day one: San Sebastián Gastronomika 2011

San Sebastián Gastronomika is a gathering of the world’s greatest in the culinary world. I also often forget that its a festival of professionals, by professionals, and for professionals. These 30 to 45 minute cooking demonstrations that make up the bulk of the main program are, essentially, a glorified recipe exchange cum friendly coffee chat. Yes, that’s Alex Atala in front of you, picking at a candied pumpkin. But he’s just spouting off a recipe for you, then giving you a chapa (an earful) of what he thinks about the perfect ingredient. Then some pristinely pressed kids in their school chef whites bring you out a little spoonful he made just for you.

I’m sort of struggling to ubicate myself.
 My frugal, American instincts say “What’s the point? These are just glorified cooking shows and a big lounge of people trying to sell you something.”
Then my European side kicks in and says, “Marti. There has to be a place for ideas to live, to be shared. It’s enough of a  purpose to serve as a three-day incubator of ideas, that will then spread out to the world and serve to update shared culinary knowledge.” 
“Yeah, so everyone and their mom will be microwaving aerated cake better by this time next year.” (Ups, that was the American me again).

I think I’m getting it.
I mean, I think I’m really getting it.
Because when the big boys took the stage, Quique Dacosta, Andoni Luis Aduriz (of Mugaritz), and Joan Roca (of world #2, Cellar de Can Roca), well, I cried.

It’s not that simple. There were sheep. Basque sheep. And good, real country people....lovingly caressing baby vegetables, staring out to Cantabrian seas, and chasing geese.  I leave you with my personal highlight of the day, a clip of Andoni’s video about the providers of Mugaritz’s food. I mean, the part with the twin shepherd brothers, where one is talking about the microchip and how the naming of the sheep is a lost tradition now...the look on the brother's face...WAAAAH.

And then they're all like, "We were born here...later we came back here, and now we're here forever... When we decided to come to the caserio to work, at no moment did we consider working with other more industrial races that would produce more milk, so we could be more profitable." I think that's when the tears started. Andoni, take me next time! Click to watch.