Our official description is “An artist-led think tank that examines the biotechnologies and biodiversity of human food systems,” but we’ve been working on a new way of defining Genomic Gastronomy in the last year, which is “the study of organisms and environments manipulated by human food culture.”
We were really interested in looking at food from the prospective of biology and ecology. The title “Genomic Gastronomy” came from a play on molecular gastronomy, which was (and is still) very popular. [Molecular gastronomy] was all about chemistry and a reductive approach to food: how do we understand the base chemical elements of food and build up a narrative or event from these chemical constituents?
When we started in 2010, there was a big transition in the high-end cuisine world from [restaurants like] El Bulli and Fat Duck to NOMA and the Scandinavian approach. We started joking that NOMA was really just a restaurant that was doing “Genomic Gastronomy” and that they stole our idea. [It was] a bit facetiously because we thought well, we are artists and don’t have a big relationship with the restaurant or food world. But then, about two years ago, we were contacted by Nordic Food Lab (NOMA’s R&D restaurant) and we went over and had dinner with them. It actually turns out that there IS a lot of crossover, which is really fascinating. They are interested in terroir and time and place in [a given] region of the world. But they also spend a lot of time looking at the different cultivars of plants, and different sub-species of fish and ecosystems of fisheries. While we’re trying to push ideas from an artistic angle, looking at biotech and ecology, high end cuisine is already heading in this direction, so there was an interesting confluence we hadn’t predicted.
I tried to do some back of the envelope calculations on the energy input for grass vs grain finished beef a few years ago, but gave up as there are too many unmeasured variables to make a statement one way or another. The bottom line is it takes a huge amount of energy to make meat - beef requires more than pork which requires more than chicken which requires more than insects.
A piece in the Washington Post looks at some of the issues. "grass fed" only means grass finished and there is a lot of variation in how it is done. In some cases it is not as good (in some set of metrics) than grain finished.
Jain and co then created a flavor network in which ingredients are linked if they appear together in the same recipe. The network can then be studied for interesting phenomenon such as clustering effects.
The question that the team set out to answer was to what extent food pairing is positive or negative. In other words, do ingredients sharing flavor compounds occur in the same recipe more often than if the ingredients were chosen at random.
The results make for interesting reading. Jain and co conclude that Indian cuisine is characterized by strong negative food pairing. Not only that, but the strength of this negative correlation is much higher than anything previously reported.
They also found that specific ingredients dramatically effect food pairing. For example, the presence of cayenne pepper strongly biases the flavor sharing pattern of Indian cuisine towards negative pairing. Other ingredients that have a similar effect include green bell pepper, coriander, garam masala, tamarind, ginger, cinnamon and so on.
In other words, spices make the negative food pairing effect more powerful, a phenomenon never seen before. “Our study reveals that spices occupy a unique position in the ingredient composition of Indian cuisine and play a major role in defining its characteristic profile,” say Jain and co.
Spices form the basis of food pairing in Indian cuisine
Anupam Jain (1), Rakhi N K (2), Ganesh Bagler (2) ((1) Centre for System Science, Indian Institute of Technology Jodhpur, India, (2) Centre for Biologically Inspired System Science, Indian Institute of Technology Jodhpur, India) (Submitted on 12 Feb 2015)
Culinary practices are influenced by climate, culture, history and geography. Molecular composition of recipes in a cuisine reveals patterns in food preferences. Indian cuisine encompasses a number of diverse sub-cuisines separated by geographies, climates and cultures. Its culinary system has a long history of health-centric dietary practices focused on disease prevention and promotion of health. We study food pairing in recipes of Indian cuisine to show that, in contrast to positive food pairing reported in some Western cuisines, Indian cuisine has a strong signature of negative food pairing; more the extent of flavor sharing between any two ingredients, lesser their co-occurrence. This feature is independent of recipe size and is not explained by ingredient category-based recipe constitution alone. Ingredient frequency emerged as the dominant factor specifying the characteristic flavor sharing pattern of the cuisine. Spices, individually and as a category, form the basis of ingredient composition in Indian cuisine. We also present a culinary evolution model which reproduces ingredient use distribution as well as negative food pairing of the cuisine. Our study provides a basis for designing novel signature recipes, healthy recipe alterations and recipe recommender systems.
Fill the void in your life by joining celebrity chef, Kate McLennan, and her food intolerant friend, Kate McCartney, as they cook their way into the Food Culture Revolution with a series of edible recipes*!
Watch as The Kates create food intolerant-friendly meals and explore modern culinary trends like quitting sugar, food porn, food trucks and drinking shit out of jars! They road test everybody’s favourite culinary moneysuck, the Thermomix, and sample a range of libations like wine, whiskey and kombucha, the hot new drink that combines parasitical fungi with intestinal spasming!
a tip of the hat to sara
and to Mik for noting its Aussie rather than English
The data is based on about 3,000 meals in about 1,800 Grubhub orders from July to December 2012, almost all from two Chipotle restaurants: one in Washington, D.C., and another in East Lansing, Mich. A few caveats are worth keeping in mind: Some menu items, like sofritas and brown rice, have been introduced nationwide more recently and are not in our data. (Mr. Arnold said that brown rice currently accounts for a third of the rice Chipotle sells and that sofritas accounts for about 3 percent of fillings.)
It’s also likely that the ordering behavior varies somewhat around the country and that some items have become more or less popular in the last two years or so. But many of the ordering patterns that the company has publicly described — such as chicken being the most popular protein and burrito bowls being more popular than burritos or tacos — matched the patterns in the GrubHub data, and Mr. Arnold said there has not been much significant variation in ordering habits regionally or year-to-year.
We were also forced to make some assumptions with some orders.
We assume people eat only one salad, burrito bowl, burrito or set of tacos at a time. When there’s more than one of those items in an order, we assume it’s for more than one person. And we assume that groups of people who order together split side items, like chips. That’s probably untrue — there’s always one guy who eats more — but assumptions about chip division don’t have a huge impact on the overall shape of our histogram.