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Is the devil you know better than the one you don't?

Some reflections on innovating traditional recipes
June 15, 2018
4 min.

A couple of years ago, the famous British chef Jamie Oliver attracted a lot of attention because of a post on Twitter where he revisited one of the most renowned Spanish dishes: paella.
He suggested to add a twist to the traditional recipe using chorizo. His proposal attracted all sorts of comments, mostly negative. He was accused of outraging the (culinary) history of Spain; he was insulted and even threatened.
We hail Jamie Oliver for managing to have Spanish people putting their political divisions aside for a while with the simple suggestion of adding a new ingredient to paella.

On the other hand, he is just one of many chefs who dared changing classic recipes, bringing innovation in cooking. And he’s one of few who managed to obtain a lot of free publicity through social-media critics. In Italy something similar took place a year before, when two-Michelin-stars chef Carlo Cracco suggested to use onions instead of garlic in one of the most traditional Italian dishes; the Amatriciana. “Cooking is free will” he added.

The number of people who felt outraged by his revised recipe – spanning from culinary experts to football fans, from plumbers to politicians – added to the tens of thousands. The “incident”, named Amatriciana-gate, also caused some pacific street protests and brought elder housewives to open social media accounts to air their indignation. Well, we love Italian and Spanish people attachment to – and attentive care for- their culinary traditions.

The fact that everybody in the food production chain, from producers to cooks to consumers, pays the greatest attention to the smallest details is what makes even ordinary meals extraordinary experiences in those countries. On the other hand, at Walking Palates we also love to taste new flavours and new combinations; we admire those who are brave enough to try out new combinations when cooking or when combining food and wine, although we prefer when this is done quietly and not in order to attract free publicity. We know that not all of those essays will bring excellent results – but we also know that won’t be able to tell until we try it. In the end, at Walking Palates we cherish and protect tradition.

With our Walking Food Tours as with our Cooking Classes and Culinary Vacations, when it comes to showing traditions we strive to visit only real artisans who continue the true, local culinary heritage. We also believe that knowing the history and the stories of food you are eating makes it a richer, more valuable, more enjoyable and tastier experience. But we also love to experiment: when cooking becomes love as well as a form of art, it doesn’t matter if it is traditional or innovative.
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