Fiction: Tapas. La cocina del Tickets

Author: Albert Adrià
-RBA Libros
-US Release Date: 11-14-2013
-Reviewed by:Annette Bridges
-Review Release:April 19, 2015

The reading public adores cookbooks, especially those with a regional focus that feature beautiful photography. Tapas. La cocina del Tickets adheres to this trope, presenting a brief history of an unusual and very popular restaurant followed by detailed recipes paired with full-page photos. The book describes the Barcelona restaurant Tickets, which opened in 2010. Tickets strives, like a theatre or circus, to “divertir” (entertain and amuse) as well as to “cuidar el contacto con” (stay in direct contact with) its customers. It has been hailed as an “elBulli del Barrio,” a more accessible version of the enormously famous elBulli, which was run by Albert Adrià’s brother Ferran and introduced its diners to the innovative field of “molecular gastronomy.”

In theory, this cookbook could hold great appeal for U.S. readers, given our current fascination with “small plates” restaurants and with culinary “fusion” (many of the recipes call for Japanese staples like hondashi and kombu). However, the recipes in this book are cutting-edge enough that most readers will be intimidated by the long lists of steps required for each. Encouraging English-speaking home cooks to create the multiple infusions, gels, foams and bases required by these recipes would be quite a challenge for a translator.

Presumably, speakers of Catalan and Castilian who have dined at Tickets constitute this volume’s primary target audience; I imagine customers perusing the recipes at home and eventually, inspired by their memory of a particular dish’s flavors and textures, cautiously picking out one to attempt. English-speaking readers who have not dined at Tickets, attempting unfamiliar processes with difficult-to-procure ingredients, would probably experience a translation of this book as doubly or triply “foreign.” A successful translation would have to present and explain very novel ingredients and techniques without alienating the reader.

The techniques employed include vacuum-sealing and freeze-drying; the ingredients used include sea urchin, quail eggs and xanthan gum.  A translator would be tasked (for example) with describing the process of extracting a sea urchin’s reproductive organs, or roe. However, there is a section in the back of the book (“Manual de uso”) that matter-of-factly and reassuringly explains how to perform techniques like vacuum-sealing even without the relevant specialized equipment, and like the rest of the book’s narrative, these directions are written in simple, short sentences that lend themselves to straightforward, literal translation.

Translating the text of this cookbook, and in particular the names of the dishes, would be quite enjoyable. Recipes like “láminas de ventresca de atún con erizos, jengibre y yuzu” (tuna belly strips with sea urchin, ginger and yuzu fruit) or “sepietas con vinagreta de su tinta y mentaiko” (baby cuttlefish with a vinaigrette of its ink and mentaiko [roe of pollock and cod]) might well require some preliminary terminological research. The names of the dishes are both very literal and very obscure, practically guaranteeing a poetic and exotically-inflected translation, full of phrases like “chlorophyll of seaweed and parsley,” “prawns in lapsang souchong tea salt,” or “saffron pearls and soy sauce crystals.”