how the new cuisine turned into the new Nordic

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A TV producer recently asked me if I had any ideas for food related programs. I’ve had a few – only most of them weren’t really cops. I’m very interested in the area of ​​food history – quite a journey thanks to Heston Blumenthal, etc.

I had an idea that I liked, and which I still think would make a good series: the history of European culinary movements such as nouvelle cuisine or molecular gastronomy, told as an art historian would tell the story of cubism, surrealism, etc. to.

These food movements always seem to follow the same story arc. They start with a genius, or maybe two, with a great new idea.

For nouvelle cuisine, it started in the mid to late 1960s with Alain Chapel, Roger Vergé and others who thought classic French cuisine was too heavy for modern life. One of their practical ideas was for smaller, lighter dishes to be prepared in the kitchen by the chef, moving away from the control of the butler who had until now served diners at their tables from a cart.

The holy trinity of nouvelle cuisine has also called on chefs to improve the quality and integrity of their ingredients, to refrain from cooking them to death, and to avoid the use of flour to thicken sauces. These were very welcome improvements in the best restaurants, which became torture chambers for the slender executives of the beautiful young things of the ’60s.

In our history, this culinary movement becomes the dominant style of the day, and after a while, nouvelle cuisine is pretty much the only game in town. However, with ubiquity comes the ridiculous. I remember a photo in an annual Not the Nine O’Clock News showing food arranged in a yin-yang symbol, captioned “fish finger with brown sauce and red sauce” (fish finger with brown sauce and red sauce).

The nouvelle cuisine was an easy target for jokes as plates (and prices) got bigger and portions smaller; even today, if you present a dish on a big white plate with very geometric food, someone will mockingly say “Ooh, very new cuisine”. Ridicule signals the end of the food movement, the best ideas are absorbed by the general public and the world moves on.

The same arc can be applied to molecular gastronomy, which began with Ferran Adrià at El Bulli, who had the idea of ​​applying industrial methods and scientific know-how in a small restaurant with 50 seats. It became the dominant style of the early 2000s, for example at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck, before its more bizarre extremes were ridiculed – and its more sane became mainstream, with even pub bosses sub-dumping and spherifying everything they see.

We are currently at the height of the “new Nordic”, which started around 2004 at Noma in Copenhagen, with Claus Meyer and René Redzepi and which continues to develop. Everyone ferments and fodder, while the chefs serve dishes in an attempt to break down the barriers between the kitchen and the dining room. It uses ingredients native to northern Europe and challenges the domination of the Mediterranean.

So if you want to cook a new Nordic dish, try the recipe below. It uses celery root as the central ingredient and apple for acidity. Serve up a dish like this and you’ll be all the rage – until people start saying “Ooh, very new Nordic”.


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