Why Is Bacon-Egg-and-Mustard Ice-Cream A Good Idea?

Pregnant women are frequently mocked for their weird food cravings (ice cream and pickles, for example), but the growing field of food science or molecular profiling is going to show that some pairings aren’t strange at all. In fact, they could be a match made in heaven.

Heston Blumenthal, the man who brought us white chocolate and caviar, bacon-egg-and-mustard ice cream, and liver and mandarin parfait, is partly responsible for this new fascination with weird and wonderful food pairings. Foodpairing.com is doing its best to foster public interest and turn the trend into something more long-lasting, opening up a whole new gastronomic world to people.

Foodpairing.com is brought to the world courtesy of SENSE for TASTE, a research company dedicated to investigating the molecular properties of different foods and drinks to come up with fantastic new flavours that result in explosive mouthgasms. It works closely with top international chefs (like Blumenthal), bartenders, food companies, and universities to ensure the best results, and to ensure that those results are broadcast to the world.

The website was initially intended to help people find new food pairings (there is an interactive chart, or food tree), but it has also started to include recipes, giving people an idea of the ratios that deliver the best results.

The science

According to Molecular Recipes, 80% of our taste comes from our sense of smell. All food and drink is composed of odour molecules, which is where the flavour comes from. Molecular gastronomy (molecular profiling) analyses the molecules within food and drink to determine which molecules complement one another – and which may be best avoided.

In a completely unoriginal move, let’s take Blumenthal’s white chocolate and caviar pairing as an example: Both foods have trimethylamine (and several other compounds) in common, which is why they are complementary. According to a report published on nature.com, chocolate and blue cheese is another winning combination, thanks to the 73 compounds that they have in common. Pineapple and blue cheese go well together because they share methyl hexanoate.

Fantastic pairings

Now that you know mixing things like tomato sauce and banana is perfectly accepted – even encouraged – what are the weirdest food pairings you can conjure?

How does avocado and gin sound? It sounds perfectly sane (and according to Foodpairing it works) next to avocado and coffee, doesn’t it?

In an article on weird food pairings published by Paste Magazine, Anita George tests the gag reflex with an interesting avocado and coffee milkshake (es alpukat). At least, it tests the gag reflex for people who haven’t been brought up in Indonesia, where it’s a very popular drink.

What about banana and lemongrass? That’s another legitimate pairing from the SENSE for TASTE people. It sounds like it beats the pants off banana and onion soup, which is a recipe proposed by Tara on SocialMoms.com

Anita George also suggests ginger and milk chocolate, as the slight bitter undertones of milk chocolate complement the pepperiness of the ginger. She notes that dark chocolate is a bit too bitter to make a great match (although, seeing as how tastes differ, and the basic odour molecules are more or less the same, some people might love the flavour of dark chocolate and ginger).

Chocolate is one of the most versatile foods around. Orange and chocolate, and chilli and chocolate pairings are quite common, but these days chocolate makers are being more adventurous. They trust the public’s newfound questing spirit and have released flavours like chocolate and wasabi, chocolate and salt (great with certain red wines), chocolate and pepper, chocolate and cranberry, and chocolate and lavender. Chocolate can also be used with beef, ham, bacon, lobster, scallops, butternut, onions, and cauliflower.

The idea of salmon and liquorice (genuinely) might not make your mouth water, but one thing is certain, molecular profiling is fast becoming big business, and not just among experimental chefs like Blumenthal. At the rate it’s growing, it won’t be long until food pairing science forms part of the curriculum at catering colleges, chef schools, and training and further education institutes around the world.

Who knows maybe one day McDonald’s will even release a beef, lemongrass, and pineapple burger?

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Jemima Winslow is an amateur foodie who loves mixing and matching flavours on the fly. She’ll be the first to admit that she’s had some spectacular failures, but the delicious surprise when something goes right is enough to make her keep experimenting.

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