Tuesday, October 23, 2007
The Restorative Nature of Restaurants
So much has been written lately about all the hocus pocus regarding molecular gastronomy that I thought I would weigh in on the issue. First, a disclaimer. I know alot of the folks who are at the forefront of this movement in the US and have an awful lot of respect for their talents and abilities. Next, a definition. Molecular gastronomy is, in its simplest terms, the application of science to food. This application is not necessarily understanding the biological make up of an egg or why water boils at different temperatures relative to sea level. It is more like making paper edible or the use of hydrocolloids to 'wow' the diner. Many kitchens are starting to look like chemistry labs, not kitchens.
I was recently struck by an article on www.nymag.com noting that very few women have risen to the rank of head chef in NYC's frenetic restaurant scene. The article and subsequent interview adress molecular gastronomy as 'boys with their toys' and described female cooking to be more from the heart and soulful. All of that got me thinking. My three favorite cookbooks right now are all penned by women. Helene Darroze, Annie-Sophie Pic and Claire Clark. I think the reason I enjoy these books so much is that you can see the heart and soul on the page. It's not about a deep-fried grape enrobed in exactly the sixth cutting of blue hubbard squash blossoms dangling from a safety pin over dry ice. It's soulful, refined cooking that makes you feel whole again. The other stuff is avant-garde performance art, period. Does it make you feel whole again? I guess that's up to you. Is it interesting? Yes....but in some way, so was Superbad The Movie. It's just there to entertain. Sometimes, that's what we need. Sometimes, we just want to sit back and be soulfully restored. I wish the food media would spend more time talking about the folks who are sweating it out growing the food and the folks who are just trying to do right by those farmers and cooking refined, restorative food.