Give Us, This Day…


Ok, so it is last week’s Sunday bread, but you get the idea. This week’s is actually in the oven this very minute. I feel that all is more or less ticking away alright in my life’s day to day scheduling if I am getting bread made each week.

I set myself simple (and tasty) goals to achieve, you see.

(Thumbnail to the right is of the dough phase.) In a related thought, earlier this week I was at lunch with some of my doughcolleagues and a visitor and the conversation drifted away from physics to food, as it does. There was a link – we were speculating about the fun science one can do experimenting on everyday materials, and how unexplored and underdeveloped the theoretical work on several of the basic questions are. I should note here that it is very hard to make progress on some of the seemingly simple things, generally. So we got talking about various suspensions and so forth that form a lot of foods we eat. The issue of what sorts of labs one might have (it started from a biology discussion) came up and so I mentioned that I’d love a food component. And one can eat the experiments when one is done, so it’s largely a win-win situation. One of my colleagues started asking about whether or not there was much research on some of the cooking that goes into making our food, especially with a physics focus. I mentioned that there are several celebrated books by Hervé This (I was not sure I got the name right), none of which I’ve read, but several of which I find myself browsing through in bookstores, but never actually buying. I also mentioned the whole molecular gastronomy movement, which might be of interest to him. Our visitor mentioned Howard McGhee, another notable writer on the topic.

Later, I checked and had indeed got the name right, and actually I’d forgotten that This, a physical chemist, is regarded as the father of molecular gastronomy. Seems he’s also worked a lot with chef Pierre Gagnaire. At this point, my eyes glazed over for a minute or two at the memory of a meal at Pierre Gagnaire’s 3-Michelin starred Paris restaurant, in 2004 when I was there for Strings 2004. The meal was amazing, as was the restaurant. (It remains the only three-star I’ve been to. I spend my time noodling around in the mere two’s I’m afraid – don’t hold that against me. (Le Manoir aux Quat’Sainsons in Oxfordshire remains a favourite. …Eye-glazing again.)) It was a notable evening for a number of reasons. Oddly enough, one table away was Oprah Winfrey and her entourage, a group that, even in Paris, caused a collective intake of breath when they entered the room. Then, on leaving the restaurant, the city streets erupted in excitement and celebration because some football team or other had beaten some other team (also, football, I imagine) in some important international tournament or other. I forget the details. But that’s another time, and another story.

Anyway when I got home the day of the lunch, I discovered that I’d managed to get further than the regular This-browsing. I actually have one of This’ books on a shelf in the study (“The science of the oven”). I must get around to reading it one day.


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