Monday, July 16, 2007

Molecular Ennui

Yawn, molecular gastronomy is in Tokyo Tasty science' puts mystery on the menu .

Don't get me wrong, I actually dig the idea of using food grade chemicals, thermodynamic principles and medical instruments to make really expensive food. I've been pushing for a more left-brain approach to the culinary arts for a long time and made that a big part of the Advanced Culinary Principles class I taught at The CIA. But I'm getting a bit weary of having to type "molecular" into search stings when I'm looking for information about how and where this manner of cooking is developing.

Each time I find another chef cooking up molecular gastronomy I think back to that March '07 post at in which Michael Rulhman and Grant Achatz decry the use of the term MG as inaccurate and unwieldy and closes with Ruhlman opining

But we stopped referring to Nouvelle Cuisine as such, after its essential mandates were fully incorporated into the fine dining idiom. In the hands of a chef such as Achatz, whose culinary fundamentals (how to cook a potato, how to make a chestnut puree) are so exquisite, I hope we stop calling the new new cuisine [MG]anything at all other than really good food.
Although I argued a bit with Ruhlman about the appropriateness of the term and cited numerous similarities between what chef's like Grant Achatz and Ferran Adria appeared to be "saying" with their work to the thesis of one of the originators of the concept of molecular gastronomy (Herve This), in the end I had to agree that the term was not fit to describe this manner of cooking. To be frank, I have even come to share his frustration with it's continued use and wish it would just go away along with a bunch of other constantly misapplied and terms like "paradigm shift" and "devolution."

But it seems that like these latter two unfortunate bits of adverbial smut, molecular gastronomy is a true meme: an easily remembered concept or sound that spreads like a virus and in it most affective form survives through many generations (e.g. "Ring around a Rosy" or the tune "Reveille"). So I think it's going to be a long time before Ruhlman sees the fulfillment of his wish to see it meet the same fate as the term "nouvelle cuisine." And it does not please me in the least, that in order to be comprehensible to my readers on the subject, I have to use it in my posts and so become complicit in keeping it alive.


Anonymous said...

I vote for "trompe l'oeil cuisine," since, that's exactly what its doing.

Either that or "cognitive dissonance cuisine."

Jen (Ms. masala)

Scott said...

I agree on many levels. Perhaps you should sponsor a contest to come up with a new name? The winner gets ou to record their answering machine message a la NPR. Or gets a baseball autographed by Ruhlman?

gary said...

It's just one of those temporarily-hip-sounding terms that will be used constantly, gradually becoming increasingly vague, until it has no meaning whatsoever, and is just too embarrassing to use in public.

Think "Oh wow," "that's heavy, man," or going back further "twenty-three skidoo!" To use any of those now is unacceptable, unless it's intended in a "post-modern" sense.

But that's another dead term...

Tags said...

How about MoGa? That way you can say Molecular Gastronomy without saying Molecular Gastronomy.

Aww, skidoo it!