Food, like any other cultural, artistic or social form of expression, evolves and morphs as we manipulate it to suit the current zeitgeist. However, often I am left asking the question when observing ultra modernist gastronomy, “but can I eat it?”
Everyone remembers the age-old nursery school pastime of potato printing and how we all spent wet afternoons in the summer holidays making macaroni pictures.
This naive creative practice is a basic example of making art with food, however, what happens when artistic principles are applied to cooking? Has fine dining gone so far as to lose its integrity through its overuse of artistic nomenclature and techniques? Are we moving into the dangerous realm of disenfranchisement and isolation from our best friend, food?
…a magical realism…
We can see, in food, the reflection of movements in art and then in turn society. Food was once a life force, an energy-giving object that held great importance, a magical realism if you will. But as we moved into post modernism and things became more culturally complex, our relationship with this ancient constant begins to disintegrate and defragment.
We have moved from our simple yet glorious union with food, to the high art of haute cuisine then journeying down into the gritty realism of gastro pubs and found ourselves lying in the gutter staring up at the Michelin stars of molecular gastronomy. What, I ask you, is next?
I sit here, in this ultra modernist arena, looking at a spericized pea puree and think to myself, would a pea not taste more like a pea? I can’t help wondering again, “but can I eat it?”
…the gastrotastic world of molecular messing…
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am ever partial to a foray into the gastrotastic world of molecular messing, however, there are times when I really don’t know where this is going and if it is good for us. I have a vision of food slipping off quietly, out the back door of the Earth’s atmosphere and humanity being left with nothing but small flavourless pills that we consume thrice daily. I am not the only person to have had this vision. There being many science fiction stories along these lines. Well maybe this is no longer a fiction.
Something must be done to add ballast to these gastronauts in order to bring them back down to earth or, I fear, they will never return, having taken with them one of our most precious forms of expression.
I hope that there comes the day of post molecular society. There are hints of it in the underground, but one must remember that molecular gastronomy has still to have its day in the mainstream. When it does, and I hope it never truly does, society will become truly dislocated from food as a life giving force.
…chicken caviar suspended in piri–piri essence topped with freeze dried corn…
People will be ordering inverted dehydrated cheeseburgers from McDonald’s or chicken caviar suspended in piri–piri essence topped with freeze dried corn on the cob snow from Nando’s. I ask you what kind of ridiculous future will this be? We need to take the good bits of gastronomy and move forwards, taking our past relationship with food as reference.
As I look back at those pictures made from everyday staples it makes me realize what the crux of what I am trying to say is. I remember my grandma saying to me, don’t play with your food and then at nursery being given food to play with. Just look where that conflicting message has got us. Nowhere.
You have crazy people on the west coast of America doing absolutely nothing to their food, the raw fad. Then you have gastronauts floating in the stratosphere somewhere off the Iberian coast, only weighed down by a glut of Michelin stars.
Next time you are presented with an artistic statement or lifestyle movement rather than a plate of food, I hope that you are as confounded and confused as me and will find yourself asking, “but can I eat it?”