January 19, 2010

Pondering Foam or: Get That Scum Off My Steak!

I find myself of two minds when it comes to foams, essence, and Molecular Gastronomy in general. On the one hand, isn’t it just a natural evolution of culinary exploration? On the other, why do I need flash frozen celery root puree on my plate?

More and more there seems to be two teams when it comes to modern cooking. The first is the back to the farm route. Let’s re-discover the local veggies together. Let’s lovingly feed and take care of dear old Betsy before we slaughter her humanely and grill her up on Sunday. I love that restaurants now have their own gardens that they pick from and that attention is finally being paid to the local fish monger and cheese maker. Let’s not mess with nature more than necessary and please let me simply roast that chicken and present it with grilled heirloom tomatoes on the side. Yes, say’s I - I’d enjoy that greatly!

The second camp is also equally thrilled to have Farmer Joe supply them with the most superb fresh and seasonal goodies. Camp two, however, would sooner make that farm fresh spring chicken taste like salmon than let it be. Gasp at the simplicity! Roasted? What, that’s it? No mango essence or shitake gelatin? For my money, if I wanted chicken that tasted like salmon I’d have salmon thank you very much! To many though, the novelty of it all is too appealing.

Am I being fair though? Is it more than novelty? To me the foams wreak of self indulgence… the bad kind. Nothing screams more of ‘ooo Mommy, look what I can do!’ than sweet potato foam on your perfectly lovely untainted Leek Soup. But then again, I could say that about many things – the I-Phone for example. Let’s be truly honest with ourselves. Do we actually need a phone that can calculate how much the tip for your grilled cheese and ginger ale would be in Dubai? No, no of course you don’t. That didn’t stop you from finding out though, did it? (I’ll give you a minute to open your tip calculator…)

Why is it that I so readily accepted upgrading everything to Blu-Ray, but the words ‘Molecular Gastronomy’ make me wince? I think answer is pretty simple. A movie actually does look better in 1080-I, the experience is absolutely enhanced. However, since when has an oyster been improved by being suspended in a passion fruit jelly that has been infused with lavender as Heston Blumenthal, Michelin rated chef of ‘The Fat Duck’ in England has done? I can’t say very much, but then again, having never indulged in such foppery, I can’t rightfully comment on the matter.

I will say this: I think the Molecular Gastronomist is a brave and creative soul. In terms of thinking outside the box, they all get a well deserved A+. They also may very well be the future of the culinary world, some would argue they already are. All that being said - when the foam deflates, the flash frozen celery root purée melted, and mango essence turns bitter, wouldn’t you rather have a chicken that taste like… a chicken?


  1. Yes and yes! chicken as chicken, not salmon. but really it's almost very Matrix-y no?

  2. Oh you crack me up! :-) I lean towards simplicity, wholesomeness myself. I'm in awe of the things these scientists do - and love watching their creations on TV, but give me a bowl of potato soup any day. :-)

  3. Oh sweetie, you've just totally won my heart. A blog that's basically food porn!

    And yes I'm with you. I'll give most things a try at least once, but molecular booking seems to be more about cleverness than it is about the actual taste.