Saturday, 26 February 2011

Pull the udder one

Call me old-fashioned, but I miss the days when food was food. When you could look at a menu and know exactly where you stood. Then along came Heston Blumenthal's 'culinary alchemy' and suddenly, all bets were off.

Instead of building dishes around complimentary flavours, the new generation of uber-chefs seem to find their inspiration in incongruity. The weirder it sounds, the better it'll be. At least, in theory.

Admittedly, I have food issues that border on the obsessive compulsive. For the first twenty years of my life I couldn't even reconcile the concept of sweet and sour. Well, which is it, one or the other? And don't tell me it's both because that shit doesn't fly.

Even now, I'll scrutinise a roasting pan like Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker, making sure I don't reach for a potato and find myself chewing on a parsnip by mistake. All it took was one harmless childhood incident involving a little white lie and some projectile vomiting. Now I can't even go near the carrot's suspiciously sickly cousin.

Alright, I'm probably not the best person to judge anyone else's epicurean adventures. Even so, I'm finding one London Ice Cream parlour's latest invention a little tough to stomach.

Matt O'Connor, owner of Covent Garden's 'Icecreamists', came up with the bizarre idea of an ice-cream made from human breast milk, and he's charging £14 a serving for the privilege. Which only makes it slightly more expensive than a cup of Häagen-Dazs at the movies.

Made with Madagascan vanilla pods and lemon zest, 'Baby Gaga' has been created using the milk of 15 women. One of these women was Victoria Hiley, who works with women who have breast-feeding issues. She believes that O'Connor's experiment might encourage more women to embrace natural nursing - "What could be more natural than fresh, free-range mother's milk in an ice cream? And for me it's a recession beater too -- what's the harm in using my assets for a bit of extra cash." I'm just a little unclear on the concept of 'free-range' motherhood, is there a battery-farmed alternative?

Anyone not immediately put off by the idea of fifteen women lactating into a churn full of vanilla seeds will be delighted to hear that the volunteers had been thoroughly screened for communicable diseases. Don't know about you, but my stomach's rumbling - pass the wafers and stick a raspberry on top of the scoop.

Reactions to 'Baby Gaga' have been predictably squeamish, as though the women are standing in the shop expressing directly into the customers' cones. And yet we're quite happy to consider gulping down similar products that are mechanically extracted from another species. Maybe O'Connor, and New York chef Daniel Angerer who made cheese from his wife's milk, are onto something. Perhaps breast is best after all...

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