Day 2: Molecular Gastronomy & Medieval Dinner (HEG)By Marisa D'Vari | October 17th, 2012 | Category: HEG, News | No Comments »
Day 2 of the HEG Program started with a very interesting lecture by the charming and enthusiastic Dr. Herve This (INRA, College of France) on Molecular gastronomy.
Mr. This spoke in English, so this time it was the French students who had his talk translated into French. This lecture would prepare us for the dinner we would have Sunday based on the new trend after what Mr. This called the "passe" molecular gastronomy, which has been replaced by "Note by Note" cooking.
After lunch we heard some fascinating talks on historical and Medieval gastronomy.
The first one was from Professor Denis Saillard from the Centre d'Histoire Culturelle des Societes Contemporaines, the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin en Yvelines who spoke very elegantly about the history of gastronomy and table service in the 19th century.
Restaurants began appearing in Paris at the end of the 18th century, Antonin Careme (1784 - 1833) wrote gastronomic literature.
Catering began to become a trade, and the cook appeared.
Grimod de la Reyniere and Brillat-Savarin came on the scene with their attention to "writing reviews" of restaurants and helping establish the culinary arts.
The second one was from Professor Bruno Laurioux, of the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin en Yvelines who spoke about Medieval cooking.
The three "pillars" of Medieval gastronomy are spices, 'lean and fat,' and 'soups and roasts.
The concept of these feasts were conviviality - and a show. Between courses there was always music or entertainment.
A book written for children at the time reminded them not to chew with their mouth open or engage in other behaviors ....
Spice was a huge component of most meals, typically ginger, cinnamon, and others.
Soup was served followed by a roast.
We were taught that as plates did not exist, food was put on a large, thick, piece of rustic bread. The bread was "changed" during the service and thrown to the dogs.
Below are my notes from the restaurant that night ...
"So here I am with sticky fingers (we are using our hands and do not have napkins) at a medieval-themed dinner in Paris recreated from the 15th century. The recipe was prepared by Eric Robert and his students under the strict auspices of a 15th century recipe.
We listen to medieval music and our plates" are made of a brown peasant bread.
The idea is for every course for the servers to put the food on your plate made out of bread. We eat with our fingers sans napkins.
It is pretty messy.
Sort of like a 5 napkin burger if you are in NYC yet there is no napkin.
After each course our instructor asks us to identify the spices in the food which includes nutmeg, cinnamon, corriandar and some saffron.
The first course consisted of mushrooms and a soup made out of almonds. Next course was eggs in wine sauce, a green pie made out of Swiss chard. Parsley, spinach. And also a minced veal pie with spices. Thw wine from Cabardies was very good.
Just guessing from old movies the vibe must have been very festive and casual - even though manners were stressed it is hard to have excellent manners when eating greasy food with your fingers.
One may contrast this type of dinner with a court dinner in the era of Queen Elizabeth when people wore uncomfortable collars.
As I write this they took our old "bread plate" away and gave us a new bread plate.
The meat is carved very thin - a tiny sliver on my plate of bread.
The lentil puree to me does not have a lot of spice yet the sauce for the meat is full of garlic and saffron.
Now so glad they took away our messy plate of bread for dessert!
So now our professor is explaining the recipe was found in a 15th century book written by a man who had a wife so young he had to warn her various ways not to be tricked in the marketplace.
The chef welcomes students in the HEG program once a year and it is a good opportunity to teach students about the cuisine.
Okay so my thoughts? It was a super special experience no one could pay for. If possible would be great to replicate for a wedding or special event yet it would be very expensive.