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17 October 2011

Food Glorious Food

I have discovered that today is Blog Action Day on which bloggers throughout the world write about a topic of global concern.  This year's topic is "Food."  Well, that narrows the range.  Or does it?

Along with air to breathe and some temperature control to keep a human body from freezing or melting down, food is a vital part of our existence.  It also has a wide-ranging definition.  Yesterday, I was eating brunch with an especially intelligent and sophisticated group of people -- Vassarites, and we discussed restaurants, good meals, and at one point, molecular gastronomy.  A trained cook among us gave an example of molecular gastronomy at work -- the breakdown of an apple to its core (pun intended?) elements -- fiber and flavour.  So, can we take those elements and present them to the diner differently, like as a piece of paper made of apply fiber which tastes (one expects) like apple?  This might come in the form of an edible menu.  The objection one person made which is the objection most of us have is, why not enjoy the fruits (another pun?) of Nature's labor and eat an apple in its pure form?  Another person articulated the objection more forcefully:  it is akin to playing with our food; with all the starving people in the world, we are expending exorbitant amounts of resources to play with food.

There may be an argument that molecular gastronomy makes eating out more of an experience, an adventure, and not merely in the 21st century to socialize.  This would then be like the adoption of cooking meat 1.5 million years ago which enabled hominids not simply to stay alive, but to thrive (as demonstrated in Robin Brande's Fat Cat, a young adult story which uses the question, "What would happen if we eat like hominids did?" as the beginning basis for a science fair project).

This would be the antithesis of what a farmer once called, "Better living through chemicals."  High yields of grains and other crops through use of fertilizers, weedkillers and insecticides, refrigeration, preservatives and don't forget, refined fuels for the production, transport and cooking of food are all progress and have undeniably made life better for a significant amount of people in the world.

Because we in the Western World can take food for granted, we can take it further.  We can have a reaction to the inefficient packaging of regularly fried potato chips by creating pre-formed, orderly stacked chips made from potatoes (we could have had that for fish, too, if we listened to Professor Mazzocchi of Hoboken), and we can have a counter-reaction to that over-processing by eating only organic potatoes freshly fried in fresh pressed peanut oil.  We can have an evolved sub-species of humans called "foodies," who are basically food snobs, continuously looking for the next trend.  The foodies are eating locally grown organic purple potatoes freshly fried in duck fat, unless they are enthusiasts of molecular gastronomy, admiring and inhaling the essence of the slice of potato frozen with liquid nitrogen and then, transformed into vapor.  One wonders what kind of science fair project can come studying the eating habits 21st Century Homo Sapiens Americanus.

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