Food pairing, a widely accepted concept in the molecular gastronomy scene, explores the potential of unacquainted food combinations - grapefruit with cardamon, carrot and bitter orange peel - to create new tasting experiences.
Maki Ueda developed her own mysterious ways of extracting smells from raw materials in a kitchen environment throughout her career. As artist in residence at FoAM, she was challenged to share her fascination in a hands-on workshop focusing both on smell and taste. Could both ways of sensing be combined with the art of composition in perfumery, the art of finding the right matches and balancing between hundreds of aromatic ingredients?
A natural smell is often extracted from a material using chemistry techniques for retrieving essential oils, such as distillation, ethanol extraction, or oil maceration. For the Edible Perfume workshop, these techniques were adopted in the kitchen. In a temporary laboratory setup, the participants experienced the complete process of extracting aromas and flavours from edible raw ingredients, in order to recompose them into new culinary substances.
Every participant was asked to bring two edible materials: a 'he' and a 'she' as part of a food couple. Each material was to be extracted separately and then mixed together into one edible perfume. The challenge for the participants was to find the right balance of the two elements , giving birth to complex and surprising scents; the children of the 'he' and 'she' ingredients.
The following food couplings were created during the workshop:
The participants have witnessed the process in which the aromas get separated from the tissues of the materials and absorbed in the medium. The result was evaluated both by smelling and tasting.A lively discussion ensued – where does our sense of taste and flavour originate; what is this mysterious area linking the cavities of our noses and mouths that can sense such subtleties of aromas and flavours? The group agreed that he sensation of edible perfume created was neither taste, nor smell alone, butsomething ephemeral, an experience in-between the senses.
1. Process the material and make it as fine as possible
Use whatever tool you can find in a kitchen to peel, crush, shred or cut the ingredients into the smallest possible particles. The smaller the particles, the shorter the extraction time.
2. Choose the right medium and right temperature
There are different ways of extracting smells in general: such as distillation, hot/cold maceration, solvent extraction, enfleurage. The most appropriate technique to apply is hot / cold maceration, common for making garlic-flavoured olive oil. In order to make the extracts 'edible', 40% VOL vodka or non-flavoured, odor-neutral vegetable oil can be used as a medium. We used Grapeseed and soy oil. Vodka or oil can only extract a part of the whole bandwidth of smells that the ingredient contains.
Extracting temperature is another factor. Certain temperatures can extract certain bandwidths of smells, depending on the ingredient. Experimentation is the message!
3. Stuff it in a jar and heat it for 1 hour
Place your ingredient in a jar, pour vodka or oil over the material (not too much, just enough to cover the surface), close it half way and heat it au bain-marie, keeping 70 degrees Celsius. 70 degrees is the temperature where oil does not change its flavour and is just below the boiling point for vodka. (Use an electric hotplate for heating because vodka is flammeable.)
In case of citrus and orange - which cannot resist the heat - they should just be mildly shaken in the jar at room temperature. The time needed for extraction depends on the material, however 1 hour is generally more than enough to extract enough amount of smell molecules for your nose and tongue to detect.
4. Filter it
Use a coffee-filter. If the particles are too fine for the filter and cause clogging, rough cotton cloth could be used instead. Stirring can accelerate the process, but it can also introduce impurities in the resulting liquid, so the best thing is just to wait, time allowing.
5. Compose the smells
Should mix ratios be 1:9 or 4:6? There's no universal answer, indication nor rule here. This is where your creativity comes into play. Use your nose and intuition to explore and experiment. To check the result, you can lick it, but smelling it from a paper perfume strip is the best, as smell molecules tend to linger around longer in your mouth than in your nose. If your nose gets confused, smell your own skin to refresh it.
You can enjoy the 'edible perfume' with bread, cracker, or oblaat. Toast!
NOTE: keep your lab well aired. In case you get nauseous, go for a walk in fresh air, and drink a glass of milk.
(edited by: FoAM)
documentation by FoAM:
instructions for participants:
For the documentations of its development and the workshops given all over the world :
concept, realization : Maki Ueda
production : FoAM Brussels