Claudia D. O'Donnell
Chief Editor
pfeditors@bnpmedia.com
My happiest moments with Prepared Foods are when I'm introduced to an innovative idea or a new way of looking at something. This happened when I ran across the term Gastronomie Moleculaire. Molecular gastronomy is defined by Wikipedia as “the application of science to culinary practice and more generally gastronomical phenomena.” The term was coined by physicist Nicholas Kurti and French physical chemist Hervé This. In a 1969 lecture, filmed by the BBC, Kurti had said, “It is a sad reflection that we know more about the temperature inside the stars than inside a soufflé.”

Molecular gastronomy is more familiar to Europe than the U.S. A New York Times columnist had sent a “high-school-French” email to the publisher of This's Les Secrets de la Casserole, asking why it had been translated into some ten languages, including Polish, before approaching the huge English-speaking market. She never received a reply and surmised that her French was so bad they simply thought her email was spam. Happily, Dr. This kindly responded to my emails…and in English!

He clarifies that molecular gastronomy is very different than Culinology®. Also, the initial molecular gastronomy program, his Ph.D. thesis, was wrong since it was a mix of science, technology and politics. Its objectives are now: 1) Explore the love component of cooking. 2) Explore the art component of cooking. 3) Explore the technical component of cooking, including precisions and definitions.

He writes that recipes consist of two parts, the “definition of the dish” and “precisions.” Some precisions seem wrong and are wrong: mayonnaise made by women having their periods are not more likely to fail. Some seem wrong but are true: cutting of a cooked pig's head makes its skin cracklier. Some seem true but are wrong: uncovered cooking pans will not produce greener vegetables due to acid volatilization. Some seem true and are true: egg whites should be firmly whipped in the preparation of soufflés. It is theorized that the more likely a recipe is to fail, the more precisions are developed for it. This was supported by quantifying the number of precisions for recipes and comparing it to recipe robustness. This is calculated by the equation P=R(pi) i=1 to n, where P is a product and R is variables.

I have no room to write about theoretical yet tantalizing new dishes such as kientzheim of butter, cheese Chantilly or Faraday of lobster. However, for a delightful read, see www.college-de-france.fr/chaires/ chaire10/page_herve/Molecular_Gastronomy.