Espuma Matata (Culinary Foam Worries)

I have been working on a list of modern cooking technique debates I hate witnessing and the "Do Foams Suck?" debate is filled with jackassery from both sides.  I am a proponent of all culinary techniques regardless of trendiness.  They just have to be well executed and service the dish.  That being said, I think us pro-foamers do need to check ourselves when we attempt to engage the enemy.

Say you are minding your own business when some foam hating douche walks up to you and says:
I hate foams and everyone that likes 'em!
The initial response as programmed by the Internet will invariably be:
You hate all foams?  You know that x is a foam right?
Where x is:
  1. Bread
  2. Mousse
  3. Cappuccino
  4. Beer
  5. Your Mother
Hocking that loogie is a total red herring.   Obviously, when someone says they hate foams, they are being more specific than any solid or liquid with a gas trapped inside of it.   So, let's stop channeling that nerdiness from high school that got you into this whole modern technique thing to begin with.  It didn't win friends in high school and it won't today.  Also, least convincing argument ever.

One Foam Is A Cinnamon Foam (Lecithin),
The Other Is A Lemongrass and Clementine Zest Foam (Hand Soap).  
Informed persons should be able to dislike foams and not receive contempt.  There are a couple of reasons to hate foams:
  1. Aesthetic.  Since I am rummaging through the ole trope drawer, let's pull out the old 'you eat with your eyes first' bit.  It is a cliche, but it is also true.  And some people see foam as soap scum or spittle, or perhaps as a sign of microbial growth.  My woman is one of them.  I force-fed her a foam last night.  Does.  Not.  Want.   
  2. Texture.  While foams can vary in texture dramatically, many of them can have unappealing textures to people.  I hate Gummi thingies.  It doesn't matter what form of gummi thingie it is, I just can't like it.  If it rained blow jobs and money every time I ate a Gummi Bear, I'd still hate eating Gummi Bears.  Which would suck, cause my entire life would be reduced to eating Gummi Bears and sleeping.  
  3. Flavor muting.  Depending on the construction and the ingredient, foams can reduce the flavor of an otherwise tasty component.  While this is often the intended affect,  and can be a win for some, it can also make a foam tasteless.  
Combine esthetically and texturally unappealing with flavorless and I can see why some people wouldn't like foams.

Buuuuuuut... On The Other Hand

I think there are definitely a fair number of people who don't like foams for the reasons stated above.  However,  I also think there are people who express their foam-y hatred as a euphemism for saying they hate modern technique influenced cuisine and/or its associated trendiness.

I suspect Top Chef Season 2 is to blame for this.  Chefs and judges alike kept harping on Marcel's use of foam.  Millions of people's first foam experiences were colored by it.  I am sure that there were also a lot of bad foams put out there by chefs dabbling with them.  People also might conflate the trend with the component.

Ultimately, the foam has become The Scarlet Letter of modern cookery.

So when you say
I hate foam
know that I hear something as ridiculous as:
I hate sauce 
or
I hate protein
Foams can be nuanced in both texture and flavor (just like sauces and proteins).  Maybe you just haven't found a foam you have loved.  Culinary close-mindedness is a terrible crime, and my contempt for you is as endless and unrelenting as the entire controversy around foams.

Just kidding.  Maybe.

Let's Put A Bow On This Pig


IF YOU ARE A CHEF, continue to make or not make foams.

IF YOU ARE A DINER, continue to eat or not eat foams.

CONTEMPLATE THE VALIDITY of the other side, while you

CONTINUE YOUR ACTIVITIES.

IN SILENCE.

I Ate One Of These In The 80s.
Two Special (and Fecal) Notes
  1. I have had these thoughts in my writing colon (that's where my writing ideas are stored) for quite some time.  I would like to thank eGullet for performing the high colonic that relieved me of this Reggie Bar of a post.
  2. Like a child that painted with his own excrement, I am incredibly pleased with the title of this post.  
Pin It

4 comments:

Matthew Kayahara said...

I'm sure you'll be unsurprised to learn that I object to the idea that the "you do know that x is a foam, right?" comments are sophomoric and unproductive. The comparisons are apt precisely because many people who object to modernist foams do so on the basis of appearance and texture. I've had many a modernist foam that had exactly the appearance and texture of whipped cream, cappuccino or beer foam. If it really were the appearance and texture that they found problematic, then they would naturally be averse to these substances, too. The fact that they can say, "I don't like any foam that has the exact appearance and texture of whipped cream, but I do like whipped cream itself" suggests to me that their anti-foam stance is nothing more than thinly veiled contempt for any and all modernist technique. I just can't see any other reasonable interpretation of their position.

Pablo Escolar said...

Matthew:

First off, fan of your blog and psyched to have you comment here.

Second, totally not surprised :)

Third, the unproductiveness was an observation based on my own use of the argument. If you wanted to reach hearts and minds (and ultimately stomachs), then I think you have to keep the snappy responses in their holsters.

There is a lot I didn't touch on in the post, but I think another factor is context. Some people might object to foams on savory items. Some people might object to foam textures that aren't on beverages.

My aforementioned woman dines with me anywhere, show now aversion to modern technique, yet will avoid 99% of all 'modernist' foams. One of my closest friends has eaten at Alinea, L2O and Moto also has an aversion to foams.

Finally, I totally concede that there are people who speak out of ignorance in order to project contempt for the new.

Matthew Kayahara said...

Agreed that the snappy comeback is probably ultimately unproductive, even though it's sometimes irresistible. The only way to win hearts and minds is through the stomach.

I also agree that context is everything, especially the context of savoury foams vs. sweet ones. Still, I've never heard any anti-foam people cite their savoriness as one of the reasons they don't like them, and I've eaten nearly as many dessert courses with modernist foams as savoury courses. I think this is partly where trompe l'oeil comes into play: it's an shorter leap from cappuccino to "mushroom cappuccino" than to beef tartare with caper foam.

Ultimately, among those who genuinely enjoy whipped cream but dislike modernist foams with the same texture and appearance as whipped cream, I suspect it really does come down to neophobia vs. neophilia. So much of food enjoyment takes place in the brain, and the brain is a complicated place.

Pablo Escolar said...

I VIOLENTLY AGREE WITH (ALMOST) EVERYTHING YOU HAVE SAID.

I'm just not ready to pull the trigger on the neophobia vs. neophilia bit. As we said, context is key and I've eaten with enough people who will gladly eat and love a meal at {wd~50, Alinea, Moto} but still look like you stabbed their pony in the eye if there is foam on their dish.

Thanks for moving the conversation forward!

Post a Comment