Saturday, May 15, 2010

Dirt is Becoming Haute Cuisine

Photo courtesy: Food & Wine

Nothing sets your teeth on edge quite like biting down on a piece of dirt or a little sand in your salad. Yuck!

However, despite the fact that most people find dirt in their salad repulsive, the latest copy of "Food & Wine" discusses an interesting new trend in haute cuisine. Unbelievably, chefs across the world are experimenting with dirt; both real and lovingly created.

Eating dirt or clay (geophagy) has actually been around for a long time. Most people who eat dirt/clay live in Central Africa and the southern United States. While, in some instances, it is a cultural practice; it also fills a physiological need for nutrients.

The clay commonly ingested in Africa contains important nutrients often lacking in the daily diet due to poverty; unavailability of fresh fruits and vegetables; and, many other reasons. These nutrients include: phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, copper, zinc, manganese, and iron. The tradition of geophagy spread from Africa to the United States with slavery.

Now it would seem that dirt has attracted the attention of the culinary world. Some chefs are so intent on "getting back to the land" that they are incorporating the soil into their dishes.

TreeHugger says:
Kristin Donnelly of Food & Wine reports that the trend is widespread - chefs around the world are experimenting with dirt on the plate. Some are creating imitation dirt from ingredients like dehydrated beets, or crushed dried-mushrooms. But others, like Spain's Joan Roca of El Celler de Can Roca are using high tech devices like the Rotavapor—more commonly used in the perfume industry—to distill soil, the essence of which is used to create an earthy foam. The trend isn't just confined to chefs—installation artist Laura Parker asks gallery goers to sniff soil samples, and then taste vegetables that were grown in that soil.

If you are of trusty European stock (as I am), I grew up hearing that a little dirt never hurt anyone - not that my mother ever recommended eating it. However, if a little dirt was eaten all that was required was a bit of a wash.

Old English farmers who farmed by traditional methods would taste their soil to determine mineral content and other factors. One taste; and, they knew what the earth needed.

Who knows maybe the next fad will be gardening by the taste of your soil. Night classes to learn the fine art of soil tasting?

Via TreeHugger

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