Monday, July 20, 2009

molecular gastronomy or not?

a few days ago i was watching a midsummer night's dream on TCM, the 1935 version. it got me thinking about my favorite shakespeare quote (from romeo and juliet).

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."

so i started thinking in food terms. what's in a name? that which we call food by any other name would still be delicious.

molecular gastronomy is the study of food. molecular gastronomy explore textures, scents, temperatures and flavors in food. it's a progression of food. so why all the hate? because we dont really understand it? sometimes it's better to vent and hate than to do any research. no?

so i pose a quiz. you tell me: is it molecular gastronomy or not?

frozen aerated butter foam

encapsulated beef and mushrooms

dehydrated meat

encapsulated jalapeno and cheese

encapsulated ganache

sous vide cheese emulsion

explosion of corn

compressed and puffed grains

compressed liver

molded fat and air molecules

aerated sugar cookie

potato paper

slow oil poached flour

hot foam

dehydrated fruit puree

dehydrated ocean water

carbonized sugar crystals

extract of bones

suspended vinegar and oil emulsion

what do you think?

[photo from]
[oh, for the record, i hate the term 'molecular gastronomy']


rr said...

you couldnt be more wrong...

plinio said...

what am i wrong about?

Don said...

From what I have read, "molecular gastronomy" is jargon, one that is greatly disliked because it wrongly ascribes science as that which produces the dishes that enable new sensory experiences; novel combinations of textures, flavours, colour, and scents.

It so happens that these dishes are produced using tools and materials that are shared with chemistry laboratories. However, chefs and bakers have been working with chemistry long before agar-agar, liquid nitrogen, immersion circulators, or anti-griddles took stage.

At one point in time, refined starches, blenders and microwaves were considered "revolutionary."

Thus, what has been grouped off as molecular gastronomy maybe better seen as evolutionary not revolutionary. The related techniques, ingredients, and equipment, only diversify what is possible in the professional kitchen.

Here's a link to the backgrounder I wrote about our local practitioner of things "avant-garde" (more recently termed "techno-emotional"): link

I have found that a proportion of locals in my city are turned off by what they perceive as the laboratory produced food. Such cannot be further from the truth. Atelier serves traditional ingredients, just slightly re-imagined through the eyes of very creative culinary artists.

plinio said...

i speak to atelier's pastry chef from time to time on twitter, @pastryoverlord. great guy with tons of ideas.

i think the reason so many people are turned off by modern cuisine, is the menu jargon. the names that are given to their food. i could be wrong though. but i feel if a simple name is given and followed by flavors, more people would be open to it. a case in point, wd50. they name the foods and flavors, but no descriptions on how its made.

the whole purpose of this post was to get people past their fear of modern food terms by describing everyday food with modern food terms.

Don said...

I personally think that people are unnecessarily finicky about what they eat, no matter what is written on the menu...People will turn their noses up at liver pate, no matter if it's written as "compressed liver."

However, as someone who spent time working in well-equipped analytical laboratories, I don't want my menus to read like journal articles either...

As you say, this is why, when I recommend Atelier to people, I tell them I had one of the best "steaks" in the city on its tasting menu. I don't tell them how it was made (sous-vide ostrich), thereby bypassing preconceptions. Chef Holland's CSI dessert becomes strawberries, done a dozen delicious ways!

Speaking of which, I really enjoy reading on your blog how several of your desserts are made. I'm a believer that understanding how something is made, yields a greater appreciation.

I'm excited to eat at your restaurant someday. Same goes with WD50.

melissa said...

Your post has me craving explosion of corn, possibly encapsulated by a shell of caramelized sugar crystals and aerated fat extraction. damn you!

Nice one. ;)

I haven't forgotten about your jar of sweetened and gelatinized fruit pulp, either.

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