Roast Chicken

Old people love telling us how tasteless chicken is these days. You might imagine it’s because they are getting misty-eyed, or maybe because their tastebuds are failing fast. But according to Tasteology (YouTube, Episode 1 uploaded 24 May) they might be on to something.

“What we’ve done to chicken tells us so much about what we’ve done to our food,” said food writer Mark Schatzker, who lamented the effect intensive production and generic grain feed has on flavour. “Chicken is much cheaper than it used to be and it grows three times as fast. But it’s also extremely bland.”

Schatzker used chicken as an example but he has a bigger problem with products like Doritos, which he claimed were early adopters of “powerful fake flavourings” that whisper to hungry stomachs in a “chemical language of desire” and make foods “more delicious than they deserve to be, which incentivises billions of people to eat more food that they shouldn’t.”

Schatzker blames fake flavours for the rise in obesity, and he has a good point. But he also said “for some reason we think it’s exciting and brilliant when a trendy chef does it but it’s terrible and horrible when a food company does it. The way I see it they are exactly the same thing.”

Perhaps, but they don’t have the same aim. Molecular gastronomy is about adopting a scientific approach to tease out the intensity of ingredients, rather than simply adding chemicals to enhance them. Whereas some food companies simply do it so people shovel down more crisps.