«TITLE PAGE WHAT’S COOKING? Roberta Ann Muir Dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the coursework requirements for the degree of Master of ...»
The Oxford Companion to Food says: “When fish is cooked by heat, the main effect in terms of food chemistry is that its protein is ‘denatured’. The citric acid in lemons or limes has a similar effect, although this is not called ‘cooking’.” Despite this assertion, of all the non-heat forms of food preparation, acidification is the one most commonly referred to as ‘cooking’. Fernández-Armesto says: “As soon as you squirt lemon juice at your oyster you are beginning to alter it, to apply changes which affect texture and taste: a generous definition might call this cooking.” There are many versions of seafood ‘cooked’ in acid: the ceviche of Central and South America, the kokoda of Polynesia, and the kinilaw of the Philippines.
Edilberto Alegre, with whom Fernandez co-wrote Kinilaw: a Philippine Cuisine of Freshness, writes:
“Kinilaw is not a preference for the raw; rather it is a valuing of the food as it is … Vinegar takes the place of fire–it cooks. It accents; it changes the texture of the raw food; it softens; it renders opaque the translucence of the fresh … Vinegar is liquid fire, and as such it transforms the raw into the edible.” The Oxford Companion to Food, 1999 ed., s.v. “ceviche.” Fernández-Armesto, 4.
John Newton, cons. ed., Food: The Essential A - Z Guide (Sydney: Murdoch Books, 2001), 75.
Siu Ling Hui, “The Mighty Kingie is Back!”, in Divine Food and Wine issue 33 (May/July 2003), 24.
The Oxford Companion to Food, 1999 ed., s.v. “kinilaw,” by D[oreen] F[ernandez].
Edilberto N. Alegre and Doreen G. Fernandez, Kinilaw: a Philippine Cuisine of Freshness (Makati, Metro Manila: Bookmark, 1991), 113–114.
Flandrin considers marinating to be a cooking technique, referring to “heating, seasoning, marinating, grinding, slicing, filtering, and other cooking techniques”. Fernández-Armesto points out that: “A marinade, applied for a long time, can be as transforming in its effects as the application of heat or smoke.” Marinating is often used before heat is applied, to tenderise and add flavour and sometimes to preserve (although this brings the process closer to pickling). It can however also be a technique in itself, without heat being applied. Fruit, for example, can be marinated in alcohol and served as a dessert, such as sliced strawberries in Grand Marnier. Salad dressings are a form of marinade. Most are added just before serving so that the dressing does not transform the salad leaves, but only flavour them;
some salad ingredients however benefit from the transformative powers of the dressing or marinade. In relation to this, Alexander says: “the breaking down of fibres can be used to advantage when the leaves are particularly tough and resistant. Cabbage coleslaw relies on this technique”. ‘Salsa’ (the Latin word for sauce) today generally refers to a chunky sauce or salad consisting of finely chopped vegetables, herbs and/or fruits. Salsas also benefit from being prepared ahead of time and left to marinate in their dressing and in the juices given off by the various components. Flavours have time to ‘marry’ and the acids in the dish transform some of the ingredients, making them softer.
Seasoning is another of Flandrin’s “cooking techniques”. Bonnet also refers to seasoning as an “aspect of cooking”. He quotes Jaucourt in the Encyclopédie as saying: “The art of the chefs consists almost exclusively of the seasoning of dishes”. Seasoning, like marinating, is a process most often combined with the application of heat, foods being seasoned with salt, pepper and other spices before, during or after heating. It can however be a food preparation process in its own right; not only enhancing the flavour of foods, but also transforming their structure and aiding their preservation, thus fulfilling some Flandrin, “The Humanization of Eating Behaviors,” 18.
Flandrin, “The Humanization of Eating Behaviors,” 18.
Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, s.v. “Assaisonnement”, quoted in Bonnet, 143.
of the desired outcomes of cooking discussed earlier. Sugaring fennel, for example, works in a similar way to salting cucumbers. The sugar draws some of the moisture out of the fennel through osmotic pressure, softening it a little, and at the same time reducing the strength of the aniseed flavour, which may appear overwhelming in some instances; the softened, sweetened fennel can then be used as a salad ingredient. David gives a dessert recipe for Spiced Cream Cheese, where mace, cloves, nutmeg, salt and sugar are worked into cream cheese that is then drained overnight in a mould before being served with pouring cream and extra castor sugar.
Sauce making is considered an integral part of cooking, at least of the classical French school from which the style of cooking traditional in western restaurants is derived. The great French chef Antonin Carême
mayonnaise or vinaigrette, rarely involve heat in their preparation, and yet are one of the cornerstones of French cooking. Vinaigrette, mayonnaise, aïoli, gribiche, tartare and vierge are all cold sauces,
preparations are served as accompaniments to other foods, which may not be heated (such as crudités or salads), but which often are (such as boiled vegetables or seafood), the question is whether their preparation constitutes part of ‘cooking’. Gribiche is a mayonnaise-style sauce made with hard-boiled, instead of raw, egg yolk, and to which capers, herbs and chopped eggwhite are added. It does not seem reasonable to say that in making this sauce, the cook is only truly ‘cooking’ while boiling the egg and not while preparing the actual sauce. Some cold desserts are made by whipping ingredients together (often fruit, cream and alcohol), such as the old-fashioned English ‘fools’, which consist of pureed fruit folded through whipped cream. Heat is not involved, yet is the chef not ‘cooking’ when preparing these desserts? Over 50% of the respondents to the questionnaires, considered this process to be ‘cooking’ (Table 2).
Larousse Gastronomique, 1988 ed., s.v. “sauce.” Larousse Gastronomique, 1988 ed., s.v. “gribiche.”
Fernández-Armesto refers to churning milk as “a process of almost alchemical magic: a liquid becomes a solid, white becomes gold.” When cream (an oil-in-water emulsion) is agitated and beaten with a paddle, the homogenisation of the oil suspended in the water is broken down, the fat globules come together to form butter and separate from the liquid buttermilk. After churning, the free buttermilk is drained off, the butter is washed to extract further buttermilk, and often salted to extend its life and
improve its flavour. Two foods are created by the churning process without the application of heat:
butter, a staple food of non-Mediterranean Europe, and buttermilk, used widely as a nutritious drink and ingredient in many dishes.
Grinding is one of the “cooking techniques” Flandrin credits with improving food’s digestibility. Grinding and pounding, in some sort of mortar (stone, wood or earthenware) with a pestle, is a technique going back to ancient times and found in many different cultures. According to William Mead in The English Medieval Feast, the mortar and pestle were “probably the most important aids to the medieval cook after the great cauldrons that hung over the open fire”. As forks had not yet been introduced, food had to be eaten with a knife, spoon and the fingers, and so was generally of a mushy consistency. Before the days of modern food processors, pounding in a mortar and pestle was the way to achieve this. In European cooking, pounding is still a popular way of making emulsion sauces such as Italian pesto (whose name derives from the Italian word for ‘pound’), and French rouille and aïoli (allioli in the Catalan region of Spain). In the cooking of South East Asia, the mortar and pestle are used to crush ingredients and make pastes, such as the spicy larp (or larb) pastes used to flavour the minced meat salads of northern Thailand and Laos. Chef David Thompson refers to a Laotian-style larp, which in its most basic form is raw minced meat, mixed with blood and a spicy paste containing pounded chillies, shallots and mint.
The complex curry pastes, which provide the backbone of Thai cuisine, are made in the mortar, Fernández-Armesto, 5.
The Oxford Companion to Food, 1999 ed., s.v. “butter.” Flandrin, “The Humanization of Eating Behaviors,” 18.
Larousse Gastronomique, 1988 ed., s.v. “mortar.” William Edward Mead, The English Medieval Feast (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1931), 44.
David Thompson, E-mails to author, 18 February and 26 July 2003.
ingredients being added, and pounded into the existing ingredients, one at a time so that the cook can smell each new addition to determine the correct quantity required. Thompson says the use of a mortar and pestle is so essential in Thai cuisine that prospective mothers-in-law listen outside girls’ kitchens to hear the rhythm of their pounding and determine whether or not they will be suitable wives for their sons.
From three different parts of the world come three different raw meat dishes that rely on the action of chopping or mincing. While the paste used to season Thai and Laotian larps is pounded, the meat itself is minced or finely chopped. As discussed earlier, one of the first skills an apprentice chef is expected to master is knife skills. The ability to chop, dice and mince quickly and accurately is considered essential to good cooking. Fernández-Armesto calls steak tartare “The classic ‘raw’-meat dish of western cuisine”.
This dish of freshly minced raw beefsteak (or horse meat in some instances) is traditionally dressed at the table with seasonings such as raw egg yolk, capers, anchovies, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce and finely chopped parsley, onion and shallots. Kibbeh nayé (or raw kibbeh) is the Middle Eastern equivalent of steak tartare. Finely diced, minced, or even pounded, lamb meat is mixed with soaked cracked wheat (burghul), salt, pepper and chopped onions. It is served either in a flat dish to be scooped up in lettuce leaves, or rolled into small cylinders and served on a bed of lettuce.
Slicing, another procedure referred to among Flandrin’s “cooking techniques”, is related to chopping and mincing as a skill that the young cook is expected to master early. In European cuisine, the dish based on slicing that most readily comes to mind is carpaccio, the Italian dish of thinly sliced raw beef. Excellent quality beef is trimmed of all sinew, wrapped tightly and placed in the freezer for 30 minutes to firm it up, sliced wafer thin and served dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and parmesan cheese. The David Thompson, cooking class at Sydney Seafood School, Sydney, Australia, 1 March, 2003.
Larousse Gastronomique, 1988 ed., s.v. “tartare (à la).” Claudia, A Book of Middle Eastern Food (N.p: Thomas Nelson, 1968; reprint, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1970), 239.
ability to slice the meat as thinly as possible (combined with the quality of the produce) is the key to this dish. In the case of sashimi, the Japanese dish of raw fish, it is also the slicing technique and the quality of the raw produce that define the dish. Master Sushi Chef, Hideo Dekura, lists seven different cutting techniques (including filleting and mincing) in his book Sashimi, and adds: “Knowing the cutting techniques for sashimi is essential, because each cutting style gives the fish fillets a different texture. It is these cutting techniques that give sashimi its delicate texture and taste.”
Blending and pureeing are techniques that have become more popular since home blenders and food processors became widely available in the second half of the twentieth century, though in earlier times fruit and vegetables were chopped, pounded and minced into a puree or pushed through a sieve.
Gazpacho, a dish introduced to Spain by the Arabs, is found in many different forms throughout Spain.
The best-known version outside Spain is perhaps the Andalusian one, made by blending garlic, tomato, cucumber and capsicum with bread or breadcrumbs, water, olive oil, and wine or sherry vinegar.
Traditionally this soup would have been pounded in a mortar, today however, most Spaniards use a processor or liquidiser. Other cold Spanish soups, such as ajo blanco (a garlic soup), are made in a similar way. Chef Liam Tomlin’s version of gazpacho (without bread or breadcrumbs) provides an example of such a soup made without any ingredients that have ever been processed by heat. 53% of respondents to the cooking questionnaires indicated that they considered the preparation of gazpacho to be ‘cooking’ (Table 3).