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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Molecular Gastronomy – Quantum Food for the Senses

When you think about the latest and increasing trend in culinary adventure you might consider the very innovative molecular gastronomy.  When I first learned about molecular gastronomy and watched several known culinary authorities on various food shows partake of the unusual cuisine with delight, I was very curious.  Mainly about how tiny little morsels in exclusively artistic presentations could actually satisfy and further, how this would play on our senses.

Molecular gastronomy, utilizing scientific processes in chemistry and physics, changes the way one perceives food, from conception and culinary technique, to the whole dining experience on the receiving end of this spectrum.  This technique combines the physical and chemical processes in cooking and transforms ingredients into an absolute epicurean phenomenon.

Upon becoming more accustomed to this technique, as you can see on shows such as Quantum Kitchen, I realized that what molecular gastronomists like Chef Marcel Vigneron do mostly is to take the most basic of foods, along with specific natural catalysts, transforming them in their essence, so that we the receivers of this culinary extravaganza may enjoy the benefit of savoring every flavor, aroma and texture fused into a single mouthful. It is an absolute overwhelm to our senses. It got me thinking that with the skills learned in NLP and DHE™, we already know how to retrain our brains and have the ability to do this using ourselves as a catalyst in the process. Further, what feelings could these trigger for us as an extended multi-sensorial event?

This technique doesn’t only enhance our palates. Here are just a few examples of what molecular gastronomy is about, according to Peter Barham, Professor of Molecular Gastronomy, UK and author of  The Science of Cooking.

  •  How ingredients are changed by different cooking methods
  • How all the senses play their own roles in our appreciation of food
  • The mechanisms of aroma release and the perception of taste and flavor
  • How and why we evolved our particular taste and flavor sense organs and our general food likes and dislikes
  • How cooking methods affect the eventual flavor and texture of food ingredients
  • How new cooking methods might produce improved results of texture and flavor
  • How our brains interpret the signals from all our senses to tell us the “flavor” of food
  • How our enjoyment of food is affected by other influences, our environment, our mood, how it is presented, who prepares it, etc.

Within the transformation, there also lies the element of expectation and surprise. What most connoisseurs will expect from the visual aspect, combined with any aromas around the dish certainly is unfathomable at first. Then when it is finally tasted, the alchemy of  flavors, and textures complete the heightened dining experience, pleasantly surprising all expectations.

It is a complicated and creative process that requires a credible knowledge of science. On a simpler note, the ability to transform your simplest food into a phenomenal experience for the senses is literally at your fingertips.  Using all of our senses in the experience requires us to be fully aware, present and in the moment. We can all do this automatically!

When my husband Jeff works with clients who have food phobias, he does just this. Along with having them taste individual foods, noticing the different textures, aromas, visual appeal; to take a moment and ask themselves if they a) like it and b) if they’re not yet sure, what it would be like to pair it with something else—something they’ve already discovered that they like or perhaps something new.  The results each individual experiences opens up a whole world for each of them, extending all the way to social breakthroughs. (*Getting them beyond the fear of tasting is of course a whole other skill set and cure.)

After all what is the essence of molecular gastronomy? An infusion of this, a concentration of that, along with a whole array of scientific knowledge and experimentation, and you end up with a bite-sized cheese burger bon bon, pizza in a frothy foam or a single-shot jellied vichyssoise, all packed with every component that would go into the actual meal—a futuristic meal you might say.  In comparison, doing this on your own minus the scientific process, as I wrote about in A Layered Dish Is More Than It Is, internalizing and understanding the blending of every morsel that touches your palate and enjoying them with all your senses creates our own artist’s easel and will undoubtedly give you a phenomenal epicurean experience every time.

  

A Layered Dish Is More Than It Is

When I was growing up in Singapore, I was constantly exposed to the explosion of cultural flavors in this bustling multi-cultural country.  My family, like all Singaporeans loved to cook and loved food.  If you’ve ever been there or maybe watched Anthony Bourdain’s culinary travels to the region, you will know exactly what I mean. Being subjected to the wide varieties of cuisines from all the cultures that reside there and her own authentic cuisine which could comprise of any combination of the cultures, along with the influences from her recent colonial British past, I guess I was encouraged to embrace food of all flavors along with their enticingly odd textures and sometimes even questionable aromas.  I mean the notorious stinky fruit Durian could only be a heavenly scent to a native-born Singaporean!

So since facets of my own cultural heritage is ingrained, you could call me a foodie. Food being still today Singapore’s favorite past-time, here is a nation of foodies that existed long before the term was even created.  Which brings me to my point, experiencing food on a multi-dimensional level need not be exclusively part of your cultural background, it can fortunately be learned and acquired.

Whether you are a professed foodie or better described, an epicurean or whether you are someone to whom food is a source of nutritional necessity, you will come to be able to elevate your own food experience into something phenomenal to your senses.

Conscious eating is more than just eating slowly, chewing your food and digesting well.  There’s something more to this being in harmony of mind, body and spirit.  When we use our palates to the utmost advantage and connect with our visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory and kinesthetic senses, we also gain a heightened sense of taste, smell and texture beyond the tangible acts.  By practicing the art of distinctively understanding the uniqueness of each food and adding these sensorial layers, you will actually come away with an entirely new experience of the foods you eat.

In other words, say you’re about to enjoy a spicy dish of Lamb Vindaloo. If you’re not a fan of Indian cuisine, just play along. How would you make this come alive from your plate to your palate and in the process liven up all your senses?  When you savor every morsel how do you do it?  Does the steam emanating carry with it a whiff of spices? Can you smell the pungent heat from the chilli? Does the deeply vibrant color make you salivate? Will it trigger other memories for you? When you taste it, do you first feel the temperature? Do you taste the tangy lime? Or maybe with it, you taste the sweetness in the fragrance. Is the meat tender? Firm? Is it falling apart and melting in your mouth? Now what if you added a side of rice to it? When you combine the components can you feel the textural difference on your tongue? Are some of the components to the curry still sizzling in your ear? Does the sound of this add to the heat of the chilli? Does the heat make you sweat? Now wash that down with a swish of that cold, bitter, foamy, golden and perhaps fruity beer!

You have now re-created a past experience or perhaps you have just created a new one by adding other perspectives.  Remember to do this with any food that you enjoy– like the decadence of a molten chocolate cake, a colorful salad or your favorite soup. Remember to behold the colors and textures, the aromas, the steam, the frost, the sounds associated and the kinesthetic feelings you get with the whole experience. And when you taste, add sensory dimensions, layer them, make them distinct, enjoy the combinations and what they imbue on their own. Cheers to your next meal!