Friday, August 19, 2005

Noodle Fusion and Food Machines

I'm on a bit of a noodle roll, I came home tonight (everyone bailed from the Flash Gorden thing because it had been raining solidly all day, bloody English Summer, bah!) and remembered last nights meal and figured what the hell. I had some rather nice sirloin to use and thought I would get it nice and hot with some chili and combine it with asparagus (sorry local food types) and pure white snowy noodles. It's then I realised that I had no chili. I'd torn through the remaining fiery hot red ones last night.
Now I'll be the first to admit I have an addictive personality. I needed that chili. I went rooting around determined to find something to deal with the craving. What I found was rose petal harissa. Hmm, fiery hot, yes, but not exactly Asian. Bugger it, I thought, as much as I detest "fusion" cooking I would see if it worked. I seared the sirloin smeared with the harissa and blasted the asparagus with mung bean sprouts and pak choi in the wok. I threw in the noodles at the very last moment so as not to give them much colour. I lay the sirloin on top sliced quite thinly.
It kinda worked, I got my fiery hot hit (trying saying that with a mouth full of noodles) and then there was the surprising hint of rose petals in the background which set off the greens in quite an interesting way. Probably not one that I'll do again but it did fill the house with a variety of smells, that whilst pulling in different directions geographically, made sitting down to read New Scientist a bit more interesting.
It was whilst reading said magazine that I came across this article (the whole thing isn't there, they make you pay for it , sorry, but you'll get the gist). The article is about various people including Nasa researching the possibility of producing technology to recreate dishes in a convincing way from various basic building blocks, ie starch, protein, sugars etc. The idea being to use them on long space flights and stop astronauts going out of their minds with boredom at having to eat dried food all day for years on end. Now the interesting thing was the attempt to create a "grammar" of food. Alphanumeric formulae that could effectively define what a dish was comprised of not only in terms of ingredients but also the processes involved and their final presentation. This, of course, inevitably tied into molecular cookery. They were positing that you could build one of these machines on earth you wouldn't be restrained by the size and weight issue in space, so, could effectively create a machine that produced new flavours, and new permutations of flavours, in fact an almost endless evolutionary process of taste and smell.
I wondered, and I kind of throw the question out to you, do you lose something in the translation? Does concentrating on science in cooking lose sight of the cook? Does the cook himself impart something to the food, personality, mood, sex? Or would you derive as much pleasure from a meal cooked by a machine that could recreate the dish perfectly at a molecular level? Am I thinking too much? Am I an advocate of Intelligent Cookery? Have I just coined a phrase? I need a cup of tea.


cookiecrumb said...

Yesterday my husband started preparing the dinner we had both agreed on while I was outside doing a crossword puzzle. I missed out on half the fun and actually got kinda angry with him. (For a minute.) So I'd miss that part a lot if a machine was doing the cooking, however ably.
Similarly I find no joy in using the pressure cooker, because I don't get to watch or smell the food as it cooks.
However! I think the science OF food is fascinating. Harold McGee, et al.
And golly, you do take such great pictures. What's your light source?

Monkey Gland said...

i just use the two flourescent lights thay light one of the worktops in the kitchen.

cookiecrumb said...

Good gosh. So excellent "white balance" control, then? I'm just learning that part.

Gab said...

If a machine did your cooking for you, you might never have experimented with the rose petal harissa. I say it's best to keep cooking fun and leave the rocket science to the astronauts.

(Happy Birthday too)

Anonymous said...

Have you ever seen Asparagus this BIG
They grow up to 15in long and 2in wide.

jj said...

Hi, I'm looking for a recommendation for a cooking lesson. I've joined this site (cooking lesson). Where else could I contact other people who may have taken a cooking lesson?
Many thanks