So I'm trying to keep an open mind about all this molecular gastronomy stuff, I really am, but it is really starting to annoy me and I'm trying to figure out why. Mind you I've never experienced a meal at any of the practitioner's restaurants so I suppose my speculating on this "movement" is even further into the theoretical realm than some of the dishes I have seen or read about.
I keep asking myself why I am holding this curmudgeonly attitude. My taste in almost every other art form is very wide ranging and I am very accepting of all sorts of noise, (even to the point of hearing the beauty in the sounds of the refrigerator compressors and forks tinkling in the presoak bin), modern painting, photography, film, stage productions and other experimental arts.
So why this resistance? This dismissiveness? I'm certain fear plays some part in it. I'm being left behind. I'm too old to understand this stuff. I've become as calcified as a barnacle and unwilling to shift position. But when I look at any of the other arts I've just described the same set of conditions exists and I'm able to appreciate them, not be scared by them. Of course, I'm not making my living as a painter.
But neither are most painters which I think is another element of my attitude. There is a reality of the restaurant. You have to make money or you go out of business. If you practice another art you can get another job to subsidize your passion, and in some ways perhaps this makes you even more passionate. If these folks were doing this just because they had this burning need to create I might be less skeptical.
To further the painting analogy for every Dali there are about a million mediocre "surrealists" trading off the ideas of one touched genius. I think the same thing may be at work here, and yes, I chose a Spanish painter for a reason.
I also believe after this discussion of art that cooking isn't an art, but a craft. I realize cooks have been touting our profession as an art since at least Careme ("architecture-of which the principal branch is pastry") and probably before, but I don't buy it. I'm not entirely sure why but I think it has to with eating daily being essential for our survival. You can make the effete case that art is essential for our survival as well and I'm with you philosophically but I can go a lot longer without listening to music than I can without a bite to eat.
I also understand from the media standpoint the farm-fresh, local-reverent chef is getting a little long in the tooth and they've got magazines to sell. But that's another aspect which scares me. We're only now getting through to a lot of people that eating chemicals is bad for you and then some fool is out there coating foie gras with Pop Rocks. All this ink about chef's "laboratories" sends the underlying message, whether the media realizes this or not that chemical dining is not only cool, but better, than knowing where your food is coming from, and what it's going to look and taste like when it gets to your mouth.
I'm also glad these guys (do you notice they're all guys?, yeah the kitchen is still a male-dominated profession, but even if it weren't I think most woman have more innate sense than to serve someone a cinnamon "bong" of bison meat) are doing what they're doing. Good new ideas and techniques will come out of it. A lot of bad, horrible ideas will be born also. But nothing ventured...
I doubt I'll make it to El Bulli. Hell, I've lived in Northern CA for years and I have yet to make it to the French Laundry even. Or Chez Panisse for that matter. Not because I don't want to. But because I have no patience with trying to get a reservation somewhere.
I'm serious about what I do. But I don't take it seriously. After all, it's food. 24 hours later what does it become ?