In the publicity video for Ferran Adrià’s The Family Meal (his soon-to-be release cookbook based on the communal staff meals preceding dinner service at El Bulli) he says, “For me this isn’t a book, it’s almost a way of understanding life”. As a writer aiming to link the culture and values of food markets with a larger life philosophy, I was immediately intrigued.
This book also sparked my interest because it is published by Phaidon, a publisher whose food and travel texts I find so gorgeous, so tantalizing as objects (let alone the content inside) that I even once applied for a position in their intense one-year “graduate scheme”.
The timing for the book’s release really couldn’t be better, as the concept of the “family meal” is right in line with numerous trends in contemporary food culture. Given the influx of communal tables at restaurants (from chains like le Pain Quotidien to smaller, trendier ventures), the increased acknowledgment in the food world of restaurants serving “low-brow” cooking, and the fact that we’re all a little (or a lot) more strapped for cash – cheap, efficient and delicious dining is the quintessential embodiment of this moment in food history.
Surprisingly, I’ve found only a few pre-reviews of the cookbook, which officially goes on sale October 1st. But the preview photos on Phaidon’s website reveal everything I needed to know. It is clear that the soul of this cookbook is best revealed in the photos of the kitchen staff, slurping down Adrià’s delicious makeshift grub before the dinner rush. Chins nearly on the table, nearly double-fisting their meal, they are the essence of conviviality, comradery, and “pre-game” excitement.
And if that isn’t enough to intrigue you, perhaps Grub Street put it best, “If you didn’t score reservations for ElBulli’s final season, you can finally taste the dishes that wouldn’t have been served to you even if you had gotten in”.