Molecular gastronomy

Revelations from the new science of cooking

Text by Jonah Lehrer, Graphics by Javier Zarracina
LAST WEEK, THE Spanish chef Ferran Adria spoke to a packed auditorium at Harvard University about a few of the dishes served at his celebrated Catalan restaurant, El Bulli. Many of the dishes appeared rather pedestrian: there were some green olives slicked with oil, a bowl of strawberries, and some peeled pistachio nuts. The ordinariness, however, was illusory. Take those olives: each was a sphere of olive juice, encapsulated in a thin gel. Place an "olive" in the mouth, and a burst of briny liquid is released. Adria is one of the pioneers of molecular gastronomy, a culinary movement that uses modern science to transform the preparation of food. But molecular gastronomy isn't just for fancy restaurant kitchens. Herve This, one of the founders of the culinary movement and a chemist at the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique in Paris, has written a new book, "Molecular Gastronomy," which explores the science of everyday cuisine. Through careful experimentation, he attempts to "discover the fire of truth beneath the smoke of subjective experience."
Jonah Lehrer is an editor at large at Seed magazine and the author of "Proust Was a Neuroscientist." He is a regular contributor to Ideas. Javier Zarracina is a Globe staff graphic artist.