17 October 2011
Food Glorious Food
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.
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.