Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Week 11 - Molecular

Week 11 of the 52 week challenge was molecular week, aka the week I skipped.

I wrestled with the decision about whether to skip molecular week for a long time. I really wanted to do my best to complete all 52 weeks of the challenge and it pained me that I was considering intentionally skipping one. I'm not actually participating on Reddit so it wasn't like my consecutive week streak was at risk, but psychologically I felt guilty about wanting to skip this theme week.

Manchego cheese mini airbags from Tickets

I started participating in the challenge for a few reasons:
(1) to improve my cooking techniques and abilities;
(2) to broaden my horizons and try new recipes; and
(3) to challenge myself to cook new and different things.

Molecular (modernist) cuisine would do all of those things. But still I found myself debating about whether or not to take part in the challenge. The main issues were:

(1) Almost all the recipes I found involved ingredients or equipment I didn't have. Even the easy recipes with more "mainstream" equipment required pressure cookers or immersion blenders we didn't have. Ingredients like agar agar, sodium alginate, maltodextrin powder and calcium chloride don't exist anywhere in our apartment. Sure, we could buy those things. But the everyday cooking that we do and like doesn't use any of those ingredients. We would be buying them for these recipes and then in all likelihood never using them again (or only using them on rare special occasions). It seemed wasteful to buy special items just for these recipes when we would probably never use up the rest.

(2) The few recipes that didn't require equipment or ingredients we didn't have were things I didn't particularly want to eat if I did make them. Like a glass of rainbow foam made from boxes of Jell-o. Would it be cool to make it? Yes. But did I actually want to down a glass of foam? No, not really. We would rather eat the rainbow Jell-o itself.

Grapefruit and Campari cocktail bomba from El Celler de Can Roca

Despite everything I just said, I don't have anything against modernist cuisine. I really enjoy going out for dinner and indulging in modernist dishes. Some of them have even made my top 10 lists at the end of the year (like the asparagus dish at El Celler de Can Roca, the bursting olives from Tickets, and the beef and bernaise from wd-50). It's fun for the mind and the taste buds. But any amateur dish that I could make wouldn't be on that level (or even close to it).

Strawberries with violet sugar from Tickets

I told A all about my wavering and he had no problem skipping molecular week. I ultimately decided not to do it because I would be forcing myself to do it just to check the box, instead of really embracing it. Although I'm willing to try new ingredients for a challenge, it really only makes sense if I'm going to use them again. I didn't see that happening with molecular week, so we decided to pass. It's not like we won't ever experience modernist cuisine; we just won't be making it ourselves for now. One day (hopefully sooner rather than later, as the memories are really fading) we'll get around to writing about our modernist cuisine adventures at Tickets and El Celler de Can Roca. Until then, enjoy some photos of delicious modernist dishes!

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