Saturday, November 13, 2004

Independent food special

Today's Independent food special is online (although I don't know for how long), which saves you wasting your money on the rest of the paper. Articles on Giorgio Locatelli, posh party catering, Tom Aikens and recipes by Mark Hix, inter alia.

In the main bit is an article on the new trend of so called 'molecular gastronomy'. It is quite informative, mentioning Harold McGee, but there seems to be definitional problems arising as to what constitutes this new trend. Heston Blumenthal of the Fat Duck is quoted: In fact, molecular cooking is not about unusual combinations or difficult dishes, it's about chemical and physical combinations.

I am a bit puzzled by this - cooking is all about science (how to make custard, mayonnaise...) so there is nothing new here except it has become more explicit. There are of course novel techniques but the main buzz about this style is the unusual flavour combinations (white onion risotto with parmesan air and espresso for example) but again, this is a continuation of a general trend. The combination of flavours is based on science - on how and why certain flavours do and don't taste nice. In this sense, as long as something tastes nice, it shouldn't be seen as mad. From a scientific point of view, I don't think there is any reason why vanilla and not thyme is the default ice-cream flavour. They work equally well in my opinion - it is more a tradition that favours one over the other.
It is little coincidence that certain flavour combinations are so popular (tomato + basil / chocolate + orange) and the new "wacky" flavours are but extensions of underlying scientific principles.


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