Slate: Praise Jesús for No More El Bulli Articles
Ha! Now this is funny. As you surely know, I love to whine and complain about things I don’t like, including banal, regurgitative, one-upsman, and/or pretentious writing. Come on, don’t we all? Oh, be quiet, Double Rainbow guy and why do you keep hanging around here?
But because I’m not as gifted a writer as some (I know, shocker) (could it be all the parentheses perhaps?), I never capture my annoyance as well as has been captured here by Slate’s Noreen Malone. I haven’t followed Spain’s famous Ferran Adria restaurant El Bulli as much as others. That is to say, I knew of its existence and the fact that people in North America and other places flew to Spain for one night just to have the opportunity to eat one of his multi-multi-course cutting-edge dinners. But that’s it.
Apparently (and who could this surprise now that I think about it?), food writers and others for years have been falling over themselves to write about their “unique” and “amazing” experiences at El Bulli.
Here’s a snippet from Malone:
… Take this classic one, from an early example of the genre, a 2001 Esquire piece: “It came down to a question of faith. And I suddenly felt the presence of this man, Ferran Adria, somewhere in the shadows, holding the fork in my hand, guiding it to the plate, impaling a mound of caramel-covered, sweet-smelling tenderness that had been introduced as ‘rabbit apple.’ ” But even the Adria worship pales in comparison to the self-congratulation the genre draws out. Bard-of-excess McInerney begins his IAAEBP [Malone has named the genre "I Ate At El Bulli Piece"] with his signature second-person narration (”It begins with a glistening, olive-colored sphere, wobbling on a spoon as you raise it toward your lips, exploding in the mouth to unleash a bath of intense olive-flavored liquid”) and then, as if compelled by the inherent egotism and bedpost-notching of the IAAEBP, reverts to using a more personal pronoun to crow about “the best miso soup I’ve ever eaten.”
IAABPs, naturally, involve a great deal of one-upmanship. Oh, so you ate the regular meal at El Bulli? That’s cute. I ate the staff meal. And it was “very, very good.” You’ve only been there once? Poor thing, how little context you must have. Oh, you wrote an article about eating at El Bulli? Try a little. I cartooned my experience. Or, even better, I wrote a 29-minute electro-orchestral musical work inspired by my 35-course meal there. Oh, you ate a 35-course meal there? I ate a 37-course meal, and managed to work it into my New York Times wedding announcement. (Perhaps then, in those famously status-obsessed pages, scoring a meal at El Bulli is akin to a Yale law degree or an ancestor who came over on the Mayflower.) A mere 37? When you’ve had a 38-courser—and picked out extensive hypothetical wine pairings for it—then maybe we can talk. You just ate there? I ate there WITH Adria. Oh, you ate with him at the restaurant? I had him cook me a meal in my own kitchen.
Travel writers also have trouble putting a fresh voice on various places so I’ve seen this phenomenon in other ways and I sympathize with the authors but on the other hand, if it’s been done, sure, go ahead and eat there but don’t write about it or if you do, try a new twist (if possible).
Or am I just jealous because I want a 37 course meal complete with black sesame sponge cake with miso? Yeah, that’s probably it.