This is an article about "the culinary triangle" which depicts "cuisine" in a certain way. Wiki says this about cuisine and traditional cuisine (edited):
Cuisine (from the French cuisine, "cooking; culinary art; kitchen"; ultimately from the Latincoquere, "to cook") is a specific set of cooking traditions and practices, often associated with a specific culture It is often named after the region or place where its underlining culture is present. A cuisine is primarily influenced by the ingredients that are available locally or through trade. Religious food laws can also exercise a strong influence on cuisine.
A traditional cuisine is a coherent tradition of food preparation that rises from the daily lives and kitchens of a people over an extended period of time in a specific region of a country, or a specific country, and which, when localized, has notable distinctions from the cuisine of the country as a whole.
Wiki also says this about the culinary triangle (edited):
The culinary triangle is a concept described by anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss involving three types of cooking; these are boiling, roasting and smoking usually done to meat.
The boiling of meat is looked at as a cultural way of cooking because it uses a receptacle to hold water, therefore it is not completely natural. It is also the most preferred way to cook because neither any of the meat nor its juices are lost. In most cultures, this form of cooking is most represented by women and is served domestically to small closed groups, such as families.
Roasting of meat is a natural way of cooking because it uses no receptacle. It is done by directly exposing the meat to the fire. It is most commonly offered to guests and is associated with men in many cultures. As opposed to boiling, meat can lose some parts, thus it is also associated with destruction and loss
Smoking meat is also a natural way of cooking. It is also done without a receptacle and in the same way as roasting. It is a slower method of roasting, however, which makes it somewhat like boiling.
According to Claude Lévi-Strauss, other cooking methods could be situated within this triangle. For example, grilling meat, by nature of the meat being situated with "with lesser distance [...] to fire", could be situated "at the apex of the recipe triangle" (above the roasted), while steamed food, located further from the water than boiled, would be placed "halfway between the boiled and the smoked."
Anthropology's basic concerns are "What defines Homo sapiens?", "Who are the ancestors of modern Homo sapiens?", "What are humans' physical traits?", "How do humans behave?", "Why are there variations and differences among different groups of humans?", "How has the evolutionary past of Homo sapiens influenced its social organization and culture?" and so forth.
The "and so forth." is where we are today, of course.
In 1982, within the Edinburgh academic community, I was involved with anthropologists interested in the broad theme of this page which led to a publication of mine. It was:
Making Sense of Cuisine: From Culinary Triangle to Pyramid using Lehrer’s Tetrahedron as a Stepping Stone
Anthropological Linguistics: Summer 1983
If you are in an academic institution which subscribes, or want to subscribe to this source, you can find the full paper with diagrams at http://www.jstor.org/pss/30027668If you do not have access, a shorter version of the paper follows.
This is a related article I wrote in 1985.
Making Sense of Cuisine
Food and Cookery Review: Vol. 51, No. 6, January 1985
This was the magazine of the Cookery and Food Asociation - CFA. Putting CFA in full into Google gives this:
Established in 1965 as a Guild of the Cookery and Food Association, the Craft Guild of Chefs has developed into the leading Chefs' Association in the UK and ... http://www.craftguildofchefs.org/
The following pages are provisional and are taken from the article. They are not as printed in the Review due to reorganisation of the layout for Internet use. The original article is on a later page in this section of my publications via the side panel. The way in which it was typeset by the Review rendered it difficult to read and Figure 2 is the worst example as you might see on a later page in the side panel. The paragraphs have been separated for ease of reading.
There are two versions of the article and this one serves as an introduction to the main article. The original version continues with drawing a distinction between two methods of looking at the means to cuisine - cookery. The text has been edited for Internet use. Explanatory additions are in blue, sometimes a 'related colour', text.
The change of format from a direct copy of the article enables easier reading. It also enables passages to be removed for personal use.
There are five Figures including one table. The other four are triangles. If you would like to see them on one page, open another tab and open this website again - perhaps the Home page from your 'favourites' file in your computer system. Via 'Pubs', of course, select "The Triangle Figures" from the side panel under the "Making Sense ..Introduction". You can then flit between them. Take that one stage further with the "Making Sense .. published" page for good measure!
Here is the article:
Making Sense of Cuisine
Alan F Harrison
Head of Faculty of Community Studies
Canterbury College of Technology
Alan Harrison's authority to expound on some of these ideas is based on experience of teaching professional cookery and related subjects in almost every aspect of education to and including university level. His debut in catering was a two-year craft course but he has gone on to take degrees. The latter have involved him in very wide reading and we hope you find the following article both interesting and challenging. Unfortunately, the amount of space at his disposal is inevitably limited and there will probably be a need to collect a few questions together in a later issue. Do not go and get hot under the neckerchief if the 'making sense' idea is not achieved. He can only provide an outline now and, depending on readers' interests and queries, more information will be forthcoming. Let him now tell us about cuisine to start with.
What do we mean when we use the term cuisine? We can use it to refer to a place in the hotel or restaurant but, more often, we are referring to a particular kind of cooking to a high standard. Perhaps the general acceptance of the word within professional cookery is in terms of haute cuisine. As soon as we attach the adjective haute, we need to question the noun which goes with it and we should begin to think about things more deeply. To limit cuisine to the 'products of the kitchen' is to restrict worthwhile evaluation of a wider meaning.
If there is haute cuisine, there must be an opposite and, perhaps, something in between. Cuisine paysanne is the native cookery of lower class France and cuisine bourgeoise the middle class equivalent. Accepting that Tournedo* Rossini** has no place on the peasant's table, it is insufficiently rigorous to state that the reason is cost — it is more than that. While French high society in its heyday could well accommodate a potage bonne femme for lunch, the lower orders would not necessarily appreciate the subtlety of such a dish as the tournedo and may have rejected it from their repertoire of dishes. Although such marked differences occur between the levels and approaches of cookery as outlined, there is a quality within them which sets them apart from the cuisines of England, America or whatever. Thus, the ways in which a nation, or even locality, sets about cooking the types of food which fall in to its range of acceptable dishes is said to be its cuisine.
A major determining factor of that range was the local availability of the foodstuffs when transport and preservation systems were not what they are today. The surprising thing, however, is that the traditions are hard to change which indicates that there is something deeper than mere availability. At a superficial level, we can account for the additional factors in terms of likes and dislikes of both specific foods and ways of preparing them.
When we look at them in more depth, we can see that the social situation is also important. When someone visits our house and shares our food, we may choose something quite different from the intended family dishes at that time. This, then, emphasises that different foods are served on different occasions which goes beyond the assumption that breakfast foods are different from those served at other meals. When we go out with friends for a meal, we tend to choose something beyond those things we receive at home, hence, the popularity of ethnic restaurants offering, say, Indian or Chinese cuisine.
The reasons for a specific group of people liking this and disliking that food are spread across ideas such as availability at the simple level to why it must be a fatted calf within the more complicated analysis and, since even before Roman times, the “one man's meat is another man’s poison” debate has been the concern of numerous thinkers. One aspect of "making sense of cuisine" concerns the social factors and we have seen enough so far to realise that it would take much longer to make full sense of all these kinds of issues. Depending on the interests of readers, one can return to a more complete discussion.
Let us move on to another aspect of cuisine which is more analytical in terms of categorising the methods of cookery. It involves using a diagram which was derived by a well-knownwriter - Claude Levi-Strauss. He analysed the words and approaches to cookery or cuisine in its conceptual application within a fair number of different and often primitive nationalities and found that the social dimensions determined attitudes to food in very different ways from our own. Taking one extreme example, (not from Levi-Strauss), sheeps’ eyes are a delicacy to some and abhorrent to others. Perhaps a less extreme example is the fact that the French eat horsemeat but we in the UK do not but similar reasons prevail.
But if some examples are extreme, they illustrate attitudes and those distinguished by Levi-Strauss are interesting in a similar aspect but different in kind. The main distinctions were food to be eaten raw, cooked and rotten. The first two are quite typical but rotten stands out for special discussion here. While anything rotten in our terminology usually gets thrown away, not so within this other classification and is more like an extension of game being 'well-hung'.
If that was the full 'system', we could leave it there but Levi-Strauss saw that the cookery techniques were closely related and 'raw' equated to roast, 'cooked' to smoked and 'rotten' was closely associated with boiled. We would need to delve quite deeply into a combination of linguistics and social anthropology to 'explain' all this and I am not sure that it would serve any major purpose to do so. Figure 1 summarises what has become known as "the culinary triangle".
Figure 1 The Culinary Triangle (Levi-Strauss)
Within the academic world, writers like to comment upon the work of others (and one benefit of this is that 'theory' is developed). Others tend to be more direct and chefs waste no time in saying what they think. If there is reaction to the present discussion, it will no doubt surface in a later issue of the Review.
The culinary triangle has been the topic of much debate but there has been very little of potential use to readers here. One writer suggested that the triangle could be extended to a tetrahedron but 'pyramid' is the more usual. In the academic journal referred to in the introduction to this article, I proposed a culinary pyramid and spent some time on this after giving academics some straight insight into the world of rotisseurs and chefs gardemangers.
The reason for giving readers another version (ie – the present paper available in two versions) of what I proposed there is to widen the debate concerning a possible classification system which offers a deeper understanding of the similarities and differences relating to methods of cookery. This is just a further aspect of making sense of cuisine.
It is necessary to talk about 'models' before going much further. We know that they can be scaled down versions of a car, building or aeroplane which helps us to appreciate or visualise the larger item and we can form models of molecules or other things which we cannot see. A map is another form of model and a blueprint or plan can be a one-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional object. If you can accept that a little imagination will be necessary to take in a "flat paper discussion" of a pyramid then, ideally, something worthwhile could emerge.
The purpose of the culinary pyramid is to provide a model of probably, the most complicated cookery system that there is. It could be of use in understanding the relationships between the many techniques and achieving a consensus within the world of professionals concerned with this activity about those relationships and what is involved in the techniques. One benefit of increasing understanding of this version of cuisine is that it may be easier to explain to newcomers and if it is in a condensed format, i.e. in a model, it is easier to carry around in the mind.
Another potential benefit for making sense of this advanced system is that other cuisines can be discussed in relation to the model identified here. We all recognise that it takes years to assimilate the subtlety of the techniques and the extent of precision relating to achieving high standards and the following discussion is no more than a proposal. Other writers may like to make contributions.
Any radical differences can be easily identified and other models proposed, but there must be some agreement on the main techniques which utilise air, oil or water (or combinations of them) as the medium of application. This dictates that a three-sided pyramid is the basis of the model and, if we take the sides separately, the reader can piece it all together in the mind. The real enthusiast may go as far as to make one with cardboard which is as taxing geometrically as it is conceptually.
Accepting that the main cookery methods are boiling, roasting and frying, Figure 2 links these to water, air and oil and shows other divisions and subdivisions. There is a gap in the line dividing boiling from roasting. Braising and poeler are seen to be the transition, as it were, between the two main methods. There is another transition shown. The text in the figure close to this colour is intended to have been blue.
In transposing the techniques identified in Figure 2 to the pyramid and adding others as we go along, we will form the pyramid whereby the uppermost point indicates the hottest temperature.
Taking the 'water' side first, we see the location of some of the techniques in Figure 3 in relation to the 'air' side and the amount of heat involved. Subsidiary processes such as brining and pickling are shown at the bottom as they involve no heat.
Figure 3 The Water Side of the Culinary Pyramid
Moving round the pyramid, now to the 'air' side (Figure 4) we can see that grilling is higher than boiling located just round the corner on the previous side and other techniques are shown according to temperature and their relationship to oil or water. Smoking and drying have been put in brackets as being only marginally related to the cooking process.
Figure 4 The Air Side of the Culinary Pyramid
The third or 'oil' side is shown in Figure 5 and, as deep frying is the hottest of all techniques, it is at the tip of the pyramid.
Figure 5 The Oil Side of the Culinary Pyramid
It would be inappropriate to attempt to include every technique and process and cover every dish in the space available here but a short digression to serving food ‘high’, raw or rare may help to see what the deep analysis of the 'rotten' mentioned much earlier involved. We hang game to render it more digestible but some cultures would not accept such an activity and similar issues prevail with mouldy and rotten cheese. 'Rarely' do we serve raw meat (steak tartare) but we often serve rare meat.
Surely, there is much that is curious within a system which we all, perhaps, take for granted and, while there are many socially determined aspects, we ought to conclude with just one more dimension of the purely technical. It is very easy for the practitioner to take a handful of this and a soupçon of something else and, voila! the customer is fully delighted with the latest creation.
X x X x X
"X marks the spot." as the saying goes and this is the end of the Introduction.
This is both the stumbling block to easier understanding and the reason for thousands of cookery books selling so well. Each separate dish has its own recipe and the method is spelled out to the last flick of the knife. There is quite a lot of activity in catering education at present to try to reduce the amount of recipes and to cut down the learner's dependence upon cookery book. This is when we all have a part to play and readers' letters and later contributions would be most welcome.
Looking up a recipe for a specific dish and then making it involves the dish or product approach where there is complete reliance upon that recipe and any relationship between similar dishes is generally ignored. There was deliberate mention earlier of the processes involved in making a dish and these can now be discussed.
There is no obvious link between a sauce and a ragout or civet but they are seldom learned as being related where the ragout is a sauce with meat in it. Similarly, the flour-thickenedsoups are but sauces with cauliflower or whatever. The sauce process is but one of only a few which need to be understood. The product approach involves the learning of countless individual recipes and methods which, when they are reduced down, can be taken as groups of dishes. The process approach is concerned withthe identificationof methods relating to fundamentallydifferent groups of dishes.
It is seen, for example, that the general method relatingto the preparation and service of a particular dishis concerned with:-
a) The selection of thematerials
b) The basic steps taken in handling theraw food in preparation prior to its cookery.
c) The cooking process.
d) Having cooked theitem,there is oftenan activitywhich takesplace justbefore the service. Let thisbe called thepre-service process.
e) And finally,thedishis ready for service whereupon certain activitiestake place in relationto thedish. Let thisbe called the service process.
We therefore see that there could be five different stages in converting raw foods into servable cooked dishes. The cooking process is a complex one demanding further analysis. We often find an initial application of heat, after which a thickening agent is added. A liquid may be incorporated with or followed by certain additions which are often heated again prior to the actual cooking of the dish.
Accepting that there are separate stages in converting raw foods into a servable commodity, a flexible framework has been devised which can accommodate both cooking and other processes.
The outlineof the framework is set out in Fig 6.
Figure 6 - The basic framework
The way in which it is used is described in Fig 7.
Figure 7 Using the framework
Practical applications of the use of the framework have been worked out and may be found in the threesamples following.(Figures 8, 9 , & 10).
The COLD Process (even when there is a minor input of foods which have been heated — e.g., stock syrup in fruit salad)
SELECTION Examples of items
The cocktails: prawn etc. The salads: cold meat salads, potato salad The fruit salads: including fruit cocktails
Where thisaspect receives the greatest attention but the ingredients can be "Keyed into" the next section. Thus, with prawn-type cocktails, the ingredients can be indicated below. List type of prawn etc. above; state prep, i.e. shredded lettuce.
e.g. Prawn cocktail
blanch tomatoes — skin
boil eggs 10 minutes — refresh
sieve separately the white and yolk of egg, season
Assemble prepared ingredients prior to service and channelled lemon, chopped parsley. Add tomato sauce to prepared mayonnaise.
Place shredded lettuce in Paris goblet, etc., add dressing
Add tomato concassee, prawns
Coat with sauce
Decorate with lines of chopped, parsley, sieved egg yolk and egg white
Lemon and prawns.
Figure 8 The Cold Process
Figure 9 The Sauce Process
Figure 10 An example of the Sauce Process
The example of Brown Beef Stew is an illustrationof thecooking of theragout group of dishes using thesauce process and is included to show thatrecipes and methods may be simplified.The student or commis will have received much instructionin thegroup of dishes and may prepare a large range of the ragouts as previously identified (curry, jugged hare, goulash, etc). Further to it being shown that it is a process approach being used with variations according to the named dish as opposed to a dish approach where page after page of similarities are repeated unnecessarily, Fig 11 is offered in summary. Obviously, some components are excluded e.g. grilled steak has no 'vehicle' of stock.
Figure 11 The Process Approach - in briefest summary - Harrison, 1982
Many cookery activities may be reduced to the few processes identified in this article if one can view a dish, sweet or savoury as a variation of a sequence of activities often progressing from thecentre — the main ingredient — outwards to theservice extras as depicted in Figure 11. Learning the few processes is easy — the variations are easy to learn also if one keeps to theprinciple of the process.
There is a need to develop theapproach in terms of otherprocesses relating to confectionery and to bringtogether all those dishes which do not readilyreduce to a single procedure. It should also be a greater link with the service of food and depict the whole activity as one system. There has been enough discussion to point the way forward and there is scope to linkthe process approach to the culinary pyramid and other developments which are ongoing*. The amount of information and the complexity of the relationships between components of the traditional systems is quite complicated and it is time we made more sense of it all.
A three dimensional model has been proposed and, until some computer can help us with the fourth dimension, we may need to work on a processed culinary pyramid until someone comes up with the Rubik crouton!
* At the time, the author was significantly involved in hotel management and culinary curriculum development.