Tag Archives: Jeremy Singer-Vine

El plato ostentoso

I gather the Spanish gastronomic community is deeply mourning the closing of El Bulli restaurant. For 50 years in Catalonia, El Bulli created culinary inventions that inspired chefs worldwide.

If you like food or if you like Spain, read The New York Times story about El Bulli; you’ll be captivated. During the short time I attended university in Spain, I lived on dorm food and bread and cheese. Oh, to have had the chance to go back with a little jingle in my pocket to indulge in some real cocina española.

If you like food and the words that describe it, check out Slate’s recent piece on the names of El Bulli’s menu offerings. This one caught my eye; then kept me entertained for way too long.

We’ve talked in previous posts about the wording of restaurant menus, about which you shared some of your favorites, some with tongue in cheek, hold the beef.

In the Slate piece, Jeremy Singer-Vine muses that dishes bearing such names as “Irish coffee of green asparagus and black truffle jus” cry out for satire.

Singer-Vine took the names of some 1,200 El Bulli dishes and created a technological algorithm that generates satirical sound-alikes. Though it’s not quite ready for the Wii, you can go online and play a guess-the-real-name game.

Because we have talked recently about simple versus pretentious language, I thought you might enjoy this timely diversion.

It also got me thinking about the name of my signature dish. 

In my social circles, I’m known for my pesto torte. It wasn’t mine originally, but because I have no one to whom to attribute it, and because I’ve made more than 50, and because I don’t know anyone else who makes it, it’s mine.

The problem is, when I say “pesto torte,” no one ever knows what it is. It’s fair to say some people know neither pesto nor torte.

My son’s girlfriend calls it “cheese loaf.” And you know what? That’s exactly what it is—cheese stuffed inside cheese, prepared in a loaf pan (layered with enough other ingredients to almost justify the fancy name).

I took one to my aunt and uncle’s last weekend. As I was setting it on a platter, someone said, “It’s beautiful; what is it?”

I said, “Pesto Torte,” which didn’t tell anyone a thing.

“What does that mean?”

I threw the question to my son’s girlfriend who said, “cheese loaf.”

Aha. Everyone knew immediately. Kind of like in My Big Fat Greek Wedding: “It’s a bundt.” (After several rounds about, the realization, “Oh, it’s cake!”)

In El Bulli’s defense, who’s going to pay 50 euros for a glass of asparagus juice?

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