Showing posts from August, 2021

Pintxos - the creative spirit of Basque cuisine

The first time I visited Bilbao was in the late 1990s. My friend was a student there. It would never have crossed my mind to visit otherwise: ETA was still active; the town itself was sadly post-industrial (like so many Atlantic ports), and the only flights from the UK went via Brussels on an airline that was heading for bankruptcy. The Guggenheim Museum had recently opened in the old port district, to much disbelief and bemusement - why would any forward-thinking arts organisation open a prestigious gallery in such a town? Who would risk the disruption of separatist action to visit such a gallery?  Image: P Hodkinson Well, I was visiting and, as it turned out, so have many millions of people since. The Basque government had actually been very far-sighted when they approached the Guggenheim Foundation with an offer of significant financial investment in a gallery of contemporary art. What I found in Bilbao was a proud town that was not going to be defined, either by its declining marit

Heroes (4/4) - Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755 - 1826)

We all have heroes, people we admire and want to emulate, perhaps to impress. Some of them will be distant figures who may have lived generations before us, others will be members of our own family. All of them make us who we are. A few years ago, I gave a series of dinners in celebration of some of my culinary heroes, the final of which marked my admiration for Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, author of La Physiologie du Goût (the physiology of taste). Unlike the three previous heroes (Elizabeth David, Anton Mosimann and Auguste Escoffier), Brillat-Savarin never left us a single recipe. He produced instead a finely written collection of meditations on the value of good eating, which guide us through an approach to food that is at once careful and exploratory. Modern psychology might recognise in many of his meditations what we would call "mindful" enjoyment of the pleasures of the table. That his master-work has not been out of print in French since its first publication is t