There was a time, not that long ago in our existence, when food meant sustenance, it meant nutrition, it meant survival. There was also a time when everything we ate we hunted or gathered ourselves. We ate, we sustained, we survived – simple.
Then, one day, we noticed that the guy 2 caves down had some yummy looking ungulate hanging outside his front stoop. And he noticed that we had some very tasty yak entrails that we weren’t using – and so, commerce was born.
Well now, in the developed world, our concept and value of food has evolved so far from any notion of nutrition or survival, that we take it for granted. Of course the supermarket will have papayas. Of course I can buy a kilo of beef for 6 bucks. Of course I can get cucumbers in February. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no food Trotsky — we had a whole roast piglet at our open house last week, so I’m as guilty as anyone. But the point is, as a society, when our relationship with food evolves to the point of a $500 hamburger – we need to sit down and give ourselves a bit of a talking too. Food is no longer about food. It has become theatre, entertainment, an outlet for artistic expression, a fashion accessory. Putting vittles in your belly to get you through the day is for losers — I’m exaggerating for effect of course.
So all of this rambling is really just a way of voicing my slight discomfort with the idea of where I’m going to dinner on Friday. Cathy and Rachelle suggested we go to Atelier on Rochester. As you might know, Atelier is Ottawa’s own iteration of the food movement known as molecular gastronomy, a concept most recently made famous by Ferran Adria with his Catalan restaurant El Bulli. The idea behind molecular gastronomy is to (allegedly) challenge ones ideas of what food is and how we experience it, using chemical and scientific processes to transform ingredients rather than ‘cook’ or ‘prepare’ them. Now to be honest, I have never eaten at a molecular gastronomy restaurant, I’ve only seen it on the tube and read about it, and all these opinions, notions, right or wrong are just that – opinions.
And that’s exactly why Rachelle asked me to write about it. To compare the pre-conceived notion of molecular gastronomy to the actual experience of consuming it. I have no doubt that the Atelier people will put on a great show, and maybe they’ll change my mind. I will probably be proven wrong, and we will probably have a very memorable experience. But I may still grab a sandwich at Dirienzo’s first.
Talk to you after dessert.
Do you think we’ll get dessert?