Tuesday, February 21, 2006

molecular gastronomy

Matt and April like to read NewScientist, so a copy of it pops up now and again in our flat. I was reading an interview today with a man named Harold McGee who is a food scientist and writer. He has answered such questions as does washing mushrooms make them soggy (it doesn't) and does searing steak seal in the juices (it doesn't). He and a famous chef (Heston Blumenthal) started molecular gastronomy, a process where you can add molecules of something else to your food to add a different smell or taste. Sounds bizarre--like the oyster served on a jelly. The jelly was clear but had some molecules from dirt added so that "when you put it in your mouth it had the aroma of earth." The aim is to make "the dining experience less predictable." Mr McGee says that "if you don't know what's going on, your brain works a lot harder. You're engaged in a way you wouldn't normally be.... I think that makes you a better eater, an eater capable of getting more pleasure."

This idea is true in other areas, too, I think. When you are faced with something different you work harder to understand it. Science is based on that curiosity. Also, students are bored by lessons they find easy; investigative approaches work better because the student is interested and becomes a better learner, a learner capable of getting more out of the experience.

Mr McGee advocates the Slow Food movement, which protects and promotes local and traditional food. The interviewer asked him what he would consider the healthiest diet. He responds by saying that we are continually refining our ideas, but the maxim still holds true that the more varied your diet the better off you are. The interviewer sums up by asking whether he means moderation in all things. Mr McGee makes an interesting come-back: he quotes another food writer (M.F.K. Fisher) who said, "Everything in moderation, including moderation." So he advocates some feasting and overindulgence because it is an experience that satisfies us in a different way. He says we need to consider both physical satisfaction and quality of life.

An extension of this, not made by Mr McGee, would be that fasting is an important aspect of our gastronomical life as well. I have not fasted in a very long time. Thinking along McGee's lines, you would conclude that fasting improves our enjoyment and appreciation of food. Thinking along spiritual lines, it reminds us that we have another dimension to our lives besides the physical. We need Jesus, our spiritual food, as we need physical food. And he is to be enjoyed as much as feasting is enjoyable.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

you are what you eat

There's a TV show I like to watch called You Are What You Eat. Dr Gillian McKeith is a tough love nutritionist who exposes bad eating habits that make people sick and unhealthy. She shocks the participant by lining up all their week's food to see; then she puts them on a strict diet to get their bodies functioning again.

Her recipes are mostly vegetarian. On the Channel Four website you can find the recipe for tofu and bean burgers. Sweet potato shepherd's pie sounds lovely. Often she makes her participants go vegetarian at first. Ant would never go for this. He always jokes that he is a meatetarian. He says he doesn't feel full without meat. I hope that I will find some good vegetarian meals that he likes. At the moment I am trying to incorporate more fish into our weekly menus. We've discovered that we really like eating tuna steaks, and they are delicious marinated for about 20 minutes in soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and a bit of hot sauce. I'm going to try Dr McKeith's marinated salmon on spinach and leeks, I think.


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