By Diane Fresquez
Food meets technology, through Proust.
Diane Fresquez lives in Belgium, and for a few years was once a different correspondent for the Wall highway Journal.
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Additional resources for A Taste of Molecules: In Search of the Secrets of Flavor
We walked up to the next floor and entered a dark room that looked like it had once been a hayloft. An reminded me to close the old, heavy doors carefully to keep mice out. Then she invited me to stick my head into the top of the malt mill, where malted barley is crushed. Malt is nothing more than barley grain that’s gone through two steps: soaking it in water to encourage germination; and kilning, to dry it at varying temperatures over a period of anywhere from sixteen to sixty hours, depending on the flavor and color of the malt being made.
Although meads traditionally have been, and still are, made with the addition of fruit and spices, Xavier’s goal for the moment was to use only the three basic ingredients, honey, water, and yeast, with no additives, thus showcasing the aromas and flavors of the honey. Xavier had already chosen some standard honeys for the project: orange blossom, acacia, and a multifloral honey made from French and Belgian wildflowers. But in the future, he said, he would like to try thyme honey, although it’s rare and expensive.
The test tubes lined up in the refrigerator made me think, not of a library, but of a sperm bank for the procreation of an endless lineage of Belgian beers. Aurore took me back to the meeting room where we had begun our conversation, and soon after she left, Sonia rushed in. She was a petite woman in her forties, her long, blond hair tied up in a ponytail. She didn’t have much time, but took a moment to make an espresso for me, and out of her pocket she pulled a sweet amaretto biscuit wrapped in pink paper to go with it.