The First Taste is with the Nose!
Smelling is one of our most primary senses and food is one of our primary needs, so it stands to reason that the smell of food vapours can trigger all sorts of powerful responses in us. I’m sure that everyone can recollect a scent of food vapour that has gotten their gastric juices flowing long before they even set eyes upon whatever the dish was.
You might think that taste is complex ? but our tongues can decipher precisely four flavours ? sweet, salt, sour, bitter ? whereas the vapours that go into our nose can be identified into as many as 12,000 different molecules! Which means that much of what you think you taste, you doin fact smell!
The use of vaporizers in modernist, molecular gastronomy takes this one stage further by providing the scent vapours as a dish all on their own!
Smell of Food
How important is it?
Supermarkets understand all too well the importance of scent upon our appetites which is why they pump the smell of fresh bread into the stores – the scent of the bread vapours goes straight from your nose to your brain and from there to your stomach which will send back a primal message telling you to “get more food!”
Another example of the importance of the scent in eating appetite is the fact that smokers very often start to eat more and gain weight. The smoke had previously interfered with their sense of smell – and without the smell the they didn’t have the appetite, so didn’t enjoy the food as much!
A third example – have you ever had a blocked nose or a cold that has meant you can’t smell? Was the lack of food vapours going into your nose stopping you from enjoying your food?
So I think we can safely say that being able to smell your food is important in being able to eat enjoy your food!
The Vaporizer Course
The Aroma Pillow
The idea – as originally thought up by Head Chef Ferran Adria of El Buli – was to present the scent of the vapours as a course I the meal, this was going beyond the idea of serving aromatic food but actually separating the vapour from the food and serving it alone, or as separate component of the food.
The scent was vaporized in the kitchen using a volcano vaporizer – Adria famously kept six of them on the go in his kitchens at all times! – then fill a pillow (plastic bag) with the scent so that it could be released at the table!
How to Fill the Pillow
Using a Volcano Vaporizer
The vaporizer can turn food into smell which is then placed into a plastic bag – the bag is served with the food, and tiny pin-sized holes are made in it so that the aroma can slowly escape at the table as the diner eats – so the scent accompanies the food without needing to be part of the actual dish! Ideas include lavender vapour served with strawberries, wild mushroom scent with lamb and cinnamon with coffee ice cream.
Exactly what are they and how do they work?
The information on volcano vaporizers and how they work was found at www.vaporizerkingdom.co.uk where they appear to understand the science behind vaporizers!
Vaporization is in essence creating a gas from a liquid or a solid. When you smell something then this is because molecules of that substance are literally finding their way into your nostrils, most things smell more when they are heated up because more of the molecules are leaving the substance and entering the air. Vaporization is an extreme method of liberating these molecules.
The volcano vaporizer is set to the precise temperature, at which those vapours are going to be released, most ingredients are going to contain multiple molecules – so you just set the temperature to precisely the temperature that you need.
Place a tiny amount of the ingredient into the volcano vaporizer and it will blow air of the correct temperature over and through the substance – heating it as it does and carrying the vapour into the bag were you collect it to take it to the table – voila the Vapour Pillow!
Can I do this without a vaporizer?
A simple cheat!
Let’s face it most people are not going to rush out and spend a fortune on a volcano vaporizer are they? So can you do this in a lo-tech way?
Well to some extent you always are doing this when you cook! By leaving the kitchen door open then you are filling the room with vapours! Another, slightly more technical way to do it is to simply place an odour bowl onto the table – that is to contribute smell but not taste to a meal, the only problem with this is that you might find yourself with a strong smell that lingers after the course has finished – so perhaps only use this idea at the end of the meal, with the dessert or coffee.
A simple solution is the bring out a pot of growing mint at the end to place on the table as the ice cream is served!