Cooking Up Surprises

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"Don't play with your food!" Mom said. But the six people TIME has chosen as culinary innovators for the new millennium are just not hearing it. They toy with the very idea of food--how it is prepared, packaged, filigreed, tricked up, dramatized. They know we must not only have our daily bread but also be able to make it novel--or nouvelle. And innovation can encompass cuisines haute and bas. The motto of chef Ferran Adria is a simple but lofty "creation means not copying others." And that means bone marrow crowned with caviar as well as tagliatelle made of strips of jellied consomme. Then there are the workaday renovations: the store-bought zest that transforms the meat loaf, the iced tea in a bottle you can take on the run. Or the moment's fashion sensation: the Flirtini, invented by Ruven the bartender at New York City's Guastavino's, inspired by the HBO series Sex in the City ("Everyone copies it," he says, "but forgets the raspberries"). The secret is that food must satisfy not just the physical pangs of hunger but also the nourishment of memory. For eating is at the heart of the art of living. Listen to the bride-to-be discussing table settings and potential banquet halls for her wedding. Look at the young immigrant wiping away a tear at the thought of the langoustines, ripe with roe, prepared by his mother back in Spain. A madeleine evoked Proust's Remembrance of Things Past. Imagine what Kellogg's Froot Loops may do. We are what we eat.