Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Roquette Science

December 2004 Dear Editor.

What do you think about a story, working title Roquette Science
On the molecular gastronomists?

Tracing the trend back to Marinetti who in his futurist manifesto Cucina Futurisimo in fascist Italy as well as attributing the demise of Italian supremacy to the slothful practice of eating pasta, invented dishes like salami dunked in coffee to be eaten while stroking a cat to the soundtrack of Wagner in a room sprayed with perfume? [Sound familiar?]

On a more serious note, how, much of the movement is based on pseudo-scientific assertions like The Fat Duck’s Heston Blumental’s justification that white chocolate goes with caviar because they both contain amines?

Amines of course are found in most organic compounds including meth-amphetamine, L.S.D as well as most other foodstuffs. In fact white chocolate has had most of its amines removed which would mean that caviar, if you follow his assumption would go much better with a big dark chocolate on ice. [I've always liked my Beluga with Valhrona.]

I would like to explain how Adria Ferran fits perfectly into the cultural context of the Spanish surrealists as an extension of Dali and Gaudi while the copyists are trying to dazzle us with science providing yet another way of alienating the diner from the cook.
It has always been important for the top end of the restaurant world to keep the diner at a good distance from the professional kitchen. Although the techniques are readily demonstrated and the doodads to make them available we can feel a little silly cooking a piece of beef for 8 to 24 hours at home but bow to the post-future-molecular masters for $$$$ a pop.
Also how molecular [read chemical] winemaking is considered to be the enemy of good wine and natural winemaking traditions are fiercely protected by master winemakers yet no such consideration is given by the new age cooks. This contradiction is ignored by many commentators, we all need the copy. George Lang once told me in 1989 that “ If Joe Shmo wants to read about a capuccino of snail caviar in a cloud of dry ice, who am I to disappoint him?”

I would like to explain how our palates are being seduced by manufactured concentrated flavours that are so strong and wasteful of valuable resources that food matches and combinations need to become more and more intense to satisfy our neophillic needs
I would also like to explain that all this intense food preparation is also extremely useful to a bottom line because many of the preparations are stable for considerable periods of time, allowing the restaurant to dazzle the diner with intricate presentations to justify exorbitant prices for essentially tiny bits of pre-prepared products.

Or to put it another way?

What’s the matter with the food I’m fixing?
“Can’t you tell that it’s out of style?”
Should I be molecular minded?
“If you don’t then you’re in denial.
Don’t you know about the new fashion money
Don’t need bees to make a new-age of honey”
Fat duck, mind fuck, cook muck, big suck
Still sausage rolls for me.

Photo is of a New-Style Sausage Roll from Studio Sunnybrae circa 2004
My excuse for this rant is that its 42 degrees C, some would say the perfect temperature to cook an egg.


t h e - g o b b l e r said...

XLNT argument George. I'm firmly in the Emperors new clothes camp when it comes to Molecular Chicanery. Having said this, if you really wanted to impress my generation next time, you'd cannily sidestep the tempatation to use the Billy Joel lyrics! May I suggest Echo & the Bunnymen next time?

Sunnybrae and all who sail in her said...

I know its only Sausage Rolls but I like it ?....

stickyfingers said...

...I like it, I like it, yes I do...

I was looking at photos of meals at Alinea in the US on Flickr and realised that this particular form of Gastronomy is very much in the vein of the DaDa Art Movement.

It's radical, makes you uncomfortable is unfeasible, but perhaps opens our minds to things that we could not have perceived possible prior to it? Will it also open doors in related fields?

What saddens me about Alinea is the names of the dishes are mere descriptions of flavours laid side by side. Then they are presented in a manner with no reference to their original physical form, on the end of crazy futuristic industrial implements.

I wonder if the long curving vertical metal spikes and glassware - which looks like it may have arrived in a time machine from the future - is opening doors of creativity for Designers?

I know that it is bringing new gadgets into the kitchen and now it would seem things may head that way in terms of beverages. So in the future, will we look back at it with nostalgia, acknowledge it as being a necessary oddity that leads to changed perceptions or will we regard it as a silly fad like Cuisine Minceur?

Anonymous said...

Picking up the Da Da theme from Sticyfingers at least the DaDaists were taking the piss, and not just laughing at the rest of the art world but at themselves. I fear that molecular gastronomists feel that they are doing great things for food. I tend to follow Georges line that they are macular econimists contributing more to their own bottom line than anything else. But we see that it is really a line from their own bottom. Cooking real food simply is probably the hardest thing to do, try cooking a piece of fish using nothing more than a fire and a little salt. If you can do that you have skill no major technology involved. Now if you cant do that you have take a mirror and use it to reflect the essence of the smoke onto the plate, but do make sure that you get a good image of yourself in the mirror.

Anonymous said...

surely this is where art and science should meet! Art theory ie dadaism etc has structure, theoretical construct, purpose etc (whether you agree with it or not). Restaurant cusine does not historically have this overlay or this level of intellectual rigour (and it's crying out for it! Even if only to avoid the excesses) Molecular Gastronomy is a catch-phrase applied by a journalist not a chef to a result, not necessarily a movement.

Sunnybrae and all who sail in her said...

Thanks for the comment.
If you wish to analyse or deconstruct Dada theory then perhaps you may have missed the point? Restaurant cuisine in my opinion does indeed have a rich and marvelous historical oeverlay and intellectual rigour that young chefs are by-passing for the shiny cool stuff? Some of the MG's understand that they need tags to get attention and then return to what they know their real diners want. I am not a luddite but am amused by ipods served with dishes, food taken apart and put back together in very contemporary photogenic ways, splurts of flavour and texture to gain attention...
I am sure we will be amused to look back on these days in the same way that 1950's food magazines look now. I have a copy of a book with photos of Fernand Point's food it looks so plain and simple but the flavour jumps out at you...
We seem to be getting our nickers in a twist... never mind the quality, feel the twist.