Make Hay While The Sun Shines

Fortunately the bank holiday offered the opportunity to get out of town and disappear into one of the loveliest towns the other side of Offas Dyke. The Hay Literary festival is not like any festival that I normally frequent but with the lure of learned speakers, stand-up comedy, welsh countryside and a pale full of Old Rosie I was game. This was weekend of listening, sitting, thinking, eating and drinking. A good kind.

I stumbled across Su Perkins interviewing H. Blumenthal, Heston was elaborating on the range of olde sweets that he had been developing. Confectionary mock chewing tobacco, sweet shop scent and a modern take on the sherbet fountain in elegant traditional packaging were all in his deep bag of tricks. He next took to the larger stage in conversation with Jay Rayner who quizzed him on life at the Fat Duck, future proceedings, health and safety problems, the things that any firm follower of British chefs will have heard before.

One topic emerged that stood out, that is the potential for the ‘Hestonisation’ of restaurant food. Let me explain; Rayner said the he hoped that one day when sitting down to dinner somewhere when faced with some molecular disaster he would be forced to say ‘Heston this is all your fault, the Marie Rose ice cream is fucking butters” (not a direct quote). In food trend terms is molecular gastronomy going to become commonplace on all menus at high street chains? What will happen if it does and what does that really mean for the food that we eat when dining out? These questions are the first ones that pop into my mind and of course are the ones that are potentially very interesting in futurologists speak. Imagine a Green tomato gel, chipotle infused flat bread with avocado emulsion and triple-fried black bean puree sounds, my wanky burrito on a FD tip.

Are the realities are much more simple and as less astounding than the menus suggest? Take the snail porridge as a well known example; its dubbed ‘porridge’ because its oat based but made like risotto with knob of garlic parsley butter stirred through it for its vibrant green and savoury edge. Historically many savoury oat dishes were eaten and it is only in our minds that porridge be some treacle emblazoned sweet wintery breakfast. At another point on the molecular spectrum there is bread, the wheat based nourishment that for that for thousands of years has fed most of the non rice consuming cultures, when leavened is a complex science of active fungal fermentation combined with ground grain to produce a product so legendary it is literally biblical.

These two examples seem to highlight an interesting feature of food fashions. It seems to be play off between nomenclature and fundamentals of edible combinations. The porridge isn’t as wacky as it sounds, are verbose dressing up and wordy descriptions deviating from the more important aspects of what happens in the pan or the oven. Bread is bread and a beautiful thing but no one calls foccacia, fermented baked wheat powder with an olive oil suspension do they? But it could be interesting to see what happens...