deconstruction! what is it good for?

07 Mar

He didn’t lose — he was bold rather than timid — but the top-flight guest pastrybods on Masterchef evidently disliked Tom’s “deconstructed lemon tart” for look (“Did he drop it?”) and taste. All those screwed up little faces! And it did look like it wasn’t all there…

I don’t really get deconstruction, as deployed in cookery: it’s like the “list” bit of the recipe without the “then do this” bit (where “this” is combining everything on the list). Surely the combination of the ingredients is the best thing — how is keeping them all carefully separate going to be better? Readers, school me! Have you ever read Of Grammatology eaten a so-called deconstruction to pleasant effect? And what was it?


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One response to “deconstruction! what is it good for?

  1. zonestyxtravelcardzstc

    March 8, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    In many classic recipes, this is true, the ingredients combine to more than the sum of their parts. You wouldn’t want to ‘deconstruct’ (always just meaning ‘separate out into constituent parts’) them. But it’s not always true. In fact the slim canon of absolute classics aside, it often has benefits.

    It’s a question of intensity and variety of flavour. Imagine a Greek salad: feta, olives, red onion, cucumber. Imagine them pulsed together into a cold soup. Urgh. Well – it might be quite nice, quite edible, but one flavour, one texture, one colour, every mouthful the same.

    There was scientific research into flavour perception which i remember Heston Blumenthal citing, the gist of it was: imagine you have one cup of water and one coffee bean. You can grind it and make a cup of coffee with the single bean. Or chew the single bean while drinking the water. Which will be the most intense flavour experience? The test subjects overwhelmingly preferred the latter. So eg you might want to put chunks of chocolate in a cookie instead of cocoa powder.

    There are also examples in which you might want to pull apart the cooking process to maximise one aspect or another. Eg: trad toad in the hole, the submerged underside of the sausages isn’t crispy and caramelized. So separate them from the batter, cook the toad and the hole apart and then combine after.


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