanks to my mother, I had the opportunity to see two extraordinary, opposite cooks this week. On Wednesday, I watched Ina Garten volley warm, witty dialogue with Anna Quindlen (my new other obsession–she was a fantastic interviewer). It was the perfect thing for the day, which delivered only a slushy wintry mix that showed its face way to far into March. Ina made it seem like every problem could be solved with a perfect roast chicken, smashed potatoes and caramelized carrots. She talked about how she spent most of her days testing out recipes, which sometimes included making 25 (!) sour cream coffee cakes. Where did all of that deliciousness go?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Thursday, on the same stage, Adam Gopnick interviewed Ferran Adria of El Bulli fame. He was glorious, and crazy, and I left feeling (in a ridiculously spoiled way) deprived that I will likely never get to taste his creations. Gopnick lobbed a question, “what was your earliest significant food memory?” and through his leggy, poised, British translator, Adria held up a glass of water and began to speak in his rumbling Spanish. He urged the audience to consider the water. To notice first that it’s clear, transparent, translucent. He notes that it’s odorless, and it has no taste. We see that it’s a liquid. He remarks that there’s no other substance on earth like it. That we need it to live. We begin to think about the politics behind water, the people who don’t have access to it, that our bodies are made up of it. He never answers the question, but the audience feels like a bunch of cads for never really thinking about water (or at least I did).

Adria takes this tack with a number of other things as he talks about his legendary restaurant on the Costa Brava and the institute of creativity that it will become after July 30, 2011. He talks about how it would take at least three years to understand a tomato. You start at the beginning, he describes, you walk into a field, you pluck a tomato and you take a bite. It’s unaltered. Next you could apply a knife to it and make a salad, then maybe a sauce, where the integrity of the tomato is still in tact. Next would be a gazpacho, where the tomato is essentially liquified. From there, you begin dealing with ideas of tomatoes, perceptions of tomatoes, and that’s where the food at El Bulli begins. However, before you start with that bite of fresh tomato in a field, you have no business doing anything else to it. It reminds me of Picasso and his perfect renderings that preceded his foray into Cubism. Genius is fascinating.

I can’t wait to see what El Bulli becomes. It did, indeed, feel special to get a glimpse into Adria’s head. While Ina hugged us in her giant, delicious bosom, Adria tried his best to get our brains stretching to both realize the obvious and go beyond it.

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