Friday, March 13, 2009

"Modern Gastronomy"

I know I promised Spain posts. It's coming, really. In the meantime, though, some thoughts on the latest entry into the blogosphere, Grant Achatz, chef of Alinea, doing a column in a new Food Section in the Atlantic Online. I note it not just because it's always enlightening to know what Achatz is thinking, but also because in his first entry he describes what he's doing (cooking-wise and such) as "modern gastronomy." I somehow like that so much better than "molecular gastronomy," which still sounds to me like dropping acid and eating a twinkie.

I had notions of doing a lengthier discussion here of "molecular gastronomy" and the alternatives, yet was phumphering around for an elegant solution. I think people (and by "people," I may mean "journalists") like to use "molecular gastronomy" not because it's particularly descriptive or accurate, but because it sounds cool. But - even aside from the misuse of the term, as noted by Ferran Adria, Heston Blumenthal, Thomas Keller, and Harold McGee a couple years ago, all of whom disclaimed that they were doing "molecular gastronomy" (though as far as holding back the use of the term, it seems they were fighting a losing battle), "molecular gastronomy" carries with it some implicit baggage. The "molecular" in particular seems to bring the (often inaccurate or at least overplayed) connotation that it's all about eating food from a chemistry set, as well as the (also often inaccurate) assumption that using contemporary techniques, concepts or ingredients is somehow antithetical to caring about the quality of the ingredients or their expression in a finished dish.

"Modern gastronomy" doesn't have the high-tech effect of "molecular," but, hey, it's still "modern". I'll take that trade-off. Plus, it still keeps the brainy-sounding multisyllabic "gastronomy." And for those who have taken to acronymizing "molecular gastronomy" into "M.G." - no further thought needed.

So - "modern gastronomy"?

1 comment:

  1. I like it. Less nerdy sounding and also more accurate I think. The different techniques are more of a modern "coming of age" rather than splicing molecules and such.