Food Technology Brings New Traditions, Including Meatless Ones

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via San Francisco Chronicle : Food Technology Brings New Traditions, Including Meatless Ones

We are what we eat. Or is it the other way around?

Food is an expression of identity, and I don’t just mean Insta-bragging about brunch. Traditions — whether we’re talking about the clothing we wear, holidays we celebrate or rituals we practice — are shaped by how each of us relates to the world. So whether you’re a foodie or just grab your snacks on the fly, it’s interesting to examine in our food-obsessed culture how evolving food traditions provide insight into what we value and understand about our health, our environment, food production — and what we can expect, food-wise, in the future.

Much of developing food culture represents a “back to the earth” appreciation for nature and traditions of the past. Take “farm to table” — a buzz phrase now ubiquitous in cuisine — and the growing popularity of pop-up restaurants showcasing the swanky side of scraps, where secondary ingredients don’t go to waste. No farmers’ market is complete without heirloom vegetables and “ancient grains” like quinoa and teff.

At the same time, food culture — particularly here in the Bay area — increasingly looks toward the future, taking on the flavor of a global and tech-savvy food system while using molecular gastronomy to deconstruct old favorites in fresh ways. New information and technologies change how we eat, shop, learn about and prepare our food.

How can we align our growing interest in food with our concerns about health, environment and animals while keeping pace with technology and globalization? Must we return to traditions of the past, or should we embrace a forward-looking food culture? We can do both.

The trend toward plant-based foods that our ancestors would have recognized and eaten is steeped in concern about the health and environmental impact of producing meat, eggs and dairy products. The plant-based food trend also embodies a desire to move away from industrialized farming, where land is degraded and animals are mistreated and unhealthy.

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Technology is a major force moving new food traditions forward, with plant-based substitutes for meat, eggs and dairy becoming increasingly desirable and delicious. Impossible Foods’ plant-based burger “bleeds” due to an innovative combination of natural ingredients. The iron-containing compound heme is what gives blood its color and contributes to its metallic flavor. When combined with sugars and amino acids, heme creates the distinct flavor we associate with meat. Though it may seem strange to some, founder and Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown swears most home cooks have the makings for “plant blood” available in their kitchen pantries — something that can’t be said for the many processed foods we unwrap and eat without blinking an eye.

“Clean meat,” created through cell replication, could soon allow guilt-ridden carnivores to dine on chicken, beef, pork and fish without supporting animal abuse. Clean meat is produced in significantly more sanitary conditions than conventionally produced farm-grown meat, and its environmental impact is much lighter. The taste and nutrient profile can be fine-tuned. Best of all, no one’s blood is spilled.

Food innovation stems from the same place as emerging “back to the Earth” food trends: growing concern about our food’s impact.

When it comes to food traditions, taking one step forward and two steps back might not be such a bad thing. New technology means we can enjoy cuisine based on evolving priorities, while still celebrating long-standing traditions and flavors. The kitchen has always been a place for experimentation, and tech offers a whole new set of tools — let’s use them for a fresh approach to old problems.

Source : San Francisco Chronicle | Food Technology Brings New Traditions, Including Meatless Ones

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