From the mad cow crisis to the social applications of molecular gastronomy

It is common in various culinary traditions to use the gelled substance obtained by boiling animal remains or algae (the released proteins form three-dimensional networks).

In Western kitchens and pastry shops, until very recently, the only gelling agent used was fish glue, a protein of animal origin. Although initially it was obtained from fish (hence its name), nowadays it is usually extracted from pig or cow remains, since the procedure is simpler and, therefore, cheaper. Its use in haute cuisine, by Antonin Carême at the end of the 18th century, was a great success and quickly spread to the population. It even reached Napoleon’s armies. On the Asian side, at the end of the 17th century, algae-based gelifications became very popular thanks to the Japanese Minoya Tarozaemon observing that in soups with red algae, gelled structures were formed that could be consumed at different temperatures.


soft textures

Until the end of the 20th century, the culinary panorama of gelling agents remained more or less the same. But then various events occurred that brought about a change. One of them was the mad cow crisis. The episode forced the substitution of gelatin from cows, which now had only the alternative of pork, and forced rethinking numerous products (especially sweets) in order to be able to sell them in communities that did not consume pork. At the same time, the demand for new gelling agents for emerging markets (vegetarian, vegan, halal and kosher) grew.

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