“Mother Nature is the true artist and our job as cooks is to allow her to shine.”
— Marco Pierre White, chef
This episode on food and culinary culture is an introduction for Druids Exchange, discussing some interesting facts, personal anecdotes and high falutin aspects of food and the sheer importance that food and eating has in the lives of all on the planet. The episode takes the listener on a journey through old Prehistoric Ireland and the diets and cooking methods of the Bronze Age, namely ‘Fulacht Fiadh’.
Also, worth a mention is a conversation about modern day Ireland and how cuisine and the culinary experience that is afforded to all who visits today has evolved over the decades. This evolution has been triggered by the recent increase in immigration to the country from places like India, China, Medditerranian nations and closer to home the United Kingdom. With the arrival of new culture to Ireland and with the people, came brand new food cultures and flavours of the world.
This ‘feeds’ the conversation about the advent of the ‘Michelin Star’ to the world of gastronomy beginning in 1926, from the most unlikely of places, a tyre company in France. Where else! When talking about all of the beautiful and diverse flavours of Italy, France, and Asian nations to name a few, springs a science lesson about what biologists call the ‘Gustatory System’ or our sensory ability to taste. Interesting developments emerge, as the rabbit hole is descended.
Interesting points are made in relation to the UNESCO protected culinary cultures of the world, and things are definitely learned. This episode is only a first sweep of the truly expansive subject that is ‘Food’ and all that it encompases about culture, biology, human psychology and even linguistics if you want to delve into the anthropology of food and cuisine. Stay tuned for more follow up episodes on this fascinating subject. We hope you enjoy!
Food is integral to all different societies all across the world and has been all through time. Food can be the glue that holds societies together, especially in this time of globalisation and multiculturalism. And even down to the family unit, everyone sitting around the table and sharing a meal, taking time out of the their days to simply be together and chat, food can bridge the generational divide and open up lines of communication in ways little else can.
Check out this TEDx talk from Wichita State University (Kansas, USA) professor Rocío Del Águila where she discusses these topics and more.
Found something interesting discussed in this episode? Chances are, we found it interesting too and we went off and did a bunch of reading online about it.
So why not dive further into the topic! Here are some handy links we think you might like.
Following the usage of the Murray’s and Baedeker travel guides, The Michelin Star guide began to award stars for fine dining establishments in 1926. In present day, there are 21 Michelin starred restaurants in Ireland (as of 2020).
According to the Guide, one star signifies “a very good restaurant”, two stars are “excellent cooking that is worth a detour”, and three stars mean “exceptional cuisine that is worth a special journey”. The listing of starred restaurants is updated once a year.
Three Galway restaurants have just been awarded the Michelin Green Star – Kai, Loam and Inis Meáin Restaurant and Suites. This distinction highlights restaurants at the forefront of the industry when it comes to their sustainable practices and who act as role models to us all.
MasterChef is a competitive cooking show and is broadcast in 60 countries around the world. In the UK, it is produced by the BBC. The show initially ran from 1990 to 2001 and was revived in 2005 as MasterChef Goes Large. The revival featured a new format devised by Franc Roddam and John Silver, with Karen Ross producing. In 2008, the name was changed back to MasterChef but the format remained unchanged.
The show proved very popular and became one of BBC Two’s more successful early-evening programmes, leading to an announcement by the BBC in 2009 that it would be promoted to BBC One.
Each series airs five nights a week for eight weeks. During the first six weeks, the first four episodes of each week are heats and the fifth episode is a quarter-final. Six contestants enter each heat and the winner becomes a quarter-finalist. At the end of each week, the four quarter-finalists compete and a semi-finalist is chosen. After six weeks, the six semi-finalists compete in the final two weeks. Prize money is in the hundreds of thousands of pounds (GB£) but also considered a huge career boost.
A fulacht fiadh was a bronze age cooking bath found in the countryside in Ireland. At each fulacht fiadh site, you would find a mount of rocks, a hearth to heat the stones, and a bath or trough dug into the ground which would be filled with water.
How they work is that you would light a fire in the hearth and then heat up the stones. When they are nice and hot, the stones are thrown into the water bath to boil the water. In the boiling water, you would then cook your meat.
As the process of collecting the stones and firewood, burning the wood long enough to heat up the stones and then boiling the meat would take a number of hours, cooking and eating at a fulacht fiadh would have been a ‘whole tribe’ affair. The whole tribe or community would get involved and it was generally was used more for special or significant occasions.
UNESCO established its Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage with the aim of ensuring better protection of important intangible cultural heritages worldwide and the awareness of their significance Elements inscribed in the lists are deemed significant bastions of humanity’s intangible heritage, the highest honor for intangible heritage in the world stage.
UNESCO recognises 23 food and drink-related traditions as part of its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. These range from ‘Mexican Cuisine’ to ‘Kimchi of South Korea’ to ‘Belgian Beer’. For more on a selection of these different traditions, check out this cookist.com article on it.
The gustatory system or sense of taste is the sensory system that is partially responsible for the perception of taste or flavor. Taste is the perception produced or stimulated when a substance in the mouth reacts chemically with taste receptor cells located on taste buds in the oral cavity, mostly on the tongue. The gustatory cortex is the area in the brain that is responsible for the perception of taste.
Taste receptors in the mouth sense the five taste modalities: sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness and savoriness (also known as savory or umami). The basic taste modalities contribute only partially to the sensation and flavor of food in the mouth—other factors include smell, detected by the olfactory epithelium of the nose; texture, detected through a variety of mechanoreceptors, muscle nerves, etc.; temperature, detected by thermoreceptors; and “coolness” (such as of menthol) and “hotness” (pungency), through chemesthesis.
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