«TITLE PAGE WHAT’S COOKING? Roberta Ann Muir Dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the coursework requirements for the degree of Master of ...»
Filtering is yet another of Flandrin’s “cooking techniques”. Simpler versions of gazpacho can be made by simply juicing various vegetables and seasoning them. Served well chilled they make a delicious and nutritious light entrée. A more complex soup, often billed as ‘tomato consommé’, is increasingly seen on Hideo Dekura, Sashimi (Sydney: Lansdowne, 2000), 6.
The Oxford Companion to Food, 1999 ed., s.v. “gazpacho,” by A[licia] R[ios].
André Dominé and Michael Ditter, chief eds., Culinaria: European Specialties Volume 2 (Cologne: Könemann, 1995), 171.
Stan Sarris, Rodney Adler and Liam Tomlin, Banc (Sydney: New Holland, 1999), 151–152.
Flandrin, “The Humanization of Eating Behaviors,” 18.
contemporary restaurant menus. It is made by allowing the clear juice of tomatoes (as most of the colour is in the skin and membranes) to drain from the tomato overnight through fine muslin. Any remaining sediment is removed by filtering through a coffee filter. This soup can be served warm, but is just as
Freezing is primarily used as a method of preserving food. It can however also play a role in the preparation of food. McGee points out that a side effect of freezing is water crystals puncturing cell walls, resulting in “tissue that is less able to hold water and so is less crisp than the fresh original.” This may on occasion be exactly what the cook desires. Cucumbers can be a very watery salad vegetable, salting them to remove some of the unwanted water was discussed previously, freezing and thawing is another solution, for just the reasons McGee describes. The water crystals puncture the cell walls, some of the liquid drains out and the softened cucumber can be gently squeezed to remove excess water, then combined with other salad vegetables without fear that they will weep too much liquid into the salad making it soggy and diluting the dressing. Partial freezing is also often used to firm up beef for carpaccio, so that it can be sliced as finely as possible. Ice cream is perhaps the definitive food prepared by freezing. It may be made from a cooked custard base, or ‘Philadelphia style’ without any heat involved.
Regardless of the base, its defining aspect is freezing. Surely the combining of ingredients, churning and freezing are such an integral part of making ice cream, that they deserve the title ‘cooking’, whether or not the ice cream is made from a heated custard base.
Much of what occurs in many kitchens today is assembly. This can be the combining of prefabricated convenience foods involving the application of heat but little creativity (which will be discussed later), or the careful and considered selection, preparation and assembly of ingredients to make salads, McGee, On Food and Cooking, 168.
Caroline Liddell and Robin Weir, Ices: the Definitive Guide (London: Grub Street, 1995), 31.
sandwiches, dips, antipasto plates and other edibles requiring skill and creativity but not the application of heat. Is the combining of mass-produced instant noodles and sauces more worthy of the name ‘cooking’ just because some heat is applied, than the careful washing, slicing, picking and dressing of a salad,
which does not involve any heat? M. F. K. Fisher says of an ‘assembled’ dish, Raspberries Romanoff:
“they are one variation, and to my mind the best, of a hundred more or less complicated ways of combining fresh fruits and fresh cream.” Her recipe involves mixing chilled berries lightly through cream that has been beaten with sugar and kirsch. A simple preparation perhaps, but no simpler than instant noodles and simmer sauce, and infinitely more delicious to my taste!
The above are all examples of techniques and processes that do not involve heat but that should, I believe, be included under the designation ‘cooking’. Other food preparation techniques, involving a certain degree of heat, are not so clear-cut; some might consider them ‘cooking’, though others might not.
The raw food movement has many devotees, especially in the USA. Chef Roxanne Klein of Roxanne’s in Larkspur, California is not only convincing diners that ‘raw food’ can be fine dining, but has also had an incredible influence on leading Chicago chef, Charlie Trotter, with whom she is co-writing a cookbook, Raw. Trotter now offers a 10-course raw-food tasting menu in his restaurant, upon request. A review of the upcoming book defines raw food as: “Prepared with basic techniques such as juicing, dehydrating, and slicing, raw food has all of its nutritional value intact since it isn’t subjected to the enzyme-rupturing process that intense heat induces.” The exact temperature above which food is no longer considered
Despite these slight variations, Roxanne, Juliano and other chefs and writers promoting ‘raw food’ are M. F. K. Fisher, An Alphabet for Gourmets (N.p.: Viking Press,1949; reprint, New York: North Point Press, 1989), 164.
Sari Zernich (of Charlie Trotter’s), E-mail to author, 29 July 2003.
Amazon.com editorial review of Raw, by Charlie Trotter and Roxanne Klein, on RawFoodNetwork website [on-line]; accessed 27 July 2003; available from http://www.rawfoodnetwork.com/index.html.
Living & Raw Foods, “Welcome to Living and Raw Foods!” [on-line]; accessed 27 July 2003; available from http://www.livingfoods.com/welcome.html.
Allen, review of Raw: The UNcook Book.
Roxanne’s Restaurant, “Philosophy: Why Switch to a Living Foods Diet” [on-line]; accessed 27 July 2003; available from http://www.roxannes-restaurant.com/html/.
happy to warm food to at least 46 ºC and still call it raw. McGee says that muscle fibres of meat start to shorten at 54 ºC, but that the protein molecules start to uncoil from their natural configuration at about 38 ºC. Ralph Hancock, in The Oxford Companion to Food, says that the collagen in meat starts to denature at 60 ºC. Chef Christine Manfield has prepared chicken and fish by ‘setting’ the protein at a temperature as low as 50 ºC. She has experimented with lower temperatures but without success, and says that the optimum temperature to set protein is 55 ºC. At this temperature, meat will take from three to five hours (depending on the density of the flesh) to achieve a ‘set’ texture, while retaining its jewel-like translucency.
While The Oxford Companion to Food describes searing as “cooking the surfaces of a piece of meat briefly at a high temperature … before reducing the heat and allowing cooking to finish more gently”, a number of chefs and cooks today sear meat and fish briefly and then remove it from the heat altogether.
Searing meat does contribute to its flavour by encouraging the browning reaction that occurs when a combination of carbohydrates and proteins are exposed to high heat (known as the Maillard Reaction).
Tuna and salmon are popular served in this way, as is steak served very rare, or ‘blue’. The question is whether this deliberate ‘undercooking’ is in fact ‘cooking’. All the questionnaire respondents indicated that they thought it was (Table 1). Yet many people served a rare steak or piece of fish would send it back to the kitchen complaining: “This isn’t cooked, it’s still raw!” Flandrin observes: “in every country rare cooking is reserved for the meats people truly like, while everything else is overcooked.”
Typically today, blanching refers to plunging a food briefly into boiling water before removing and refreshing it in iced water to arrest the cooking process. Larousse also defines it as bringing food to the McGee, On Food and Cooking, 109.
The Oxford Companion to Food, 1999 ed.,, s.v. “protein,” by R[alph] H[ancock].
Christine Manfield, conversation with author, 2 August 2003, and E-mail to author, 4 August 2003.
The Oxford Companion to Food, 1999 ed., s.v. “searing,” by L[aura] M[ason].
Jean-Louis Flandrin, “Dietary Choices and Culinary Technique, 1500–1800,” in Food: A Culinary History from Antiquity to the Present, eds. Jean-Louis Flandrin, Massimo Montanari and Albert Sonnenfeld, trans. Clarissa Botsford et al. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999; reprint, London: Penguin Books, 2000), 415.
boil from a cold water start, the preliminary frying of potatoes for chips, and the vigorous beating together of egg yolks and castor sugar. Blanching can whiten, its most literal meaning (for example rabbit), facilitate peeling (for example tomatoes or nuts), set the colour of green vegetables before freezing or heating in butter, or be an end in itself. Many green vegetables require no further preparation than blanching before being served, and Saunders talks of a Japanese dish, torishashi, which consists of salted chicken pieces dropped briefly into boiling water then refreshed in iced water, a type of chicken sashimi.
The Ancient Romans believed that the sun was capable of ‘cooking’ foods. Plants grown on the most ‘civilised’ land (gardens and orchards), such as fruit, salad greens, onions, leeks, carrots and herbs were considered ‘cocta’, or ‘cooked’, by the sun. Such plants could therefore be consumed without any further heating, in salads, or in the case of grapes by being made into wine. Even grains and legumes, which were grown on ploughed land (slightly less ‘civilised’ than the gardens and orchards as it had to be ploughed anew each year), were considered partially cooked by the sun, as they could sprout and bring forth new life. They could be stored in their dried state without the fear of decay associated with ‘uncooked’ animal flesh. Interestingly, once the grains were roasted and milled to make flour, they could no longer produce new life and so the flour was considered ‘uncooked’ (despite having had heated applied in the roasting process) and therefore “apt to decay and the same taboos as dead flesh.” More recently, Alice B. Toklas describes a version of gazpacho cooked by the sun: Spanish muleteers coat an earthenware dish with a mixture of olive oil, salt and garlic, add chopped cucumbers and tomatoes in alternate layers with breadcrumbs, top this with oil, wrap the dish in a wet cloth and place it in the sun.
The meal is ‘cooked’ by evaporation, and when the cloth has dried out it is ready to eat. Bread dough is often put in a warm sunny spot to ‘prove’, is this not part of the cooking process? Butter, and even chocolate, can be melted by the heat of the sun; both could then be used in sauces that may not require any further heating. Would such a preparation not be part of the cooking process?
Larousse Gastronomique, 1988 ed., s.v. “blanching.” The Oxford Companion to Food, 1999 ed., s.v. “blanch.” Alan Saunders, “The Raw Deal,” Good Weekend: The Sydney Morning Herald Magazine, 21 December 2002, 40.
Alice B. Toklas, The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook (N.p.: Michael Joseph, 1954; reprint, Kent Town: Wakefield Press, 1995), 52–53.
Body heat is another source of gentle warmth. Mark Kurlansky relates a story told to him by chef John Ash about a lunch he shared with M. F. K. Fisher. Fisher split a long baguette, filled it with mayonnaise, cheese, ham and rocket, then wrapped it in plastic wrap and instructed Ash to sit on it. After an hour, she
announced that lunch was ready and asked him to stand up. Ash says:
She unwrapped the loaf, which was now highly compressed and warm from my body heat. She sliced it into nice little finger sandwiches, and served it with some little cornichon pickles on the side and a glass of nice Sonoma Pinot Noir, as I recall.
The Ancient Romans considered plant foods to be wholly or partially cooked by the sun. They also considered that cooking of these foods continued inside the human stomach and that such food was transformed into living tissue. Animals, on the other hand, began to decompose even while they were alive, as life is a process of gradual decay from birth to death. Animal products were therefore not
respondents, 15% considered digestion to be a form of ‘cooking’ (Table 1).
John Ash, personal communication with Mark Kurlansky, 1999, quoted in Mark Kurlansky, Choice Cuts: a Selection of Food Writing from Around the World and Throughout History (London: Jonathan Cape, 2002), 36.
Flandrin, “Seasoning, Cooking and Dietetics,” 316.
Flandrin, “From Dietetics to Gastronomy,” 427–428.
Now we come to food preparation techniques that definitely attain a temperature that would meet the most stringent definition of the application of heat, but which may not fulfil the criteria of ‘cooking’ for those who apply a creative element to it.
Pasteurisation involves the heating of foodstuffs (most frequently dairy) to kill potentially harmful bacteria and thus extend its keeping time. The temperature at which food is pasteurised depends upon the time it is exposed to heat, but it must be at least 62 ºC (for 30 minutes) to ensure its effectiveness. More common for milk in Australia is 71–74 ºC for 15–40 seconds. UHT (Ultra Heat Treated) pasteurisation, at 130–150 ºC for 2–10 seconds, provides an even longer shelf life; milk treated in this way does however develop something of a ‘cooked’ taste. Is pasteurisation ‘cooking’? It involves the preparation of foodstuffs by the application of heat, yet only 45% of questionnaire respondents considered it to be ‘cooking’ (Table 1).