Mimetic Banana – a dish that truly captures the spirit of modern cuisine.

23 Jul

“Memory makes pictures” – csikcentmiyahli

Many theories try to explain the psychology of memory – what things we remember, why we remember these things, and how we recall our memories. A common assumption about memory is that it works as a tape recorder that records memories in their full length. This assumption, however, is misleading. Rather, memory makes images; when we recall memories, we reconstruct them in the present, weaving together different parts to create a coherent whole. Within memory psychology, the “peak-and end effects” theory is well-known. In short, this theory states that when we evaluate the emotional character of a memory, we tend to average two elements: the end and the emotional peak of the experience.

Without doubt, this theory can really help me understand how I will remember Alica. As I am reaching the very end of my internship, things are certainly becoming more important, and I am trying to cherish every moment at this world-class institute. The emotional peak of my adventure at Alicia, however, has already passed. “The mimetic banana, “a dish that I and Gashaw made last week in Alicia, was in Pere Castell’s words an “emotional moment at Alicia.”

A mimetic banana? Take a brief look at the picture below. Even though it might look like a banana, it’s not a banana. In fact, it’s a banana-lemon sorbet that looks exactly like a banana, but with a distinct, yet similar, texture to a banana. The original recipe comes from Los Hermanos Torres, but the technique and presentation was entirely ours. Before we made this recipe, people laughed, saying that making this recipe would be impossible, that is would be too difficult for someone like me. After a few hours in the lab, I proved them wrong.

The process involved making a banana-lemon sorbet batter, molding this batter in a real banana peel, and then freezing it down to minus sixty centigrade to obtain the “banana.” The result was stunning. This banana-like structure hides a soft banana-lemon sorbet with a texture somewhere between a real frozen banana and an artesan lemon sorbet. It is firm enough to be cut and treated like a banana, but cold and creamy enough to melt in your mouth as soon as it enters, leaving you with an incredibly pleasant mouth feel. As such, the texture and flavor is hard to define, and at times, even hard to recognize. It is a dish that surprises you at every moment, every revealing something new about the dish or the person who is eating it.

To me, this dish really captures the spirit of modernist cuisine. The mimetic banana is not only a great example of what I have learned during my time at Alicia, but also a creation that showcases the opportunities within modern gastronomy. In essence, the mimetic banana is a great example of how modern chefs and play with and reinvent concepts, and by doing so, move from the bounty of nature to the bounty of imagination. This concept can then be presented in multiple dimensions of sensation and perception.

In this case, the concept is a banana. The chefs have distilled this concept, played with it, reinvented it, and presented it in its original form. In some ways, it’s a profound statement of modernist ideals. In other ways, it’s a careful play with traditions. Whatever the philosophy, the final outcome is clear. The mimetic banana is a play with sensations. It’s a play with expectations. Most importantly, however, it’s a powerful play with emotions. Like a memorable experience, it has a clear emotional peak, and unfortunately, an end. It’s a dish that leaves you hanging; a dish that makes you think twice. For me, it’s a dish that leaves you hungry for more – a dish that makes you want to explore and understand modernist cuisine to the fullest extent. What am I eating? How is it made? Why am I reacting so strongly?

Emotional in its character, this experience was without doubt a highlight during my stay at Alicia. For this reason, it’s a memory that will stick with me for long.  But for me, it’s also more than a memory. It’s an artifact of inspiration that has made me realize the possibilities that lay before me within the field of modern gastronomy. It’s just one of many peaks on my journey.

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One Response to “Mimetic Banana – a dish that truly captures the spirit of modern cuisine.”

  1. vayumi July 31, 2012 at 9:58 PM #

    Reblogged this on FireBellies and commented:

    A modernist dish…

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