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Just Cook It Potluck – Herve This

June 15th, 2011 by

I have been reading several books by Herve This over the past couple of weeks in preparation for the upcoming Just Cook It potluck. The last potluck focused on souffles was so fun, and very inspirational, making me really excited about this coming Sunday’s event. I found that souffles are easy enough to incorporate into our weekly menu. The ingredients are humble, allowing for endless variations and they create such a different dish from any other that I have even made, I am still amazed each time the finished tower comes out of the oven. I really enjoyed the potluck which was the first where we were all able to cook our dishes together over an extended couple of hours. We would put a couple of souffles in the oven, wait eagerly for them to cook, then applaud as each emerged triumphantly. This let us taste nine souffles over the course of the evening, each one different and each one a great success. We watched the Julia Child episode on Souffles as we ate the two sweet dessert dishes. I would be thrilled if each potluck could be like the last one.

The upcoming potluck has the slightly more obscure, and challenging theme of Herve This. This food chemist has written numerous books about the science of taste and the science of cooking. He likes to analyze cooking dictums, which he often finds are inaccurate or imprecise. He is called the originator of so-called molecular gastronomy and he did coin the term, though he is not technically a chef that utilizes all the techniques currently associated with that cooking style. Instead, his books focus on the molecular behaviors and interactions that take place in the cooking process and in how we perceive taste and flavor. I am intrigued by his suggestions of different ways to cook foods, including eggs and other gels, as well as his challenges to traditional food understanding. Some of his books contain some critiques of some dictums that I myself hold dear, such as the idea that minimal manipulation of ingredients is the best practice in food, or that artificial chemicals are to be avoided. I find these challenges to be helpful in getting me to redefine my own thinking and to check myself to realize what I truly appreciate in food and in the idea of Slow Food. I am seeing this challenge dinner as a chance to try some different cooking methods, such as using a microwave (though I don’t have one, so may need to borrow one somewhere) or in trying some unconventional combinations. I think that this is a chance to work outside of the boxes make for ourselves in the kitchen and to challenge our own dogma regarding food and cooking. There is a lot of room for interpretation in this topic and I look forward to the discussion, the conviviality and, of course, the food this coming Sunday.

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