Two guys walk into a bar. The first one says to the bartender, “I’ll have a glass of H2O.” The second guy laughs and says, “I’ll have an H2O too.” They both drink and the second guy dies.
Nerdy chemistry-jokes aside, molecular gastronomy is a trend that started to blossom in 1992, back when the first Clinton was running for president. The now burgeoning food sector was introduced to the world by Culinary Professor Elizabeth Cawdry Thomas, who started a workshop where chefs could learn about the physics and chemistry of cooking.
At its most basic level, molecular gastronomy is science you can eat; a type of cuisine that’s as much theater as it is sustenance. It has carved a popular niche for itself in the restaurant world by challenging what we think of as food, similarly to the way abstract artists Pollock and Mondrian challenged how the world viewed art.
Some of these incredible menu items include transparent ravioli allowing diners to view all of the contents inside. When one eats the see-through pasta, which looks more like triangular saran-wrap, the invisible containment pod immediately dissolves and gets out of the way — all of the flavours from inside are unleashed onto the taste buds. Another interesting modern-day molecular treat is chocolate covered strawberries with a carbonated candy coating — chef-made pop rocks. A third very fascinating technique in the area of MG is what is called food-pairing, where foods with surprisingly complimentary aromas are combined. One such recipe is a plate with cooked beetroot, dark chocolate, raspberry and black olives.
The ongoing list of abstract creations is limited by a chef’s imagination, and familiarity with chemistry and physics.
So what about marijuana?
Today, cutting-edge chefs who want to challenge traditional thinking about food are looking for new ways to test the status quo. Enter onto the scene, cannabis haute cuisine.
A 2015 article in Scientific American discussed chefs starting to use marijuana in modernist recipes. In the piece, California-based chef Laurent Quenioux discussed his experiences cooking with cannabis for haute cuisine private parties. One of the dishes he made consisted of monkfish, congee, and a cannabis epazote pesto. Like many chefs, Quenioux does not make cannabis dishes exclusively — legal restrictions make it too difficult to turn a profit.
Love’s Oven is a successful cannabis bakery in Denver, and Executive Chef Hope Frahm recognizes the strong correlation between science and food, especially when working with pot. “There are chefs that work with marijuana only. I recently did a completely infused brunch for a private event.”
Frahm would love to see a thriving cannabis restaurant and bakery scene that included modernist establishments challenging the conception of cuisine. She says the important thing is making sure that people get the proper dose when trying edibles for the first time. “A lot of times you will get the story that someone won’t do edibles anymore because they had too much and it just messed them up. But if you do it responsibly in a low and slow manner you can have a very exciting and wonderful experience.”
Frahm adds that those who want to prepare any cannabis cuisine need to know exactly how much cannabis to include so the guests will enjoy themselves. “People that want to cook with marijuana need to understand that if it’s a completely infused meal, you need to have the proper dosing and realize that it’s not going to kick in for up to two hours.”
Cannabis Umami: The Next Taste
In 1908, Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda coined the term Umami — the fifth taste. It was found to exist in meaty and broth-style foods that contained glutamate. Our bodies contain glutamate receptors that recognize glutamate in fermented foods associated with Umami. Not since the discovery of Umami has the culinary world recognized a legitimate new eating experience on that scale. Perhaps, once cannabis (and our many complimentary receptors) are widely available to the world’s top culinary experts, a new experience will be available to food lovers everywhere.
(Cover image courtesy of margouillat photo/Shutterstock)