20 Nov 2007

The first(?) example of molecular gastronomy in music

More music than science lately, but this one is inevitable:
Recently, the
improvisational electroacoustic jazz band Food released their fifth record named "molecular gastronomy"!

Furthermore, seeing the track list, I was baffled by the rather specific concepts taken directly from molecular gastronomy (MG), such as khymos (Martin Lersch's blog), spherification and texturas (ref. the Texturas series by Ferran Adrià at el Bulli) and heston (Blumenthal, at The Fat Duck).

At first, I wondered whether this was a joke, serious, or somewhere in between. Qualitywise, this is by no means a joke. Both from previous recordings and this one, Iain Ballamy (sax) and Thomas Strønen (drums/perc) prove that they are among the foremost in their field, no doubt. Other band constellations they are engaged in confirms this as well.

So, is it possible to hear the gastronomy in the music? (ref. previous posts on food and chemistry/food vs. music). That's a difficult question, and I'm not sure whether I should look for it either. My experience with using other senses than my ears as impulse to improvisation is that things become rather banal if one lets the impulses become too evident in the music. One example when we (Quest) played together with the Norwegian poet and author Lars Amund Vaage reading his poems about sheep farmers from the book "Det andre rommet". The one percussion instrument to be extremely careful about in that context, at least in my opinion, was the (cow) bell.

Anyway, I guess taste, aroma etc. are such unfamiliar impulses to use in music compared to visual (i.e. pictures) and text, that the effect of these may be difficult to discern (I'd really love to have a chat with the Food-guys about this).

I'll surely spend time listening to this, food/gastronomy references or not. Strønen is no doubt a favourite in terms of combining energy, cool-factor and elegance. Coupled with the long mellow saxophone lines of Ballamy and keyboards/effects, the result is simply great music.


Post-comment after more listening, 16. December 2007:
After running the album a few more times, the question of hearing the food in the music is still a long shot to me. What is pretty clear, however, is that the music is closely connected to many of the track names; it's easy to relate/associate the music to the words. Examples are the machine like percussion (especially the bells) in "apparatus", the less rythmic and soft lines of "texturas", and the last track "alchemy" which is a synthesis (or maybe a distillate) of several of the other tracks. So, the search for food/gastronomy in music goes on, or maybe it's already there, the fault being in my mind or expectations?

Track list:
red algae
nature's recipe
the larder chef

13 Nov 2007

Food, science and pupils'/students' experience of success

Cooking is a discipline that is often heavily focussed on a successful result. Sometimes this is a good thing, but other times focus on achieving is not necessarily the best strategy in terms of learning. In these cases, a science perspective may be just what is needed.

In Norway, cooking in school has had a rather strong feminine focus, possibly because the approach has been home cooking and home related questions rather than a more masculine gastronomical /restaurant perspective.* This focus prevails, and I don't complain about that. On the contrary, I think a home focus is the right approach in a school setting.

One thing I find that these two approaches have in common, though, is that achieving a successful result (dish) often is the main focus, and in that respect I think there are things to be done. My point is:

if the pupils/students end up with is a bread that hasn't leavened, would that be regarded as a failure? If the goal is achieving an optimal product, the answer is probably yes. If learning is the goal, I'd say no. In fact, it may be an excellent impetus to learn something about baking, yeast, leavening etc.

In fact, nothing spurs me more to experiment than when a recipe tells me by all means to avoid doing something, such as getting egg yolk in when whipping egg whites, or whipping the double cream past the whipped cream-stage. Sometimes, "sabotage experiments" may very well be the ultimate way of learning and experimenting with food (and may result in surprisingly good or interesting products as well).

Through science and research, we learn that a result is a result is a result...; a negative result may be as informative as a positive one. If it is true that "a drop of success will create a pound of persistence", then why not turn what could be seen as a failure into an interesting result from which one may learn from? Maybe this could spur towards a more gender neutral home economics (in Norway: Food&health) teaching?

Also, in many cases the unlikely results and the odd combinations may be the ones that lead to new experiences and wonderful dishes, such as the unlikely purple mashed potatoes made by all blue potatoes (there are no colourings added and the picture is not manipulated).

Photo: Erlend Krumsvik

(* The masculine/feminine thing is more of an observation, rather than an opinion of mine. Personally, I'd really like to see a more equal gender distribution among both the mentioned groups/perspectives, such as a male home economics teacher in primary school...)