Tasteology is the name of four new documentaries on the food industry asking what it takes to create the ultimate taste experience.
I met with a number of journalists and TV programme buyers from Scandinavia, Africa and Europe in London recently to taste, to view the screening and discuss the future of food and flavour.
Oxford professor Charles Spence explained that 95% of what we think we taste we actually smell – and this can deliver a radical change in the way we deliver food to people. He talked about utensils changing, including molecular aroma forks that deliver tempting smells to our nostrils, and the use of perfume vapours – the food and cosmetic industry it seems are drawing ever closer.
We heard from an AEG representative about a heating device that heats natural lavender and wood smoke, which comes through as steam into the oven – this is called ambient fragrancing.
He believes steam ovens should be standard, in contrast to the current convection ovens used in most homes. “It is all about heat transfer being used to maintain moisture and texture and keep weight down”.
Sous vide techniques he sees as soon being available for home use. This is already mainstream in Switzerland. Our AEG guru explained how microwaves can also be improved with hot air nozzles for adding browning and a crunchy texture.
Low temperature cooking is also the future he says, as is fermentation.
For instance, in Korea, many families already have a kimchi fridge – this food is less sweet, more spicy and a little rougher on the palate than dishes we now know, with lots of chili, but in a soupy format.
We can learn from other nationalities – for instance, churrasco skewers from Brazil are already big in London restaurants, as is dim sum, made with pasta from rice and finely chopped pork. Watch these enter the home cooking scene soon.
Eat less, savour more
The first documentary, entitled Source, highlights how we need to make flavour a part of the food conversation. So we eat less but savour more.
Mark Schatzker wrote a book called The Dorito Effect, saying how it was the taco flavouring that made Doritos irresistible. In adding flavour chemicals the whole food experience can change. But frequently today it is the natural flavours we hanker for.
The owner of a two-Michelin-star restaurant near Kyoto, Japan talks about the joy of tsumikasa – hunting for food but with a sense of gratitude – and how he decorates food plates with reference to nature: small flowers, sorrel or pea shoots or roots – all foraged ingredients that look as if they are growing. Our starter was an asparagus spear, looking like a tree in a metal pail, surrounded by deliciously flavoured salty “soil”.
It seems that food is becoming rather like the fickle fashion industry with food being thrown away if it is does not look perfect. And when it comes to food production some mainstream methods are causing planetary destruction.
In the first film we heard from Niki Charalampopoulou regarding overbuying and solutions to food waste. “We already throw away more than a third of the food we buy,” she said.
On this subject, Tristram Stuart explains his annual UK event called Feeding the 5000 – all created from leftover or rejected produce.
“The consumer demand for perfection in vegetables and fruit meant that 300,000 tons of food was being thrown away as it was the wrong shape or size with 20-30% of farmer’s produce being rejected,” he said.
He has successfully launched the charity Feedback, saying: “We have globalised a revolution against food waste”.
The German company Culinary Misfits is doing similar things, creating smoothies and foods with fruits and vegetables that are misshapen.
The last part of documentary one focuses on how food storage is important and how we can learn from the professional kitchens. Ludwig Maurer said that in a fridge you should store meat and fish at the bottom where the humidity is higher and the temperature lowest. On the top shelf it should be fruit and vegetables.
He advises to keep tomatoes separate from other foods, as the ethylene can speed up the ageing of other fruit and veg.
“However you can win flavour through ageing,” he explains, “for example, meat drying slowly, so the meat gets even more flavourful – but this needs to be carefully monitored at selected cool temperatures.”
There are three more thought provoking mini food documentaries entitled Heat, Chill and Experience in this House of Radon Production for AEG – if you love food you’ll find watching these time well spent.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2021
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