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Building Edible Sandcastles And Resonances From The Seashells

23/01/2017 11:25

Along this stroll along seashores, I have learnt. I have explored. And I have dreamt.

Sometimes, as I sat on the sandy beaches, ruminating and piecing my findings together, my fingers could not resist the temptation of feeling the texture of the sand around me. And so I continued a childhood passion -- that of building sand volcanoes instead of typical sand castles. But of course, on my mind, are the keywords that I had been thinking much about: gastronomy, regionalism, nationalism, ... In general, food. And its implications. A little bit of role playing allowed me to shift my perspectives and for a moment, I indulged in the idea of role-playing a soon-to-be Michelin master chef, despite my terrible cooking skills in real life, especially when contrasted with those of my classmates at the Luiz Irizar cooking school, some of whom are actually chefs in local restaurants or aspiring ones looking to gain admission to this prestigious cooking school's tuition-free two-year programme. If I were to use sand as my ingredient in an abstract sense, what would I do? What if there were no constraints to start with, in my hypothetical scenario? How would I innovate? Could I improvise, regarding the entire cooking process as a show? ... These intriguing questions would then bring me back to reality, as I try to grasp ways in which human ingenuity could create products so remarkable as creative pinchos/pintxos --- "alta cocina en miniatura" (high cuisine/cooking in miniature).

As I moulded my sand volcanoes, I considered the more general abstract idea of moulding identities. Food and gastronomy, as we have already discovered thus far in this debriefing piece, are so much more than the mundane and are actually worthy subjects of years of serious academic research and reflection through writing and potentially other more creative forms. My summer of desktop research that had centered the near-monthlong field research phase was surely a long way from a sufficient time frame, but I will refrain from whining about time, for the very interest of time. While there are certainly ways to delve into greater depth in drawing more conclusions and bringing more contributions to the field, I did experience firsthand the integral role that food plays both as a manifestation of modern Spain's national identity and its often-existing tensions with local/regional ones in the era of globalisation, and as a way of further moulding identities.

***

Pick up a seashell and listen to what it has to say. Perhaps... Perhaps, it is telling us to piece everything together, to hear the resonances and echoes of time, to construct, deconstruct, and reconstruct... If so, what parallels and conclusions can we draw from our strolls along the seashores of España? Let us reconstruct what we have just constructed and deconstructed by analysing that metaphoric image in relation to the gastronomic evolution in Spain.

Hints
1. "Taking steps forward": avant-garde culinary movements, New Basque Cuisine (shaped by the French nouvelle cuisine movement), molecular gastronomy (e.g. El Bulli), etc.
2. "No flip flops": for a moment, one can let go of some traditions and step out of the comfort zone
3. "Feeling the marvelous balance": reaching a perfect equilibrium between tradition and innovation is demanding, but once you do, you would feel fantastic
4. "Acceptance": historically, Spain is not exactly known for embracing diversity, but modern Spain cannot resist the strong forces of globalisation. Yet, while gradually accepting elements of foreign influence and cultural diversity, many regions in Spain stick to regional traditional gastronomies and take much pride in tradition instead of modernity.
5. "Unexplored land" vs. "prior visitors" vs. "new footprints" vs. "nostalgic waves": waves push and pull, leave and return, and continue this cycle again. Ultimately, there is a great deal of a desire to preserve traditions in various parts of Spain. Many chefs, while happy to seek some foreign triggers of creativity and culinary ingredients, see their regional cuisines as fundamental roots and traditions that need to be conserved actively. In Spanish regional and national gastronomies, we see a recent trend of innovation and the impacts of external forces, but there is surely a cycle of going back and forth between tradition and modernity, internal and external influences, etc.

*Granted, our syntheses and takeaways may look different. Nevertheless, ruminating about life requires different angles and perspectives. Ultimately, my wish is that this journey has been an enjoyable one for you. Well, it certainly has been for me.

Tilt your head a little more, so that your peripheral vision captures the stunning seashores and the golden beaches concurrently. By slightly altering the angle of your head, you can readily see how the sandy beaches are now featuring a few other early birds' footprints while the old ones get slowly washed away by the nostalgic waves...

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