The 2012 Lorne Trottier Public Science Symposium Series Food: A Serving of Science Recap

Food: not only a source of nourishment, but a source of pleasure. There was a time when food was simple, and thus enjoyable. However, as of late, it’s become a real source of anxiety. With conflicting messages about food, coupled with the surge in nutritional fads, most if not all contradicting one another, it’s no wonder we haven’t got a clue what to eat. Enough hearsay already, we want some facts.

This past Tuesday, New York Times personal health columnist  and best-selling author Jane Brody took to the stage at the 2012 Lorne Trottier Public Science Symposium Series lecture Food: A Serving of Science to lay the false claims to rest once and for all, but most importantly, to remind those of us who have thrown up our arms in utter confusion that when it comes to food, it need not be rocket science. On the contrary, Ms. Brody offered a most insightful dictum first dispensed by author Michael Pollan, author of Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, that sums up beautifully how to regain control of our dinner plate: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Seems simple enough, doesn’t it?

Truth be told, science first complicated things, with stringent dietary proclamations, only to turn around and eschew them in favour of contradictory claims. But on Tuesday evening, we learned that despite always-changing information, sound science can help us make wise decisions about what to eat, and help us regain gastronomical pleasure at the dinner table.

Here are some of Ms. Brody’s pearls of wisdom, some of which truly boil down to exercising common sense:

1. Base your diet on foods the human species has evolved on.

2. Consume an amount of protein that reflects the human body’s nutritional needs (i.e. animal protein should be consumed in small amounts while vegetables should make up two thirds or more of your dinner plate.)

3. Focus on real foods that derive from the land.

4. Rely on fruits to satisfy your sweet tooth.

5. Eat less (Leave the dinner table once you’re satisfied, not once you’re full.)

For the second part of the symposium, award-winning author Harold McGee took to the mic to talk cooking and chemistry. After a look at the history of science as applied in the kitchen (with sometimes dubious results that have withstood the test of time—searing meat does not seal in the juices, people!), the New York Times columnist treated the audience to a look at iconic dishes from the nouvelle cuisine movement as well as more recent advances  in experimental cooking. The former, which emerged in the late 1960s, early ’70s, grew from a desire to break away from the rigid technical and unimaginative prescriptions of French cuisine from the time of Auguste Escoffier, while the latter came about as chefs the world over sought ways to push the envelope even further, using scientific methods to transform food as we know it.

We learned about one of the forefathers of nouvelle cuisine, Michel Bras, who gave the world the gift of two iconic dishes:

molten_chocolate_cake_michel_bras

The Molten Chocolate Cake, which differs from its predecessors in that the sauce is found inside the cake.

michel_bras_gargouillou

Gargouillou, a mixed salad with sauce based solely on improvisation, which was groundbreaking in the 1980s.

Other notable culinary inventions:

Ferran_Adria_caviar

From esteemed Spanish chef Ferran Adria, caviar, reimagined (melon caviar!)

garden_salad_heston_blumenthal

London’s Heston Blumenthal‘s Garden Salad (edible soil, yummy?)

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