Art and cuisine, together in "El Thyssen en el plato"

The Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum has published a magnificent culinary publication, it is a recipe book made up of 25 dishes designed by renowned Spanish chefs; a dialogue between art and gastronomy; a journey through taste, understood as meaning and aesthetics.

The selected chefs toured the rooms of the Thyssen looking for inspiration in a painting in the museum. Each of them chose a work and made a recipe. A literal translation of the work to the plate was not sought, but an inspiration that could appear through the theme of the chosen work, the texture of the material used by the artist, the colors...

Each chef explains, in a short text, why he has chosen that work and what elements of the painting have led him to create that dish. Then there is the elaboration of the recipe with the list of ingredients, finish and presentation

The Museum has always shown interest in the world of cuisine, for some time it has offered visitors a gastronomic journey through some of the works in the permanent collection and in the Museum Shop it has developed the Delicathyssen line, which includes local products from excellent quality (oil, chocolate, wine, preserves...).

Prologue of El Thyssen en el plato by Guillermo Solana, artistic director of the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza

Among the delicious satires by Borges and Bioy Casares in their Crónicas de Bustos Domecq, there is one (“An abstract art”) that pretends to be a history of avant-garde cuisine in the 20th century. An apocryphal and ironic story, of course. In search of a purely culinary cuisine, finally emancipated from the visual aspect and from "well-presented dishes", the pioneer Pierre Moulonguet reduces all food to "a greyish mucilaginous mass". Another advanced, a certain Darracq, will take an even more radical step: in his restaurant he serves dishes with his usual colors but, at the decisive moment, with a Duchampian gesture, he turns off the light.

The chefs who have participated in this book are not from the purist school of Moulonguet and Darracq and offer us a fantastic display of cooking as visual art, through an amazing variety of ways to serve Thyssen at the table. Some of them create very literal replicas of the painting on the plate; Carme Ruscalleda even recommends a rectangular plate "to recreate in more detail" a Moholy-Nagy. Or Paco Torreblanca with his Kandinskian cake. Sometimes the affinity is concentrated in one technique, like Sacha Hormaechea's Pollockian dripping. Or in a trompe l’oeil detail, like the tiger skin of a Dalí painting simulated with squid ink on fried sweet potato slices by Roberto Martínez Foronda. To all this, there are cases of manifest heterodoxy, such as the “Mondrian” of oysters by Juan Mari and Elena and Arzak where the color green plays a great role, rigorously proscribed by Mondrian, what a scandal.

But the connection between frame and chainring does not have to be the color or the shape. The best “translation” of a wooded landscape can be a plate of mushrooms, as Víctor Arguinzoniz and Paco Morales demonstrate in their respective creations. The reverse of cooking as visual art would be painting as gastronomic art. What do the pictures taste like? The paintings produce emotions and the cook's task, as Samy Ali says, is to “translate emotions into flavors”.


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Rocío García