The Joy of Evidence-Based Cooking

In a recent Science article (Science 2006, 314 (5803) 1235 (requires subscription, but text has been posted in a newsgroup), Martin Enserink writes about Hervé This and molecular gastronomy. One of his projects is to rid cook books of the many errors.

One of This’s obsessions is that chefs, despite knowing so little about science, have developed such elaborate laws. Over the years, he has meticulously collected more than 25,000 instructions, called précisions in French, from cookbooks, many of which are useless, he says. So where do they come from? “Our parents love us. Why are they teaching us all these rules that make no sense?” His hypothesis: Cooks, using trial and error, remembered the circumstances in which they created a successful dish, even if they were irrelevant, and made them part of the recipe.

The article also touches upon the different views Harold McGee and Hervé This have on what molecular gastronomy is and/or should be. Whereas This wants the help of cooking schools to test his précisions, McGee is more reluctant: “I’m not sure I’d spend so much time studying misunderstandings of the past”.

Hervé This giving a demonstration
(picture from Science, Credit: Ppierre Beachemin/ITHQ)

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