Saturday, August 13, 2011

What I Learned About Writing From the Travel Channel, or We Are all Molecular Gastronomists

I watched Anthony Bourdain's love letter to Ferran Adria's restaurant, El Bulli.  If you don't know who he is, please read Bourdain's blog on the episode.

Adria, along with his brother, Albert, have, and continue to, revolutionize modern cuisine through their use of molecular gastronomy to reinvent how we look at food.  For the most part, foodies hate Adria and all he stands for.  They claim that by using non-traditional techniques, he replaced cooking with tricks and gimmicks.

I respectfully disagree, but you could be forgiven for wondering why I'm discussing food on a writing blog.  One of the chefs, Jose Andres, said something very important.  He explained that the reason that Adria is so good at what he does, why his restaurant was considered the best in the world, is because his bases everything he does in a deep respect for basic ingredients and understands his culinary past. As Andres says "without the past, you cannot make the future."

In addition, Adria is driven by excellence.  Just because his innovations may have changed the world last year, Bourdain reminds us, Ferran Adria knows he must push the envelope further today.

Writers must do the same.
We must have a solid background in literature.  This usually isn't a problem, but we also have to keep reading, even after we give over what time we have to writing, so we can see what other writers are doing.  We have to know what has come before, so we can come up with something new.

We must have in intimate knowledge of writing technique.  This goes far beyond the mechanics of writing (but we ignore these basics at our peril). We also have to know the principles of plotting, characters, and all the other elements of our craft. 

Then we have to smash them to pieces.

Please try to catch No Reservations, especially when they show the episode on El Bulli.  And be glad you're not the dishwasher.

1 comment:

  1. "No Reservations" really is a fantastic show.

    I agree with everything you've said too. Basics are ignored at our peril (grammar, people!), and writers must learn about the elements of writing.

    *Because* of constant reading, it's possible to master these elements without knowing their mechanics, but I feel knowing them is very useful. Of course, one can make an argument for not knowing them. At the end of the day, writers should just strive to write well, and write out of that damn box--just as Adria cooks.

    Great post.