Unicorns

A recent early morning discussion between W and myself has determined the following:

Unicorns are raised on farms where they subsist on a diet of Reisling, oatmeal, and carrot cake. The food is consumed inside the farm’s “man shack”, entry to which is actually available to all genders. Unicorns additionally fart rainbows. The gases are employed in the production of non lead-based rainbow paint: all the colors in one can. Unicorns are, finally, distantly related to Jesus.

Carrot cake aside none of this much relates to food or art (politics, perhaps?) and yet . . . I am reminded of some of the finer aspects of Molecular Gastronomie.

The Mystic Hunt of the Unicorn Representing Annunciation, Circle of Martin Schongauer

I’ve never cooked anything sous vide (dans un vide, peut etre, but we will not speak further of my kitchen) but there’s often a mythical quality to the recipes. Nathan Myhrvold’s hay smoked chicken (cooked, in part with a blow torch) or all those foams that make your dish sound as if Beowulf’s mum leered appreciatively over them just prior to their delivery by the hapless server.

Molecular Gastronomie seems emblematic of late-stage capitalism with the twinning of food production and mechanized technology. Yes it all sounds marvelous and yummy, but: no, dear service counter worker, you will not be scampering off home, post-shift, to start shoving things into plastic bags to cook slowly till the next Millennium. It’s not so much a question of costly ingredients as the time, space, and equipment needed. It’s also a bit like a sect: only the anointed may partake and I half expect there’s a secret MG reliquary somewhere with the sliced-off tip of Ferran Adrià’s forefinger or maybe sweat from the brows of the chefs at Alinea. Perhaps on the unsettlingly-named campus of the CIA??

Vernacular/ regional cuisine is usually the product of years if not centuries of gently probing and poking at an existing formula or staple: ragout sauce or the humble naan, for example. But Molecular Gastronomie pours man-power and research into the picture like a duck press on steroids or an angel backed startup: new thingie?? Voilà, new food. I’m not against this, just a wee bit jealous. Then again, all you need for caviar is a spoon.

So new to my Xmas list that it will have to be for next year:
Food in Early Modern England: Phases, Fads, Fashions, 1500-1760

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