I get up like every day a little before 8:30 to take the girl to school and in the shower, putting the shampoo on, I confirm what I feared last night: the cold has left me without smell. This is always a bummer, but the extraordinary fact that I am going to dinner at Mugaritz tonight adds to the seriousness. I’m tired, a little dizzy from the antihistamine and with a runny nose. Not even the Utabon manages to cut my mucus and I get in a very bad mood thinking about what I’m going to miss. I also think about canceling the reservation and the trip and leaving Maria at school and going back to bed and bundling up and sleeping until the anger and helplessness pass me.
But right away I remember that Mugaritz expects from me – at least – the same thing that I expect from Mugaritz. And what a few minutes ago was grief becomes a challenge. I go without much hope to buy Rino Ebastel, and I even manage to make myself, in case it works the miracle, with amoxicillin 750 and without a prescription. But I don’t care about the medications, and my nose, and I stop feeling my cold as a disadvantage because the idea of living a Mugaritz deprived of such an elemental sense excites me, and having to concentrate much more on others. I feel creative, author, explorer of a new route and the only thing I have come to the world for is to be Maria’s father and to write good articles.
In Mugaritz everything is a trigger, nothing is banal, and precisely for this reason, taste is only one of the impacts, not even the main one. In fact, in smart cooking, and all of them should be, smell is the most obvious sense, the most populist, the most demagogue. The one that takes everything and does not allow you to go deeper. The most important organ of Mugaritz – and I dedicate this phrase to Martín Berasategui, and he knows why – is not the nose but the brain. And very especially in Mugaritz, the first sense – and I am not saying this to adapt the speech to my poor condition – is touch. Mugaritz expresses himself with ideas, and these ideas take shape, above all, through play and textures. If Andoni made a physical museum with something that explained his work, we would have to touch it.
I arrive at the restaurant with the euphoria that only the first few times provide, with a part of me watching the other, which has lost its sense of smell and prepares its other senses to know if Mugaritz’s love is total or just a set of tricks gimmicky; to know if after the years there is still something exciting and revolutionary among us, so it is worth going to war and wiping out everything else to found a new empire. Because to Mugaritz, to El Bulli -and even to me- the only way to love us is incendiary. Either all or nothing. And if that’s all, nothing else is needed.
The first kiss is my tongue against a face covered in flowers. The touch of ceramics on the tongue, like a snorting to give thanks for these foods and bless the people who have prepared them. After this kiss – love after love looks like this ray of light – we will only have a long and sad nostalgia. Tell me if you could choose between touching a petal and a smell, tell me if your kisses, all your kisses, would have been made only of flowers on a very white face.
Wine costs more in textures, especially to me, than I don’t know anything about wine. But drinking from a glass when I take the stem of this Zalto glass and bring the crystal to my lips, it is the age of consent back at thirteen.
The milk sponge melts in your mouth, elusive like a childhood memory. I don’t know what it smells but so white it reminds me of the smell of Maria’s head when she only drank milk. The cod rind is finally a reward for all the times we open the bags of Bocabits hoping that one, just one of its rinds, would not be made of polystyrene. A cult return to adolescent games. Nasty elevated to artistic discipline. Andoni taking you by the hand to return to your scenarios and explain them little by little, and already knowing how to win what we always lost before. And to close the cycle, the cod tripe croquette. The first love that left your mouth smeared with happiness and it took a lot of champagne to rinse it off.
But the night stops to go nowhere else when the sake handkerchief arrives. Andoni wonders if sake can be eaten, which is a question no other chef has asked at any other time in history. Mugaritz depends more on your questions than on your answers and just because the questions are always the right ones, the right ones, the dangerous ones, the ones that create pain and anguish, we can sometimes – just sometimes great love – make peace with the world and with ourselves. This is the sublime, the wonder of Mugaritz: the place where it takes you just before the big jump. Asking yourself if you can eat the sake is already a victory. What happens later, even if the fall kills you, can only be silence and glory. The question is the flash and then there is silence. Tense, unstable, uncomfortable silence, until an answer arrives and sometimes it makes you smile and other times, the world stops and there is nothing else that matters. One of these moments, even if it is only one in a menu of 40 dishes, is more crucial, relevant and favorable to the interests of Humanity than the entire production of all the restaurants in the world during 10 years. An exact verse is more important than all novels and all essays.
The sake handkerchief, and I do not know what it tastes like, nor did I want my table companions to explain it to me, it is an impossible skin caress, the smooth and the innocent, what is sin and what leads to holiness, what takes you back to childhood and what makes it jump through the air. Tenderness and lewdness. The delicacy and the approach. The touch on the border of what is dangerous and tempting, of what scares us and we walk blindly. We immediately ask for the encore, while the myth crystallizes, and when it arrives, each one recreates it in their own way, each one connects with their emotion, with their concrete memory through the unusual skin so white that I hold in my fingers, playing with its resistance. until just before it starts to fall apart.
Playing with my stamina until just before it starts to unravel, as Mugaritz always does with me.