Looking Back on Our History
Beginning in 1492 with the founding of colonialism gradually spreading, Western ways have been the dominant influence politically, socially and economically. However, with the late rise of Eastern nations and the economic recession occurring in the West, we have subconsciously been gravitating towards a new found culture one might call “Easternization”. Through this essay, we will explore the past, the present and the future of this process to find out why the concept of today’s Western culture is diminishing, the emergence of Eastern values is on the rise and the death of the kitchen will be occur.
Up until the 1960’s Western countries developed as religiously oriented nations through Judaism, Christianity and Islam; We can see this just looking on any dollar bill to find “In God we trust” written over it. However, while Eastern countries too relied on religion as guidance, the two religious theories differed drastically. Colin Cambell explains in Easternization of the West “the western postulates a personal god who transcends the world he created and who ultimately intends to resolve all discrepancy by establishing a Kingdom of God on earth.”
Cambell continues to explain, the Eastern religious values were such that “divine principles work itself out through moral mechanism aiming to receive closure once life has progressed to the highest level.” Thus we see within religious observance, from the beginning of civilization, Eastern core values contained rationale thought.
In the 1960’s a counter culture occurred in the West with the rise of the civil rights movement, reaction to the Vietnam War and proliferation of a variety of subcultures. Western civilization began adopting ideas of rationale thought and questioning their past religious observance. This created a chasm between Western theories on god and the world he created. And so they began looking towards the east for answers them for so longed for.
The Shift Begins
The counter culture and social changes continued through the 70’s which led to the rise of the Western Billionaire in the 80’s. The West was in an economic boom and became a prosperous and greedy nation whom while the government trusted to handle their own business, they took much advantage of. We were thriving globally, unaware of the troubles and changes that were coming. Meanwhile, Asia’s population was on the rise at a 96.3% growth rate and they began absorbing western ideas like sponges. Slowly, unnoticed, through the past two decades America began importing Eastern culture, and with the rise of technology, it didn’t make it hard to do so. While the shift in religious thought to rationale was taking place, new institutional and ideological spaces were created to make way for new beliefs and practices such as Buddhism, yoga etc. In his essay, “Wild, Wild East,” Lam observes his two-culture mash up:
”Yoga is the new aerobics (my instructor is a redhead) and acupuncture is now accepted by HMOs (my favorite acupuncturist is French). You can find fish sauce and wasabi down the aisle in Safe way. Turn on the TV and the Food Network will teach you how to make pho soup and Thai curry. Asian cultures have become so much part of America that they’re tattooed as Chinese or Sanskrit characters on alabaster skin.”
Through the years of Westernization as Easterners were busy adopting Western cultural values, they still maintained their economic values of Government mediated business. This led to sustainable growth for over thirty years. Markets flourished and as a result, inequality and poverty were much lower compared to the western countries that utilized a more liberal economic system. In his essay, Globalism Discontents, Joseph Stigilitz argues, that the financial crisis in Asia in the late 90′s was a result of “rapid liberalization of financial and capital markets”, much like the liberalization of the markets in US. Much like the markets in the in US today. Now, with the Western world undergoing a recession, Asia is a rising superpower. Not only do they contain the largest growing population, which allows them to be the most targeted market, but furthermore their economy is the fast goring in the world.
So, what makes Asia the fastest growing nation in the world? Benjamin Olshan explains it’s something called shi ji or pragmatism. Asians are successful because of their hard work, social mobility, well manners, respectfulness and ability to preserve values. The average standard of living today in Asia is much higher than that of America. Practical societies like theirs don’t waste time and energy on arguments about amendments concerning flag burning, gay marriage, and what I can only term non-issues. (the secret of Asian success). Asian culture exudes efficiency, and maintains a focus on progressiveness and family values.
Although the East is currently the fastest growing market, with this comes severe environmental issues that they now face. For example, currently, Asia has 70% its oil imported. In “building energy efficiency, Wen Hong explains …..
“High energy prices at a time of rapid growth have pushed up import costs and raised concerns about the security of energy supplies. The authoritative inter-governmental panel on climate change in its most recent report noted, it is often more cost effective to invest in energy efficient improvement, than in increasing energy supply to satisfy demand for energy services. Efficiency improvement has a positive effect on energy security, local and regional air pollution abatement and employment.”
So What’s All This Got To Do With a Kitchen?
With the Western culture on an economic downfall and both hemispheres struggling with environmental issues, the kitchen growth on energy continues to increase as technology builds additional appliances easing housework for the modern housewife. The Kitchen now exists as the least energy efficient room in the household. Additionally, the obsession with food continues as Americans are at a hard battle with obesity. Long gone are the days of prehistoric times where we hunted and ate for survival, but rather sit motionless in front of a computer for countless hours while consuming thousands of additional malnutrition calories and wasting time eating for entertainment. Perhaps obesity isn’t McDonald’s fault but rather a western mentality on food that may be cured with a new value system. The amount of wasted energy used to produce this food is in itself mind-blowing. Michael E Webber explains….
“2030 ± 160 trillion BTU of energy were embedded in wasted food in 2007. The energy embedded in wasted food represents approximately 2% of annual energy consumption in the United States, which is substantial when compared to other energy conservation and production proposals.”
One has to ask, do we actually need this food or are we just co existing continuing a tradition within a social norm not really thinking about other important, healthier alternatives?
Our Future Kitchen or Lack Thereof
Nicholas Kurti and Herve This[7,10] said, “Scientists are beginning to understand how chefs accomplish their culinary masterpieces and are making modest recipe suggestions on their own”. David Cassi, a physicist and Ettore Bocchio, a chef, came up with the title “Molecular Gastronomy” in their famous speech titled “Manifesto della cucina moleculare Italiana.” The scientist Harold McGee published seminal books “On Food and Cooking” that explored cooking chemistry, along with many others that contributed to the existing accumulated knowledge. For years the recipes served to us by family members and top chefs are based on experiences, time and effort. But the concept of molecular cooking records the recipes by laboratory experiments and researches it scientifically. This new science discovers the evidences for existing cooking process, creates novel textures and flavors, and provides healthier food. For example, research of the combination of chemicals from specific ingredient and chemical reactions between various ingredients internally.
Today, many food writers and chefs, as well as most gourmets, agree that chemistry lies at the heart of the very finest food available in some of the world’s finest restaurants. Chemistry has managed to replace its often tarnished image with a growing respect as the application of basic chemistry in the kitchen has provided the starting point for a whole new cuisine. For example, El Bulli (in Spain) and the Fat Duck (in the United Kingdom), two restaurants that since adopting a scientific approach to cooking have become widely regarded as among the finest.
The hypothesis of molecular gastronomy is that, the ideas derived from the western cultures spreading out through the world and amazing people with novel flavors and textures. As of now, most of experimental foods start from high-end restaurants around the world. For the long-term aims, through the normalization of technology and the trickle-down effect by Malcolm Gladwell in Tipping Point, this new food preparation would reform eating habits completely. Due to the mass growing markets, huge populations, the efficiency of the Eastern society and lack of natural resources, the simple efficient characteristic of Molecular food would suit especially for the eastern world. Future meals will be like taking capsules or mixing flavors of powders which meet daily essential nutrients and fill appetites with various tastes. Additionally, this will solve many worldwide issues existing today, such as, longer preservation of food which will be easy to transport to the poverty, the recombination of chemical elements that creates new ingredients without any natural source limitations, and fighting obesity.
Based on our thesis, we believe the concept of the kitchen as it exists today would be obsolete. As the Eastern world continues to develop and import their economic and social cultures to the West, their efficient mindset and need for a sustainable world to exist would implement new concepts of food and the kitchen all over the world. They’re innate progressive mindset shows that the culture is susceptible to positive changes that encourage efficiency, sustainability and health. We believe the kitchen would not exist in the normal residence but perhaps solely in a restaurant alone, made for a more unique entertaining experience. The fast-paced, efficient and economically successful societies make the urban residence minimize the uses of the kitchen. People will rather spend time on leisure activities and family togetherness rather than focus on food preparation. The simple tea kitchen would be space-wise and functionally fit enough for new type of molecular food. Kitchen design may merge into the living room for the family and perhaps the kitchen is merely a storage cabinet large enough just to hold a powder, efficient enough to adapt to the modern society and developed enough to satisfy the hungry man.
1. Wild East, Andrew Lam, East Eats West, Sept 2010
2. The Easternization of the West, A Thematic Account of Cultural Change in Modern Era, Colin Campbell, 2007
3. Building Energy Efficiency, Why Green Buildings are key to Asia’s future, Wen Hong, Madalaine Steller Chiang, 2007
4. Wasted Food Wasted Energy, The Embedded Energy in the United States, Amanda D. Cuellar, Jul 2010
5. The Real Secret of Asia Success, Benjamin Olshin, Jan 2005
7. Chemistry and Physics in the kitchen , Nicholas Kurti, Herve This, Scientific American Apr, 1994
8. Science and cooking: the era of molecular cuisine, David Cassi, European Molecular Biology Organization, Feb 2011
9. Molecular Gastronomy: A New Emerging Scientific Discipline, Peter Barham, Chem. Rev. 2010, 110, 2313–2365
1o. Molecular Gastronomy: A Scientific Look at Cooking, Herve This, Acc. Chem. Res., 2009, 42 (5), pp 575–583