Food Crank

Milkweed Pod

Maybe this is just me being lazy but I’m going to start out by directing you to a whole other blog called ‘Star Wars Modern’.  I haven’t the remotest interest in Star Wars or Star Trek (is there a difference?) but I was led to this site and its article “The Kitchen of the Future: Meatspace” while poking around in the field of molecular gastronomy.   It’s fun for playing ‘translate the typo’.  But more for the really-out-there musings on the future of food.

What is this thing called ‘molecular gastronomy’?
Think of complicated, not for the home cook, requiring such equipment as a cryovac, thermocirculator, tabletop wine press, refractometer, paint-stripping heat gun, to name a few.
Apart from your everyday exotics, ingredients might include hydrocolloids, potassium citrate, propylene glycol alginate, transglutaminase, xanthan gum, and on.  The procedures are many and often complex in the production of a single course.

The French chemist Herve This, the originator of Molecular Gastronomy, says that he’s not actually sure that he loves to cook, and he’s not even sure that he loves to eat.  Did the light just turn yellow?

The fabulously successful Chicago restaurant Alinea is a testament to molecular gastronomy.  It was created by Grant Achatz who is a wunderkind in the culinary sphere.  His personal story is also quite impressive:  a brilliant chef at the top of his game, he got mouth cancer.  After vigorous chemo and radiation treatments, he lost his sense of taste, and continued working nonetheless, his chefs stepping in to bridge the sensory gap.  Never missing a beat, he then co-authored a book about it, and proceeded to open a second successful restaurant, Next, and lounge, The Aviary.  This is a driven, resourceful human, who is making a big mark in his world.
They must be good, or why else would his restaurants receive such high acclaim, and why else would people pay “up to $3000 on Craigslist” just for a ticket?
And yet, my appetite for such a cuisine remains flaccid.  Why do I have so much trouble with this approach?   What is it that so ignites my ire?  To increase one’s knowledge of the science behind cooking seems worthy enough.   Is my head in the sand?

The French Laundry in Yountville, California has a $300 tasting menu composed of a dozen or so items, each containing five or six different elements and flavors.  All I can think is, if I ate so many combinations, I doubt that I’d be able to keep it all down.  Is it not gross?  I appreciate that it must be great fun to be on the creative side of it, but maybe what we really need is more kitchens that can turn out simpler fare, well prepared.

Blinding us with science?
Gilded lilies for jaded palates?
Desperately seeking amazing?

It’s come to this.  Food Snob is history.  I’ve graduated to Food Crank.

So spoil me with a ripe fig.


Have a Nice Day

This entry was posted in figs, modernist cuisine, molecular gastronomy, simple food, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Food Crank

  1. donna says:

    Food crank – I’m in.

  2. Maureen says:

    Just because we’re cranky doesn’t mean we’re cheap!

  3. This blog is really interesting. Allow me to be a little argumentative (What? Shenfeld being argumentative? Really?! 🙂 ). My friend, Leanne, has eaten at the French Laundry, and told me that it was indeed one of the best meals she has ever had… perhaps, the proof is in the pudding, or, more literally, in the S W E E T B U T T E R – P O A C H E D M A I N E L O B S T E R “ M I T T S ” or the C A R A M É L I A C H O C O L A T E “ C R È M E U X ” . Two years ago, Stephen took me for Valentine’s Day to a Toronto restaurant that features molecular gastronomy, called Colborne Lane, which we enjoyed. The most exciting part of the meal was when our server made home-made ice cream in a bowl before our eyes at the table, with fresh cream, lemon, and a cold steaming bowl of liquid nitrogen!

    • Maureen says:

      I knew I could count on you Shenfeld! Perhaps you can sense that it is not completely without confliction that I put this out there. I understand the impulse to make and/or to eat something wonderful, transcendent………perhaps we shouldn’t be satisfied merely with Iles Flottantes………still, something bugs me……I wonder if we’re just cursed with an overabundance of food and as a result, we lack the advantage that real hunger provides the taste buds. Consequently we need more artifice and contrivance in order to appreciate our food. Maybe. Or maybe I’m just being puritanical. I fancied myself part epicure. Can one be a puritanical epicure? n 05/09/2011 6:01 PM,

  4. I suspect that you simply don’t trust the scientific method to improve upon what is, for you, an art form, which requires knowledge, skill, curiosity, imagination, and flare… but, perhaps only a smattering of chemistry!

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