You may well think that so-called “molecular gastronomy” is an anathema to real food. The fact you can get a starter kit makes it even simpler for people to dabble with food chemicals. The pr blurb that I got sent from www.moleculargastronomykit.co.uk does tend to suggest otherwise – although as purveyors of the very offending molecular gastronomy kits they would have a different story now wouldn’t they?
There point is that firstly most of the molecular gastronomy ingredients are made from vegetables so are very much real food – just in a slightly different form. The other point – and this one makes more sense to me – is that these are ingredients that are added to food anyway, so you’re already eating them – the idea of actually using and controlling these gastronomy ingredients gives back ownership of the process to the cook and consumer, taking it away from the factories.
The idea of adding chemicals to food is hardly new – after all, who except for an absolute purist would not use the flavour enhancer Sodium Chloride on a regular basis? Salt is every bit real food and has been used as long as people have cooked. So molecular gastronomy just adds a whole new range of chemicals to the armoury.
There is an important difference between the way you should use these chemicals and the way they are used in industry.
Molecular Gastronomy in the food factories:
In industry the modernist chemicals are used to hide deficiencies rather than build upon the qualities. For example the use of emulsifiers and thickeners in bottled sauces is so that they can be stored for a long period of time and will look nice in a glass jar. Some chemicals such as the gelling agent sodium alginate are used to make non-foods have the texture of the thing that they are designed to impersonate. They are disguises not enhancers, they aren’t used to improve but rather to fool the consumer.
Molecular Gastronomy at Home
The fusion of the real food movement and the molecular kitchen is modern but old fashioned. You can take the very best ingredients and then make them better. Rather than starting with mediocre and trying to make it average start with the best ad make it better. If you’re making a sauce with some xanthan to homogenize it – you will not need the large quantities used for a sauce that is designed to be bottled and then kept of a shelf for months, if you’re still making everything fresh – then all you will be doing is making your sauce just that little bit more creamy, but all the other components will still be completely fresh and real!
Take a look through any molecular gastronomy starter kit and you’ll see that except for the tiny quantities of molecular gastronomy chemicals every other part can be fresh and seasonal – even organic if that is what you want. So don’t be too purist – try out the fusion of the slow food movement and the world of molecular cuisine!