[Portrait of an Old Man, El Greco]
Salvador Dalí: Have you realized that snails are like El Greco? Yes, yes, like Domenicos Theotocopulos, who, having been born in Crete, learned to paint the type of icons they make there with a sense of ownership, yet, as soon as he relocated to Venice, his admiration for Tiziano and the influence of Tintoretto transformed him into the most Venetian of the Venetians, the most sensual, colorful, and excessive painter of the Serenisima, but upon arrival in Toledo a tramatic conversion rendered him sober, austere, old Castillian, the gentleman with his hand on his chest, with an overflowing mysticism, the most sincere character in all of deep Spain.
Oscar Tuquets Blanca: Excuse me sir, but the relationship with snails is still a bit unclear to me.
Dalí: But Tusquets – it’s obvious! The thing that distinguishes El Greco, the thing that makes him an immortal artist, is his absolute lack of personality, is his ability to metamorph himself, like a chameleon, to absorb the values of his surroundings with such intensity that, in the end, he becomes more authentic than the natives. And the culinary value of a snail? What’s converted it into one of the heroes of so many kitchens and gourmet cooks? The utter absence of its own flavor, it’s capacity to absorb the essences of the condiments that accompany it and transform itself into what the cook desires. Besides, when I use my little fork to extract the snail from its shell, notice how it lengthens, taking on an appearance quite similar to those of the saints floating in El Greco’s skies…
-Oscar Tuquets Blanca, from the prologue to Todo es comparable, translation mine.
[Helix Pomatia, “called by the French name escargot when it is used in cooking.” Wikipedia]