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Nominations for Most Over-Maligned Ingredient, Technique, or Equipment


General Discussion 103

Nominations for Most Over-Maligned Ingredient, Technique, or Equipment

cowboyardee | Jun 22, 2011 02:23 PM

Reading CH, I see a post just absolutely hating on something that I sort of like. Vehemently and stated not as opinion but as fact, as though God Himself throws up in His Mouth every time____ is made. I resist the urge to defend the _____ in question. But it comes up so often.

Well, here is a thread to defend those slandered, maligned, and scorned aspects of our culinary culture. I ask you hounds - what ingredient, technique, or equipment is the most over-criticized?

I'll start out with a few things that didn't quite make my #1 spot:

It's not chicken liver - that's merely overlooked and undervalued.

It's not iceberg lettuce - that was overused for years, but now is so hated that you can scarcely get away with using it when it's the perfect lettuce for the situation. Nothing else has quite that crunch.

It's not boxed wine - I believe I have even heard some grudging admittances that it can taste ok and be useful for cooking.

It's not sous vide - sure lots of people hate on it (despite it being not just useful, but a GREAT technique, and probably a game changer for the industry), but most people don't even know they've eaten it, and it does have plenty of supporters.

My pick: foam. Hear me out. I don't think foam is a game changer like sous vide is. I don't like every foam I've ever tried. But I'm a baffled as to why it bothers people so much. The criticism I always read/hear is 'it looks like spit' (of course it couldn't look like sea foam or bubble bath or blowing bubbles). Fine - you don't like lecithin foams. Are its detractors even aware of siphoned foams stabilized with gelatin (and/or a few other methods)? These look like and often have a texture similar to whipped cream. Yet no one ever mentions em. As far as its detractors are concerned, all foams look like spit and siphoned foams don't exist.

The other criticism I see a lot: it's pretentious molecular gastronomy bullshit. Ignored is that there are perfectly good reasons to use a foam (it's just a sauce that is easier to keep distinct from other sauces and also doesn't saturate items that can get waterlogged like pastry crust). Unacknowledged is that the difference between a 'molecular' foam and whipped cream or mousse is not much more than academic. One is pretentious and the other is not. Why?

I know a cook at a very good restaurant. The restaurant uses all kinds of new techniques - sous vide, tapioca maltodextrin powders, fluid gels from hydrocolloids, etc. But no foam. Conspicuously absent. I asked him about it - it would seem a natural on their menu. He said they can get away with just about anything as long as its tasty, but the chef knows from recent ventures that as soon as they put foam on the menu, a certain portion of the restaurant's clientele disappears and the words 'molecular' and 'pretentious' start showing up in all the online reviews along with impassioned criticisms, even though only one thing changed on their menu.

I've rambled enough. Lord knows it felt good though. I'm sure some will find my ridicule of the argument against foam personally offensive. And if you want an argument, then I've got one for you - i'm that type of poster. But something to keep in mind - I have almost certainly talked some arbitrary and poorly considered smack on an ingredient or technique you love too (and if it wasn't me, someone surely has). I know this. Didn't you want to defend your favored ingredient?

So is there an ingredient or preparation whose reputation you want to restore to glory? Do tell.

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