The title for this post is basically what’s been the biggest deal in the world of fine dining for the past decade or so. Coined by Herve This and Nicolas Kurti, it represents the pair’s ideas with regards to their method of tackling the gastronomic endeavours. It also happens to be the title of a book by the former, a Frenchman who is a fully fledged celebrity in his home country. This very book is what I’d call the new gastronomic bible for tech enabled foodies.

The book itself is divided into several different chapters, which basically explore food and eating using a scientific approach to things. Actually hypothesizing, then experimenting and coming to conclusions legitimately. Which is completely different from the old school idea of chefs and cooking as some sort of mystical haven of acceptable wizards that concoct recipes from the twisting nether. Truth be told, old school trad cooks probably clutch onto that for the fact that they depend on it and it is all they know. Which is why they salt the water and say that it helps preserve the color of beans. It doesn’t and This (tees) goes somewhat in depth to tell you why in his book. That little debunking and much more like it is sort of the kitchen version of mythbusters. Yet, he also goes further, particularly in the final chapter, where he challenges the ideas of traditional cooking and proposes a few logical methods for creating new dishes and simple ways to look at a recipe or a dish. What he proposes is that chefs should cook with more knowledge endowed to them. And why not, for we live in the 21st century but remain entranced by this unmovable need to boil the crap out of stuff in a large pot.

At times, I must profess that I was completely lost with what This was talking about. So many terms are constantly being bandied around, from chapter to chapter that simply fly over my head and I find myself constantly re-reading things. Chemical names for sugars, the names of flavor compounds, the methods of extraction of said compounds. I had to really dig out all the stuff I studied when I was 14. Thank god I had a simple understanding of physics and chemistry or I’d have boiled the book to bits in a large pot.

Its not all lipidic acids and hydrocarbonyxl3 sulfochlorohydrate16 monodioxypham in there though. There’s a good bit of Frenchie swag and humor doing the rounds as well. It actually feels light hearted and sincere in its narration. I get this idea in my head of a madcap professor in a white labcoat prancing around a kitchen / lab excitedly telling you about one discovery and then the next. He rattles off the names of his colleagues at a variety of French institutions so much so that INRA became so familiar to me. What I didn’t enjoy was how some bits were left hanging and incomplete. What I loved was how he gets to the root of the issue, either trumping the myths and old wive’s tales or actually supporting why it works.

Some people say this book can be considered as the modern day’s The Physiology of Taste. I’d hasten to agree, even if I haven’t read every single book out there on modern gastronomy. The book nonetheless is hugely thought provoking and really opened my eyes and mind to a whole host of new ideas. It restructured the way I think about food and cooking entirely and really did wonders to demystifying my own misconceptions. There surely can’t be too many other books that reach this close to Brillat Savarin’s masterwork and at the very least, it shares a resemblance in how its sort of messily structured and loose yet wholly inviting and agreeable.

*x-post from CookBlog.

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