As promised a continuation of my introduction to this wonderful place. I will keep this narrative in roughly chronological order although my temptation is to begin with the meal Nikolas prepared for me. My second day began with a much needed run over the various trails crisscrossing the surrounding area. The equilibrium imbalance I experienced on the trip here has completely disappeared and my system is slowly starting to adjust to the higher altitude of this region, Even so, my lungs limited me to a slow pace enabling them to grow accustomed to the lower oxygen content here. I did manage to complete an hour of constant mobility before returning to the complex for a much welcomed breakfast. The early morning coffee Nicolas had served me was long gone as I settled down to a simple meal of cereal and fruit pilfered from his pantry. After he made my coffee earlier he was quickly away to his laboratory anxious to begin his creative day. He is as driven as I am if not more when it come to his project and he warned me it would be a late hour before he returned for our dinner, Even during the preparation of our coffee I could hear him talking to himself, analyzing the different chemical reactions of the brewing process and how it could be manipulated to enhance the result. I brought him a few beverage selections from the shop in Newton to thank him for the invitation to visit here. It seems like such a small gesture on my part in comparison to this incredible experience but he seemed to be genuinely pleased with my gift. He has used the variety of coffee beans each morning for the two of us but has retained the selection of herbal tea ingredients I included for his experimental kitchen. It seems at least two of the herbal additives I brought him are not easy to obtain in this area. The pytherium was of special interest to him since he had not encountered this material before and the osmanthus I cultivate in my own hydroponic garden was also new to him. They are both southern sourced plants so they are logically not easy to obtain here. I was surprised he was unfamiliar with the pytherium since it is widely used in the area where I live.
After my run and the replenishment of my nutrients I set out to explore the complex. They have a number of activities planned each day, all focusing around the Equine. The establishment is broken into different section, each concentrating on a separate faculty. The area just below the housing area is dedicated to the visual perspective of the creature. This includes a traditional art and sculpture studio but also offered a virtual theatre displaying the Equine from different perspectives in space. I pointedly avoided this area and headed for the auditory center instead. I had hopes of recreating the wave sensations I experienced on the ferry trip here and this seemed the logical place to expand this type of perspective and steer my mind away from my project at home. The sound perception area is located in the lower section of the main building, dominated by a large amphitheatre that opens to the sea. It is carved directly into the cliffside rock, sixty meters below the stone outcropping containing the monolith of contemplation. The shell shaped structure is immense, able to accommodate several thousand people for scheduled music events. Unfortunately there are none planned during my stay here, but there are several classes on focusing the aural property of the Equine. I attended one of these demonstrations, standing within the focal point of the amphitheatre training my body to detect the incoming waves from the Equine. The most difficult part of the exercise was quieting the mind in order to focus only on the auditory part of the body. With eyes closed, we reached out our perception across the open expanse of the auditorium allowing the incoming waves propagating in from the surface of the sea to enter the vortex of air inside the center of the carved out stone shell. It was similar to the manifestations I experienced on the ferry but intensified. The feeling of something just out of hearing was gone replaced by an allover vibration soaking into my bones and traveling along my spine to finally exit into the rock through the souls of my feet. I felt like a lightening rod collecting the sound particle out of the air and focusing them down to a single stream flowing through my body before directing them into the rock below. Once again the sensation stayed with me long after I left the demonstration. Another surprising aspect of the Equine I did not expect to experience.
I returned to Nikolas's quarters ravenous from my day. I restrained my desire to relieve my hunger in anticipation of the evening meal. I busied myself making notes on the occurrences of the day while I waited impatiently for Nikolas to arrive. It was late as he predicted when he entered the door laden with the bounties of his craft. Several of his team accompanied him, also carrying various pieces of equipment and consumables. To my surprise they deposited these on the large work surface in his kitchen and after given a short salute to the two of us, left the premises. I was then treated to the most incredibly intimate culinary adventure I have ever had. Nikolas began by describing his culinary philosophy and the history behind his concepts. A follower of the eighteenth century practice of Transcendental gastronomy, Nikolas explained how he became fascinated with this practice after reading an ancient book written by Jean Anthelme Brillet-Squarine mapping out this discipline. The ancient manual drove his craft to new extremes in culinary experimentation and set the bases for his future endeavors. The process Nikolas finally settled on uses a combination of the practice of this ancient meditation philosophy with the scientific molecular methods introduced in the twenty-first century. The mix creates an atmosphere that promotes and encourages the diner to savor every bite of substinance and analyze the texture of the ingredients. Allowing each morsel to remain in the mouth until the full chemical reaction is experience to completion before ingestion. It sounds strange when I try to describe it. There are not really sufficient words to do it justice. After his explanation Nikolas then proceeded to demonstrate the various techniques used in his kitchen. We sat well into the night, talking and tasting. Discussing each plate of morsels as if we were art critics at a gallery opening. Some of the dishes were in my eyes to elegant to eat but Nikolas encouraged their destruction with each offering explaining their background history and connection to the Equine. He taught me how best to enjoy each dishes taste and form using meditation and visual techniques pulled from his study. He used the majority of his processes during the performance ranging from spherification to produce his honey caviar with black mushrooms, to foam production for his artichoke and espresso nebulas. Strangely we continued to consume for several hours but I never felt saturated. The last dish of olive oil bubbles encasing wild fungi left an aura of satisfaction that no dessert on Earth had ever produced in me. I remained in a state of enamoured admiration at the abilities of this incredible man as I assisted him, clearing the kitchen of all evidence of our culinary journey. We then stepped out of the house for a short walk to “assist in the process of our natural digestion”. Nikolas fell silent as we passed over the dark paths of the complex allowing each of us a quiet moment to contemplate the experience we had just had. My mind traveled back to the past hours as I gazed up at the Equine in the night sky and realized the creature had remained in my thoughts throughout the entire meal, injecting itself into every bite and flavoring every morsel. I remembered the revelation that I was tasting a small piece of the creature every nibble I consumed. Each creation contained a focal ingredient as the previous night’s offerings but the finished products Nikolas created had an added aspect not included by his staff. The rosewater crystals he created half way through the meal were stained the exact tint of the flowing limbs of the anomaly. The acacia honey mixed with black tea formed a living sculpture of spider web filaments representing the signals emanating from the equine. Each delicate thread an explosion of flavors when broken off and consumed. My mind raced on and on as we walked, making each meaningful connection as I thought of the experience as a whole. Nikolas glanced over at me as we arrived before his door and smiled. “Now you have the full story.” He said then turned and walked inside. It will be difficult to return to my boring soups and concoctions once I return to my studio in a few weeks. I did not think it was possible to learn two new methods allowing me to experience the Equine in one day. I am glad to be proved wrong.
Let us see what the rest of my visit will bring. Tomorrow I feel ready to return to the Equine Journal. The prediction is for stormy weather so it seems an opportune time to continue with my study.