On Thursday I spent a couple hours at NYU on Thursday afternoon of the Silver Building near Washington Square Park. Completely coincidentally as I was going to the meeting of the Experimental Cuisine Collective, I passed this plaque commemorating the founding of the American Chemical Society. I’d never delved that deeply into the history of the the ACS, though I’m a past member and still do some freelance editing work for them. Yay, chemistry!
This was only my second ECC meeting, and this chemist is still learning a lot about the food world. Andreas Vierstad, the Washington Post’s Gastronomer, talked a lot about the definition of molecular gastronomy. Though I’m not familiar with all the details, I do understand the importance and difficulty of “defining” a field with so many different points of view, but the semantics are a little distracting after a while. One particularly interesting point was the perspective that science in this field once it’s applied ceases to be science. It’s an interesting way to draw the line between art and science, and one of the things I like as a former chemist and amateur cook is the fact that there are fewer consequences to experimenting in my kitchen– beyond bad food.
Vierstad’s schtick is the science of everyday cooking, which he even referred to as “maverick gastronomy.” I might have to try his faux sous vide approach to cooking fish, adding boiling water to fish in a small container and letting that sit until the water cools to room temperature. The trick is in the ratios: 3 to 5 parts water to fish, by weight, depending on how “done” you like your fish. I’m a lazy cook, often too hungry by the time I get to the kitchen to get fancy, but I think I can handle this fish.