Before-and-after designs: left, coloured Plasticine model … right, real food on the plate by El Bulli chefs
❚ EATING CAN BE THEATRE, just as food can be art. The Catalan chef Ferran Adriá is Houdini and Picasso in one, commonly lauded as the best in the world. His three-Michelin starred restaurant El Bulli, two hours north of Barcelona, was an academy repeatedly garlanded by scholars who take dining seriously. Since 1987 it grew to serve 1,500 plates daily, prepared by 50 cooks and served by 30 staff typically to only 50 companions at table. Its culinary revolution is known as “molecular gastronomy” famed for scented gels and foams and for using every part of every animal and plant.
Adrià’s manifesto: No 10 of his 23 principles that summarise El Bulli’s cuisine
Now after 25 years of experiments, Adriá is replacing the restaurant with an inspirational foundation, while his career is being celebrated in Spain’s first major exhibition about cooking. In a series of galleries at Barcelona’s Palau Robert, we are blown away by a fearsomely complete collection of photos, letters, utensils, mementoes, and a vast poster of the 1,846 dishes catalogued by the restaurant. Best of all are the videos in which we see his edible creations being conjured. Another simple but charming glimpse behind the magician’s hand is a table-top displaying before-and-after designs of individual dishes: ingredients modelled from coloured Plasticine are composed as templates for his chefs to translate – abracadabra! – into the resulting plates of food shown alongside.
➢ The free exhibition Ferran Adrià and El Bulli runs at Palau Robert, Barcelona, until Feb 3, 2013
➢ Should I eat it or frame it? The Guardian’s art critic Adrian Searle reviews 40 courses of art food at El Bulli
“ Tonight’s dinner involves all the senses, it engages the mind, and is also, at times, a strangely emotional experience. The dishes can be confrontational as well as exquisite… The constant stream of surprises continues for more than four hours – the green leaf that tasted exactly of oysters; the grilled strawberry with ginger on the outside and an injection of gin on the inside; the polenta gnocchi with coffee and saffron yuba; the perfect razor clam with its gelatin twin in the other half of the opened shell. Playful, arresting, occasionally alarming, the meal is almost like a story… ” / Continued at Guardian Online
❚ THE “WORLD’S MOST USELESS MACHINE” is not new news but it did raise a smile during a trip to the year-old Museum of Ideas and Inventions – essentially a hands-on diversion for restless children – while Christmassing in Barcelona. The co-founder of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s laboratory of artificial intelligence, Marvin Minsky, came up with the idea in 1952. Electronics engineer and the “father of information theory” Claude Shannon, who worked with Minsky at IBM, liked the idea so he built the machine. It is a battery powered box, the sole purpose of which is to turn itself off after some human hand has turned it on.
You too can assemble your own useless machine in beginner-level electronics kit form (from US$35 + shipping), or in a ready-soldered version (from US$55 + shipping). Both include printed circuit board.
➢ Museum of Ideas and Inventions lies a few yards away from Plaza Sant Jaume, in Barcelona’s Gothic quarter
➢ Buy your own Ultimate Useless Machine online from Frivolous Engineering Company in Canada