Today is my father’s birthday. He would be 68. Were he alive, we’d probably celebrate by preparing him breakfast in bed, going to see a movie and taking him out to dinner. If he had it his way, we’d all go sailing (the rest of the family would probably protest the temperature, being November and all). In the spring of 2010, my parents moved back to the Abode after nearly 30 years away. They had plans to build a house on the land they had bought, but after a few days, it was clear that dream wouldn’t be possible.
My father, Sid Smallen; handyman extraordinaire, Sufi mystic, master woodworker and all around awesome guy, was struck on his back by a falling tree and paralyzed from the chest down. He sustained many other internal injuries, and after being helicoptered to the ER, we weren’t sure he would make it. For 10 months, he lived through one crisis after another; heart attack, appendicitis he couldn’t feel, not being able to eat, having to relearn how to breathe without aid, kidney failure, bedsores and at times not being able to talk due to the placement of his tracheotomy. He was moved to a rehabilitation hospital, and over those 10 months, he was never strong enough to leave it. Sometimes he was so filled with drive and energy that he was rockin’ his rehab exercises, sometimes infection and fatigue made it too difficult for him to lift his head. Finally, after being in a septic coma for 2 weeks, my father passed away peacefully, surrounded by loved ones and so much love on April 24th, 2011.
Before the accident and as far back as I can remember, my dad was always doing something. He was an excellent tinkerer and could pretty much make whatever he put his mind to. He made most of the furniture in my mum’s home and built a house-sized, 3-story addition to a previous house we lived in. I don’t think he was capable of going a single day without thinking about power tools. He had a good mind for math and science and was also able to apply his creativity in design to his work. I have so much admiration for my father for his strength. He fought so hard when the going was really tough.
I wish to dedicate this post to my dad. Being my first post on molecular gastronomy, which is the science of cooking (started and cultivated by food tinkerers worldwide) I felt the scientific exploration behind MG accurately captures just the sort of tinkering he’d really appreciate.
Since buying my molecular gastronomy kits, I’ve responded by either sitting around for hours watching the neat instructional videos and springing into molecular gastronomical action in my kitchen or glaring at the kits in overwhelmed disbelief of the possibilities they possess. In the beginning, I needed to take it slow, so I started with a honey wrap or sheet.
Many of the gelification techniques in molecular gastronomy use agar agar, which is a gelatinous substance derived from algae and activated when boiled. It has been popular in the vegan/vegetarian movements as a gelatin substitute. It is tasteless, odorless, colourless and very easy to use. It can be ordered online and found at most health food stores.
Here is an instructional video demonstrating how to make a similar sort of sheet out of rum.
- 1/3 cup water
- ½ cup honey
- ½ tsp powdered agar agar
Place all ingredients in a small pot.
Stirring constantly, bring ingredients to a boil.
Pour contents on plates or in bowls so they make a thin layer. Spread the liquid around on the surface but make sure they’re not too thin as their strength could be compromised. I’d suggest varying the thickness on each surface so you can understand what works best.
Place honey wraps in the fridge for 15-20 minutes. If they aren’t perfectly solid, give your wraps more time to cool.
Cut out a circle shape about the size of your hand from the middle of your wrap. Carefully pull the circle off the surface.
Place yogurt and/or fruit inside your wrap and enjoy.
To dad, from your little girl. Rest in peace.