Sunday, February 28, 2010

Checking It Out

My kitchen is well stocked with various gadgets, pots and pans. My bookshelves are crammed with a weird mixture of cookbooks - both for food and for Photoshop. My browser favorites files burst with a wide range of culinary blogs, food sections of national newspapers and food porn. But before there was all that, there was the Library. I love libraries. An incredible resource especially if you have control issues walking into a Borders or Barnes & Noble. Luckily I live in a county that has an excellent library system. Even their trucks are cool.But I didn't realize how good my library was until I saw Ferran Adrià's A Day at elBulli on the shelf. 600 pages of text, photos and recipes, it's not really a cookbook unless you're plugged into the "Adrià/elBulli way" of cooking. It's more a book of philosophy.That line about chefs should be better tasters is particularly fascinating when you think about how many times we've heard some poor Top Chef contestant try and explain why their dish tasted like crap.Oh yeah, Ferran, I struggle with that last one all the time.I really love the belief of making the chef, the waiter and the guest all equal parts of the production of a great dish. A total experience, each important to the process.

Of course, all this deep culinary thinking recently became a bit confuzzled. You see elBulli is only open for 6 months out of the year and only open for dinner. Each year approximately 8,200 guests dine at the restaurant compared to the two million requests they receive. Now in 2008 it cost € 200 (about $316 US) for the tasting menu. Sounds like a bargain to me for the restaurant voted Best Restaurant in the World but what it didn't do was cover the costs of making that meal. In January Adrià announced he would be closing elBulli, in part because they were losing half a million euros a year. Suddenly a whole lot of Foodie Bucket Lists took a big hit. Here's hoping your library is as extensive as mine and you can at least check out Adrià's book. You might even try your hand at making Mango and Black Olive Discs but good luck borrowing 25 grams of Isomalt from your next door neighbor.

10 comments:

froggy said...

>if you have control issues walking into a Borders or Barnes & Noble.<

And then there is the bookmark on your computer...

Big Shamu said...

Actually Froggy, I can resist the shopping call on the computer. It's when the book is in my hands, looking at the pictures, finding that one recipe I suddenly need to make. HELLOOO Trouble.

Making Space said...

I love that philosophy. I think I can extend that to the kind of work I do as well. Everybody is a vital part of the production. Hm... I wonder what it means that the place was so fantastically out of proportion financially? Again, a question I ask daily about my line of work as well. Good stuff. Nice library truck!

intuitive eggplant said...

Yes, the library truck is fantastic - can you actually get their fish at your library, Shamu? Great suggestion to check out this pricey book at the library. Based on your selections, this book sounds like something I would be able to get a lot out of even if I don't have the chops (or the Isomalt) to cook from it. The mind of a chef is a fascinating thing . . .

Dani said...

Looks like a book you could really tuck yourself into.

I have to say, a great love in my life has always been the library. A few years ago, everything went online with Polarus(sp.?)and now I can just search their database.
Even better, they put in a drive thru at my local library last year. You can just reserve your book and pick it up at the window. Awesome for the disabled population.

Big Shamu said...

It's a fascinating book and I was pumped to see it sitting there on the shelf of the library. Of course I've had it so long that the overdue fines are piling up.

Eggy, wouldn't that be cool, getting both kinds of brain food at the library?

Dani, it sounds like your library is one of the good ones. If we had a drive through like that I would certainly wouldn't get caught in the web of "one more aisle, just one more"

MS, it meant that Ferran cares more about the entire process than making as much money as he possibly could. Not to mention the pressure.

Boxer said...

the business person in me thinks why doesn't he open the restaurant year round? Open for lunch! Sell t-shirts!

I love my library. It was my first job as a teen. They gave me the job because I practically lived there.

Big Shamu said...

Because you're not talking to the business man, you're talking to an artist. An artist who has the incredible drive to create, to push the culinary boundaries. I don't get the impression that it's been about the bottom line. It's about what's possible and making that happen.

I'm right there with on the Library love.

moi said...

But artists who don't think like businesspeople eventually deprive the world of their art. Fine line to walk, but it's gotta be done.

I'm in libraries all the time, cause you just can't do good research on the innernets. At least not at this point in time.

Big Shamu said...

Do we really want artists to be good business people? Or do we just want them to produce the best art that their ability allows? I think the timing was right for Ferran to be in a place that allowed him to be the artist that he is with the business he dropped into. I think the pressure of disappointing a two million person waiting list was overwhelming. It didn't matter if he worked year round 24 hours a day, the list wouldn't diminish more than likely only grow but the quality would probably suffer.
I think more people are upset that they didn't get a chance to put a prestigious feather in their foodie caps.