What the Sistine Chapel smells like

There is a film quote that has stuck with me for years. It is thought provoking and brilliant and somewhat implausibly flows from the pens of Ben Affleck and Jason Bourne.

‘Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel.’

‘I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel………..’. I love that- It almost makes me well up. The idea that we can garner information about anything on this planet, we can google and wikipedia (we have even made company names verbs for God’s sake) until we have the answer to any question that might vex us. I can find Google images of any natural phenomena, any chef’s signature dish, I can listen to a recording of Yo Yo Ma playing Bach on YouTube and I can download ‘The Birth of Venus’ as my telephone screen saver. But I don’t know what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. I have not felt the heat rising from the floor of the Grand Canyon, or sensed the vibrations from Ma’s cello, seen the perspiration on his brow. I know that Ferran Adria cooks mind bending, gob-smacking food- I read about it on line and I looked at his book. But without his food In. My. Mouth, my heart doesnt soar and it doesnt make me laugh in wonderment at the ingenuity of it all.  I could reel off 20 dishes from his menu, I could tell you the stats about his reservations (two million requests, 7,000 dinners in case you were wondering), I could tell you that his restaurant El Bulli is closed for six months of every year to change the menu. I could tell you that this restaurant has been voted by industry types as the greatest in the world for the last 5 years. I even programmed the route to El Bulli in my Tom Tom. FROM PUTNEY. I am a Ferran Adria freak, a distant disciple, but I have never smelt the jasmine wafting across the terrace on the salty breeze……… For El Bulli is my Sistine Chapel and we can all know so much and still know absolutely nothing at all.

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