The molecular gastronomy of security

June 2014 Integrated Solutions

Restaurant business can be seasonal, but not security. Code-breakers, law-breakers and just plain thieves operate twenty four/seven, three sixty five days a year. But the two businesses do operate very much on similar principles, which is not to say that connoisseurs of good food have anything in common with their more criminally inclined brethren.

Bollywood movies, in their attempt to be original, often give strange twists to well-established scientific principles as well, and one of the otherwise forgettable films from the seventies firmly rests in the collective memories of generations of the Indian populace just because of one casual on-screen remark made by the suave Mafia-gangster-boss-actor of the time – Ajeet. The situation is like this. A heroic cop is trying to break into the gang’s operations. The minions have caught him and there is the debate whether he should be best left dead or alive, and the boss nonchalantly suggests – put him into liquid oxygen. The liquid will not let him live and the oxygen will not let him die.

This has often made me wonder if every home should have a liquid oxygen thing that could be foisted on unsuspecting burglars, and they be left there till the police arrive. While the cryogenics of it may have its challenges, and would be drastically different from today’s invisible beams and electric fences, it may not be that far from reality any more.

For many years now, we have had the pleasure of enjoying the tastes, flavours and textures of molecular gastronomy – if we have been able to afford it and if we managed to get a table after waiting for many months. Such haute cuisine now regularly deploys a close liquid cousin of oxygen, namely nitrogen that is perched just one place away on the periodic table that we loved so much when we did school chemistry.

Liquid nitrogen is what makes milk look like snow, and even octopus like a flower. It could also make honey look like egg-yolk and fruit juice feel like soapy water, and many more such marvellous looking preparations that also leave our taste buds pleasantly surprised.

As the converted start to adopt such culinary practices at home, it is likely that we would soon have the friendly neighbourhood supplies established, and liquid nitrogen would be only a phone-call away. But you would still require the igloo-like container that can hold it at the minus whatever degrees temperature, and if you thought that was unrealistic, who would have thought a hundred years ago that homes would have refrigerators.

However, if you needed that to double as a burglar trap, it would need to be somewhat larger, but that is just a matter of detail. The pundits of molecular gastronomy have used many important words to describe this novel cuisine, and among them are both – constructivist as well as de-constructivist. Indeed psychologists would be happy too, if thieves could be de-constructed and somehow elements of their behaviour could be altered in touch, feel and … taste, though biting burglars may not be a clever strategy most of the time.

Oh, it would be so much more fun then and surely it all sounds like a major breakthrough that would change our lives, forever.

Imagine preparing a full meal using the astonishing principles of molecular gastronomy. Of course, by then your kitchen would be fully equipped with tools of this wonderful trade: carbon dioxide for making bubbles and foam, anti-griddles, thermal immersion circulators, dehydrators, centrifuges and having maltodextrin, lecithin and assorted hydrocolloids along with the spices. You would even double the inkjet printer from your office to micro-spray edible fruit inks on edible soya paper, with which you could surprise your spouse by scribbling an edible ‘Happy Birthday’. But of course the star would be the liquid nitrogen igloo that could help you create new desserts for the special occasions in your life, and some morning, imagine the surprise and excitement that makes you exclaim – ouch there is a thief in my milk and honey.

Polonius, when not appearing in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, is a Hi-Tech Security Solutions’ writer who travels the world in search of tasty criminals.

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