22 February 2012

Harold McGee Interview

Harold is an American author who writes on chemistry food and cooking. His first book was published in 1984. It was a 680 page compendium titled "On Food and Cooking: The Science * Lore of the Kitchen". The book struck a chord with the industry at the time as both the US and Britain were awakening to the pleasures of good food and to the diversity of world cuisines. in 2004 a completely revised edition of "The Curious Cook" was published. The book was significantly expanded and went on to win several awards.

Harold contributes to the scientific journal Nature, and has written articles for The New York Times, The Wold Book Encyclopedia, The Art of Eating, Food and Wine and Physics Today.
Harold is currently working on a book about flavour, and contributing a columnn on science and food, titled "The Curious Cook" to the New York Times.

1.What is the first cocktail you ever tasted?

It was probably a gin and tonic when I was very young, maybe 10, and my parents were having one during the hot Chicago summer. But I don't remember for sure.

2.What was the first flavour you really fell in love with and why?

I'd say coffee ice cream--I guess because it was milky but different. That goes way back, maybe 3-4 years old.

3. Tell us about a new flavor you have discovered recently?

When I went to Brazil for the first time last summer I tasted cupuaçu, the fruit pulp of a relative of the cacao tree. Powerfully fruity and flowery, but like nothing I'd tasted before. I also tasted an experimental "chocolate" made from cupuaçu seeds, and that special aroma somehow came through again.

4. If you could pass just one thing, on to someone looking to enter your side of the industry what would it be?

Take everything in the scientific literature with a grain of salt, and always listen to what cooks and bartenders tell you. They're the ones with the most hands-on experience of foods and drinks in all their complexity, and science is always trying to simplify. There's always something new to learn from both sides.

5. What does the future hold for yourself and what do you see happening in the future in the food and drink industry?

I'm writing a book about taste and smell and flavor. The future of the industry . . . I would never have predicted that we'd be where we are now, so I have no clue!

6. What has been your biggest satisfaction from working with food and chefs/bartenders?

Tasting such a tremendous range of different foods and drinks all over the world, and learning how to appreciate them more fully from the people who make them.

7. If you were to have a conversation with a cocktail or dish, (and presuming it could talk back to you and tell you its past). Which would it be and why?

Boy that's a wacky one! I guess I would ask a slow-cooked braise to tell me what's happening inside it as it slowly relaxes and develops flavor, or any shaken spirit whether it really feels beaten up.

8. What, outside of the industry, inspires you to continue experimenting and working with food and drink?

It's my own personal curiosity about how things work, and the pleasure I take in good food and drink.

9. If you where to break a kitchen golden rule what would it be?

The one I break all the time is Be careful with knives. I'm a lazy cook and always try to minimize cleanup, so instead of cutting properly on a cutting board I'll often slice things while holding them. Lots of nicks to show for that.

10. Outside of flavor and the craft of the cuisine what in your opinion effects the appreciation of taste the most?

Personal experience--the flavors that you've encountered in the past, and the circumstances of those encounters that make them memorable or not, pleasant or not.

11. If you where to champion a dish which would it be?

Good tinned sardines, raw tomatoes, and grilled or toasted bread. My default supper in summer, 10 minutes to put on a plate (quarter the tomatoes in your hand), and delicious.

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