«TITLE PAGE WHAT’S COOKING? Roberta Ann Muir Dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the coursework requirements for the degree of Master of ...»
Roberta Ann Muir
Dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of
the coursework requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts (Gastronomy)
School of History and Politics
University of Adelaide
TABLE OF CONTENTS
TABLE OF CONTENTS
LIST OF TABLES
2 ‘COOKING’ IN OTHER LANGUAGES
3 WHAT IS COOKING?
3.3 More than Heat
3.4 Cooking versus Good Cooking
3.6 What Cooks Do
4 WHY COOK?
4.1 Make the Inedible Edible
4.2 Increase Nutritional Value
5 ACHIEVING THE DESIRED OUTCOMES OF COOKING WITHOUT HEAT
5.1 Make the Inedible Edible
5.2 Increase Nutritional Value
6 “DO YOU CONSIDER THIS COOKING?”
7 CATEGORIES OF COOKING TECHNIQUES NOT INVOLVING HEAT
7 COOKING WITHOUT HEAT
iii 7.10 Seasoning
7.13 Pounding and Grinding
7.14 Chopping and Mincing
7.16 Blending and Pureeing
7.17 Juicing and Filtering
7.18 Freezing and Thawing
7.20 “Raw Food”
7.23 Sun Heat
7.24 Body Heat
7.28 Combining Convenience Foods
7.29 Re-heating Pre-cooked Products
9.1 “Cooking Processes” Questionnaire
9.2 “Continuum” Questionnaire
9.3 “Pairs” Questionnaire
TABLE 2 Continuum
In English there is a broad and general definition of ‘cooking’ as ‘the application of heat to food’. Yet there are many forms of food preparation, generally performed by a ‘cook’, that do not require heat.
‘Cooking’ can have a number of meanings. It might be argued that ‘cooking’ is ‘that which a cook does’, whether heat has been applied or not, from sourcing quality produce to arranging the finished dish on a plate. In other languages the verb used for the preparation of food (which would be translated in English as ‘to cook’) does not always have the same connotation of the application of heat as the English word has. When someone says that a very rudimentary meal preparation is ‘not cooking’, most people understand the meaning, even though heat may have been applied. This dissertation argues that ‘cooking’ should be more broadly interpreted. Further, it demonstrates that there are many food preparation techniques, which do not involve the application of heat, but nonetheless represent ‘cooking’.
In order to help gain an understanding of contemporary interpretations of ‘cooking’, a set of three questionnaires was sent, by email, to 120 people, asking them to indicate which of a list of processes they would consider to be ‘cooking’. The questionnaires were sent to chefs, food and wine writers, gastronomy students and amateur cooks who expressed an interest in being included. A review of literature and interviews with a number of leading chefs elaborated on the various definitions of ‘cooking’.
This paper first establishes the desired outcomes of cooking through a review of literature and then shows that those outcomes can be achieved without the application of heat. Non-heat forms of food preparation are then separated into four categories: those performed before, during and after heat is applied to food and, finally, those performed as an end in themselves. The paper finishes with an analysis of food preparation techniques that don’t involve heat and can be an end in themselves, as well as several processes involving varying degrees of heat, arguing that all forms of irreversibly transforming
This work contains no material which has been accepted for the award of any other degree or diploma in any university or other tertiary institution and, to the best of my knowledge and belief, contains no material previously published or written by another person, except where due reference has been made in the text.
I give consent to this copy of my dissertation, when deposited in the University Library, being available for loan and photocopying.
I am extremely grateful to my lecturer Dr Barbara Santich and my supervisor Dr Alan Saunders who read multiple drafts of this paper without complaint and who offered concise and constructive criticism at every point along the way.
My thanks also to Tim Pak Poy for reading the final draft and offering his valuable comments and encouragement; to my husband Franz Scheurer for amusing himself for 18 months worth of weekends so I could study and write; and to Grahame Turk, Managing Director of Sydney Fish Market, for allowing me the flexibility to study while working full-time.
Final thanks to David Thompson and Ross Lusted, whose late night debate on the meaning of cooking sowed the seed for this paper; and to all who returned my questionnaires and gave their thoughts on the meaning of ‘cooking’.
Despite the profusion of books, magazines, websites, videos, and television and radio shows that exist today on the subject of cooking, very few ever address the question of what cooking actually is. We all think we know what is meant when we say someone is ‘cooking’. However, when we start to ask what cooking is, some surprising issues arise.
In English there seems to be a broad and general definition of ‘cooking’ as ‘the application of heat to food’. Yet there are many forms of food preparation, generally performed by a ‘cook’, that do not require heat. These tasks may be performed before the application of heat (peeling, chopping, stuffing); during the application of heat (basting, stirring, turning); after the application of heat (slicing, arranging, blending); or as an end in themselves without the application of heat at all (pickling vegetables, whisking mayonnaise, pounding pesto sauce). A review of literature suggests that there are a number of reasons why we cook, certain desired outcomes of the cooking process. Upon closer examination, it is seen that all of these outcomes can be achieved by food preparation techniques that do not involve the application of heat.
It might be argued that ‘cooking’ is ‘that which a cook does’, whether heat has been applied or not, from sourcing quality produce to arranging the finished dish on a plate (and possibly even cleaning up afterwards; many parents try to instil in their children that washing up is part of cooking). Does a book such as Hooked on Raw, by raw-foodist Rhio, have the right to the title ‘cookbook’ when none of the recipes in it involves the application of heat above 48 ºC; or should it be more correctly named Raw – the UNcook Book, like the book of rawist recipes by cult California chef Juliano? An on-line review of Juliano’s book warns that it “is not a book for the novice cook”, implying that knowledge of techniques, and skill in applying them, are required to achieve a successful outcome.
I started thinking about this subject after listening to two chefs discussing ‘cooking’. The first claimed that cooking could be as simple as a plate of perfect strawberries with a good, homemade, vanilla ice cream;
but the second retorted: “That’s not cooking”, saying that cooking had to involve combining ingredients to create something greater than the sum of its parts, that it had to involve skill and transformation. More Zel Allen and Reuben Allen, review of Raw: The UNcook Book, by Juliano Brotman and Erika Lenkert [Living and Raw Foods web site on-line]; accessed 4 August 2003; available from http://www.living-foods.com/articles/rawuncook.html.
and more people today are thawing and heating pre-prepared meals, or combining convenience foods, such as instant noodles and simmer sauces. While this does involve the application of heat, some would argue that this expedient form of food preparation is ‘not cooking’. When someone says that a very rudimentary meal preparation is ‘not cooking’, most people understand the meaning, even though heat may have been applied. What is meant by ‘cooking’ in this context? It must mean something other than ‘the application of heat’. Perhaps here the definition includes the application of skill in the combining of ingredients to create something greater than the sum of its parts, not just a heated version of the original components.
In languages other than English, the verb used for the preparation of food, which would be translated as the English verb ‘to cook’, does not always have the same connotation of the application of heat as the English word has. Anthropologists agree that what is considered ‘food’ is culturally determined. It is also possible that what is considered ‘cooking’ is culturally determined. Translation between languages is an imprecise art, as every word of every language carries hidden meanings understood, perhaps subconsciously, by native speakers of that language, but quite likely unknown to people with a more superficial (though working) knowledge of the language.
While it cannot be denied that ‘cooking’ most often involves the application of heat, it is also clear that ‘cooking’ can have a number of meanings. This paper attempts to work towards a broader understanding of ‘cooking’, through interviews with a number of leading chefs; a series of questionnaires sent to food industry professionals, students and amateur cooks; and a review of current literature. It intends to show that there are many food preparation techniques, which do not involve the application of heat, and are ‘cooking’ nonetheless; that ‘cooking’ encompasses all steps involved in preparing food for the table; and that the desired outcomes of cooking can be achieved without the application of heat.
Anne Murcott, “Scarcity in Abundance: Food and Non-Food,” Social Research 66 (1999): 308.
In The Essence of Japanese Cuisine Michael Ashkenazi, describes the “Shijoryu style of cooking” (Japan’s classical style still popular today), as assembling a menu based around three dishes: a stewed dish, a grilled fish dish and a raw fish dish (plus a soup). The ‘raw’ fish dish is an integral part of the Shijoryu style of ‘cooking’. He later quotes a Japanese woman talking about shopping for dinner on the way home from work. She says that she selects what looks best to “cook … from scratch” as the main dish then she selects two or three other items to “round it out, perhaps a tray of good-looking sashimi and some seasoned vegetables. Having all those cooked dishes to choose from is so convenient”. The sashimi and seasoned (pickled) vegetables, ready to serve as they are, are considered by her to be “cooked dishes”. Master Sushi Chef, Hideo Dekura, says that the Japanese translation of the English word ‘cooking’ is ‘ryou-ri’: ‘ryou’ meaning literally ‘weight’ or ‘amount’ and ‘ri’ meaning ‘to understand’. In Japanese, cooking is therefore not about the application of heat, but about understanding ingredients and the correct amount of each to combine in order to achieve the desired result. Dekura also says that a Japanese dictionary will include “to cut and present beautifully and tastefully” in a definition of ‘ryou-ri’.
The emphasis in Japanese cuisine is on skilful knife-work and artistic presentation, not on heating methods. As a verb, ‘ryou-ri’ does not refer to the preparation of soups or desserts (which typically require less skilful knife-work); a different word, ‘tsukuru’ (which translates roughly as ‘make’) covers their preparation. ‘Ryou-ri’ as a noun, however, is a general term for all types of ‘cooking’. ‘Ryouri-hou’, translates as ‘recipe’, and ‘ryouri-gakkou’, translates as ‘cooking school’; both could include desserts and soups.
Michael Ashkenazi and Jeanne Jacob, The Essence of Japanese Cuisine: An Essay on Food and Culture (Richmond, Surrey:
Curzon Press, 2000), 73–76.
Hideo Dekura, E-mail to author, 7 May 2003.
Tagalog, the official language of the Philippines, provides other interesting examples. It has a new word for each individual type of cooking. ‘Luto’ is a word which broadly translates as ‘cooking’, but rather than referring to the application of heat it refers to the correct manner of preparation and the appropriate condiments. Each type of preparation (with its appropriate condiments) has its own word, for example, ‘paksiw’, for dishes stewed in ginger and vinegar, but ‘ginataan’ for dishes stewed in coconut milk. These terms go beyond English words for different cooking methods (such as ‘stew’) as they vary according to the accompanying ingredients. Bel Castro, a Tagalog speaker, says: “a typical question might be?
‘Anong ulam?’ Which passes for ‘what's for dinner’ but more accurately translates into ‘what are we having with our rice?’ as rice at dinner is already assumed. The answer might be, ‘manok’, or chicken.