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Gastronomy, literally the study of food, has developed a wide range of subcategories in this age of electronic communication. The two most scientific subsets are nutritional gastronomy and molecular gastronomy. Nutritional gastronomy is at the forefront of recent advances in alternate diets, non-bulk approaches to eating, and the backlash to “fast food” obsessions in all countries. Followers of nutritional gastronomy stress such important factors as freshness of food, raw vs. cooked advantages, avoidance of certain foods (fatty, sugary, etc.), and attention to ingredients labels on packaged foods. The term Molecular gastronomy, according to en.wiktionary.org/wiki/gastronomy, “is commonly used to describe a style of cuisine in which chefs explore culinary possibilities by borrowing tools from the science lab and ingredients from the food industry. Formally, the term molecular gastronomy refers to the scientific discipline that studies the physical and chemical processes that occur while cooking. Molecular gastronomy seeks to investigate and explain the chemical reasons behind the transformation of ingredients, as well as the social, artistic and technical components of culinary and gastronomic phenomena.” In today’s culture (we should say, “multiple cultures), where food choice is part of our personal choices each day, we take advantage of the availability of food from many cultures (Chinese or Indian may be obvious examples), and indirectly become more comfortable with and accepting of those cultures as a whole.
"Gastronomy" is defined as being the art and science of fine eating with an emphasis on gourmet foods and dinning experiences. Some words related to "gastronomy" that are at times mentioned when discussing gastronomy in today's contemporary culture are:
- gastronome: one knowledgeable of the art or science of fine eating (i.e., in gastronomy)
- gastronomist: one who actively combines theory of gastronomy with the practice of gastronomy (i.e., one who cooks)
- gourmand: one who is fond of good eating, sometimes referring to one who enjoy good food to excess; derived from the Old French root gormant, meaning a glutton
- gourmet: a connoisseur of fine food and drink, (i.e., no inherent connotation of excess as is possible with "gourmand," root < OF "gormant")
- gastronomy: the art or science of good or fine eating; attributed to the title of a poem by French attorney Joseph Berchoux, "Gastronomie" (1801)
While gastronomy originally indicated those who dwelt upon classic and haute cuisine, with interest confined to expensive, lavish meals that required equally expensive silver and china accoutrements, in today's culture gastronomy has expanded to include complete command of knowledge of the art and science of good food and eating, which includes among other things cultural foods, molecular gastronomy, food history and culinary anthropology. Gastronomy has grown from past emphasis on beautifying the ritual of consumption to include, in today's culture, knowledge of the many avenues of cooking and food production. Knowledge is actually half of the root of "gastronomy." The etymology of gastronomy originates with the Greek combining forms gastḗr- and -nómos. Gastḗr- or gastro- is the combining form meaning "stomach"; -nómos is the combining form meaning "knowledge." Thus the foundation of gastronomy is knowledge, and today's culture has expanded upon the knowledge required in gastronomy and by a gastronomist or a gastronome.
Today gastronomists are knowledgeable about food chemistry and physics, and foodways, and they have a link to the many cultures of the world through sophisticated computer technology, which furthers understanding in agriculture, aquaculture, and the technology of newer cooking methods and equipment. For example, today gastronomy embraces the techniques of Australian Spanish cuisine chef Ferran Adrià whose flash-frozen gorgonzola must be eaten with the fingers before it thaws and becomes a puddle and a mess. Gastronomy today must go beyond the sensory experience of food and dinning, such as the multisensory approach behind the cooking techniques of Adrià, to include the serious issues of the impact of eating and diet upon worldwide ecology and health, including foodborne diseases, like E. coli and norovirus infection, which is gastroenteritis from contaminated food or drinks.
On the more pleasurable side, gastronomy in today's culture should promote learning to taste, savor, and fully sensualize the dining experience, whether that experience be a family lunch or dinner, a picnic with friends, or an elegant meal entertaining a collection of friends. A sandwich of fresh fish enjoyed as a sensory pleasure on the fisherman's wharf beside the Potomac in Washington D.C. can be savored with as much enjoyment as a three hour banquet. An important role of gastronomy in today's culture is that of re-elevating food and cooking beyond appearance and "stylistic architecture" to its primary functions in aroma and flavor so that modern food consumers regain a sensibility for the art of taste (taste: taste, smell (olfaction) and trigeminal nerve stimulation determines flavors). Though food fads may come and go, the joy of conversation over good food (the two comprising a good meal) should remain as an acclaimed route to enjoying the hedonistic pleasures of life. Anatomy and physiology can combine to elevate a boring biological function to one of life's greatest pleasures.
Source: "Gastronomy." Encyclopedia of Food & Culture. Ed. Solomon H. Katz. Vol. 2. Gale Cengage, 2003.
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