by Gino De Blasio | 5 Minute Read
Travel guides are a funny thing. Depending on the writers and the publication you can be sure of some things; some have been asked to eat there, others, given very special service. The impartiality of review has always left you wondering, should I or shouldn’t I visit.
This is none more true of guides that feature food sections. We’ve all been there, wondering if the cantonese dumpling just happens to look like an undescended testicle or if it is actually an… You get the picture. We have become untrustworthy to such reviews and so we turned to the best and worst invention in the travel repertoire; “what our readers recommend” in a travel section pullout.
Getting recommendations from readers is like trusting the shiny teeth people (1) in toothpaste commercials – you know the teeth are clean but you’re not sure if it was the toothpaste or something more sinister.
“At Soul Kitchen (lacucinadellanima.it) delicious dishes from Puglia are the focus of the menu, but the highlight is the chance to make your own tiramisu. You’ll get all the ingredients to assemble your delicious dessert, all you need to do is mix them together and wait for your creation to settle.”
It is precisely this kind of recommendation that we need to stop. No one, not even Kim Jong Un or his servants, need to build their own tiramisu in a restaurant.
And yet the food world has become obsessed with deconstruction. What was once for the playground of Michelin Star chefs has now become a competition of the most obtuse, arrogant and douche baggery in Instagram photos that can exist.
When Ferran Adria of El Bulli created what is now known as micro-gastronomy, I very much doubt he was expecting Brenda from Norwich (2) to deconstruct her cheesecake for the local bake sale; or Gary from Sheffield (3) who thought a pork bun molecularly dissected and sprinkled with apple sauce shavings would ever take off. It hasn’t, and we hope it shouldn’t.
John Carlin met Adria in early 2007, he explained the delicate and precise nature of the genius required to deconstruction. “Deconstruction is one of the Adrià inventions that have changed the face of gastronomy. To understand how it works, let’s look at what he does with a classic dish of his native land, tortilla española – Spanish omelette. First, he reduces the old-fashioned tortilla to its three component parts: eggs, potatoes and onions. Then he cooks each separately. The finished product, the deconstructed outcome, is one-part potato foam (food-foaming is another technique Adrià has given the world), one-part onion purée, one-part egg-white sabayon. One isolated component is served on top of the other in layers, and topped with crumbs of deep-fried potatoes. The dish, minuscule, comes inside a sherry glass. Adrià, with the playful irony that exists in practically everything he does, names this dish…tortilla española.”
When it comes to deconstruction, surely it should be left to the professionals, but the creme de la creme, the ones that understand the extremely complicated and mind numbingly gregarious attention to detail required in the deconstruction of a food product.
Yes, Massimo Bottura, named in this blog has been the best exponent of it for many years; he’s doing it with Italian food, you need self-belief, balls as big as planets and the fortune of ten leprechauns to pull this off; or many, many, many years experience extolling the idea that something unique can be done with the basis of a simple, family favourite.
This level of attention is not what happens in your pub’s “deconstructed brownie with three types of vanilla” concoction. There is no need to deconstruct a brownie, the thing that makes it a brownie is, the fact that it is a brownie. It’s like listening to Led Zeppelin II without Jimmy Page shredding his Gibson Les Paul in Whole Lotta Love. Why, why would anyone do that?
Take the recent slew of, Masterchef (4) contestants in the UK’s last two editions. There have been calls by many a contestant to drop the pretentiousness of deconstruction so much so that a twitter flurry of mock deconstruction included the making of a cup of tea. Yes, England’s finest import. (Tea bag, cup, bottle of milk)
The pinnacle of misplaced molecular gastronomy or as it has now been hailed, the largest p*ss take since Chris Evans (5) presented Top Gear came about in Melbourne earlier this year. Journalist, Jamila Rizvi tweeted a picture of a deconstructed caffe latte that was brought to her table. Her comment read;
[Sorry Melbourne but no. No no no no no.
Hipsterism has gone too far when your coffee comes deconstructed.
I just waited almost 20 minutes for an actual cup before realising it would not be forthcoming.
I wanted a coffee. Not a science experiment. I prefer to drink my beverages out of crockery and not beakers.
Next stage? I’ll just get a chopping board with a bunch of actual coffee beans and an upside down hat on it.
This must stop, dear Melbourne.
This must stop.]
Ah, our friend the Hipster, doing what all hipsters manage to do so brilliantly, get it completely wrong with something that has never, in its wildest days, dreamt of being deconstructed. We all await the day that the hipster turns their hand to winemaking where they present the bottle with the grapes ready for your journey into oenophilia to begin.
Do we need molecular gastronomy? Well, no, not really, but if it is done correctly, it heightens the food experience and creates a new environment for creativity in food which is always essential. The issue is, we are taking away the enjoyment of regular food when we over-complicate and forget the real essence of deconstruction; it’s not helping, in fact, it is hindering the development of great food which should be about flavour, texture, enjoyment, nourishment and memories.
Rizvi’s outburst against the deconstructed latte is like that moment in Gladiator when Russell Crowe shows his face to Joaquin Phoenix’s emperor; it’s a call to arms and one that opens and closes the debate in one heart tugging statement; not everything should be deconstructed, and certainly, not everyone should attempt it.
1) Shiny teeth people is the correct, professional term for someone with, shiny teeth.
2) Norwich is not famous for cheesecake, don’t worry.
3) Deconstructed pork buns are not common place in Sheffield; but hot pork buns are. They are readily available in many butchers across the city and the tiny, independent butchers behind Ecclesall road near the Snooker club is widely regarded as the best place for a taste of Sheffield.
4) Masterchef is an amateur TV cooking show that years ago featured an Anglo American called Lloyd Grossman and aired on a sunday night when people were at their lowest; the show contributing to that. Since its reinvention in the early 2000’s has seen contestants picked off like a TV audition for “who’s cooked the sh*ttest food?”
5) Chris Evans is a popular TV and Radio presenter in the UK. Known for his spectacles, ginger hair and outgoing personality, he took the reigns from Clarkson, Hammond and May in 2016. He and the BBC regret the decision to this day.