Neurogastronomy, Molecular Gastronomy, and More Dispatches from the World of Science and Food

The Kitchen as LaboratoryLast week, our authors of titles which combine science and food were featured in a couple of prominent locales on both sides of the Atlantic.

A recent story on the BBC, looks at how the role of science and molecular gastronomy found in high-end cuisine is making its way into the home kitchen. So if you are looking for a way to improve upon the delicious but somewhat mundane grilled cheese sandwich, Jennifer Kimmel explains how science can help create the perfect grilled cheese, an issue she discussed in our recent The Kitchen as Laboratory: Reflections on the Science of Food and Cooking.

The story also features Job Ubbink, one of the editors of The Kitchen as Laboratory, who argues that molecular gastronomy has been misunderstood in recent years. He suggests that it is not just a flashy style of cooking but rather it provides insights into cooking and food that will allow us to become better cooks and have a deeper understanding of both the gastronomical and nutritional value of food.

In addressing the notion that molecular gastronomy might not be as important as it once was, Herve This, one of the founders of the movement argues:

As gastronomy means knowledge, molecular gastronomy is the right word for a science which considers phenomena occurring during the preparation and consumption of dishes.

People like Heston Blumenthal and others were completely wrong when they said that molecular gastronomy does not exist any longer. They are confusing molecular gastronomy (science) and molecular cuisine… which still exists.

Gordon Shepherd, author of Neurogastronomy: How the Brain Creates Flavor and Why It Matters, appeared on an episode of Nova, entitled Can I Eat That?. The following is a transcript from his interview on the show with David Pogue in which Shepherd discusses how the brain shapes our perception of flavor and visually represents what goes on in the brain by using colored tape:

Gordon Shepherd: Flavor’s not in the food that we eat. Flavor is not in the molecules. The perception of flavor is created by the pathways in the brain.

David Pogue: Thankfully, instead of dissecting my brain to prove his point, Shepherd kindly uses colored tape.

GS: This is representing the pathway of smell. Next comes taste.

DP: Each different color represents the pathway inside the brain that information from our different senses travels, like the signal from the taste buds.

GS: Here we go with sight, hearing, touch.

DP: These pathways run throughout the brain. It’s mind-blowing. You are saying that the simple act of eating, the simple pleasure of eating something, involves circuits all over my brain, zipping everywhere at once.

GS: The way that the brain creates flavor engages more of the brain than almost any other behavior that we take part in.

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