Thursday, March 1, 2012

Molecular Gastronomy vs Hunter Gatherer - FIGHT!

Which new food trend are you into? Has anyone noticed how strange it is that the molecular gastronomy and hunter/gatherer food movements happened simultaneously?  It's like we're bored of regular ole yummy food.  Are we so pampered that we have to make it super difficult to create meals that will blow our minds?  Please tell me what you think, I'm dying for a debate.
Adam Melonas's "Octopop": a very low temperature cooked octopus fused using transglutaminase
I'm not sure yet whether I'm amazed or annoyed with molecular gastronomy.  Possibly, it's like when photography became an art form, I just have to learn to appreciate the new medium.  My past as an art director has me enraptured by the new frontiers of food design that the food science mind contrives. +1 point to molecular gastronomy, it's cool looking.  But it leaves me a bit cold, it treats food most distinctly as a product.  A set of bells and whistles that react to our heavily studied desires.  I don't like my food being treated like a brand new car. With it's use of rotary evaporators, gels and the ubiquitous 'foam', it leans food towards being complicated and elitist.  But check above the photo out.  I don't know if I want to eat it, but it sure is purdy.
Oyster Mushrooms in BC, gorgeous aren't they.

Foraged meals have the potential to be spectacular right from the start. As the Italians fully understand, something that is freshly picked and grown native to your area tastes like a little piece of place and time.  The challenge is in getting familiar with the forageable ingredients native to our region, a skill that is quite lost on us in Canada as most of us are immigrants.  A hefty chunk of foraging fear comes along with the territory, mushrooms are scary (or not if you learn about them - check out this mushroom ID trip)! On an intellectual level, I understand the hunter/gatherer movement, it fits in nicely with the 'eat local' mentality which is essential to our survival.  We're looking to have a closer connection with mother nature, so that she doesn't turn her back on us.  Intuitively, I 'feel good' about this trend more so than molecular gastronomy.  Foraging is something that we need to be careful with though, so that we don't tax our dwindling and fragile natural ecosystems.  Foraging is challenging and time consuming, no doubt.  But hand picking a chanterelle, bringing it into your kitchen and introducing it to butter and a good sherry is simple magic.

Not that these trends are mutually exclusive as the worlds top rated restaurant NOMA would attest to.

But what do you think?
Chef Robin


  1. I have the same conflicting feelings toward it, that the 'processing' and technology takes away the 'realness' of the food. Something that recently changed my perspective though, was actually going back to what Ferran Adria was doing at elBulli. (This is a really awesome, inspirational read:

    Really what elBulli (and subsequently Noma, adding in a lot of Thomas Keller) was doing was taking those already-sacred elements of foraging and growing and using what's around you and refining it - I think it says something that they took 6 months of the year to plan their innovations. It's really too bad how gimmicky and foamy and unconsidered the trend has become, because it really does have much more in common with hunter-gatherer than the rivalry makes it out to be.

    It's like any art, including photography - anyone can have the gadgets and technology, but to truly know how to be innovative and invent your own style and vernacular, you must be a master of your craft first, starting on the most basic fronts: ingredients and technique.

  2. i agree. real food art, for me, involves using what is natural and available and ethical and making it into something beautiful (and tasty, obviously). this is especially true with respect to foraging. if we follow the principles of traditional foraging in combination with other sovereign and sustainable food procurement methods, there's no end to the art - and flavors - we might procure.

    molecular gastronomy - albeit interesting and cool in a new-technology kind of way - scares me. it's that neccessitation for new technologies, especially in and around food (including its production) that is at the fore of the global food crises.

    Just my opinion though...