Academic journal article The American Biology Teacher

Second Jobs

Academic journal article The American Biology Teacher

Second Jobs

Article excerpt

My knowledge of finance is minuscule at best, but I do buy the Wall Street Journal on the weekends for the newspaper's coverage of cultural topics. In a recent WSJ.Magazine, there was an article by Katy McLaughlin (2011) about a neurologist/chef. Entitled "Cerebral Palate," it dealt with the career of Dr. Miguel Sanchez Romera, an Argentinean who has spent the greater part of his adult life in Spain. He is now living in New York, where he just opened a new restaurant that is considered the pinnacle of haute cuisine. Until 2009, he had a medical career in Barcelona treating patients with epilepsy and Alzheimer's disease; in addition he was chef/owner of a restaurant that earned a Michelin star just two years after it opened. (This is apparently a big deal in the culinary world.)

It is for articles like this that I buy the Journal. Otherwise, I would have no knowledge of restaurants that serve, as this one does, a 12-course tasting menu that costs $245. It is probably worth the price, because Romera has a unique approach to cooking, one that is very much tied to his medical specialty and that's dubbed "neurogastronomy." McLaughlin (2011) describes one of her experiences dining with Romera:

   I was starving when we started, but by the
   end of the tasting, I was sated, stuffed even.
   Amazing, considering that I'd not eaten a
   single bite of food and consumed almost no
   calories. The chef's entire presentation consisted
   of multicolored waters, served in tiny
   cordial stemware, warmed to just over body
   temperature and flavored with ingredients
   he'd bought at the farmer's market. (p. 44)

Romera explains this phenomenon by noting that we eat with our brains as much as with our stomachs: the flavors trick the satiety system in the hypothalamus.

At his restaurant Romera does serve real food and not just tasty water, and he has created an ingredient called "cassavia" that's a paste made from yucca root and is fat-free. It carries flavors and lends texture to foods, similar to the way a butter-based flour roux does, but without the calories. Again, it is about tricking the taste buds, in a healthy fashion. As McLaughlin notes, Romera sees his mission as serving diners meals that allow him to hold to the Hippocratic Oath of doing no harm. He doesn't believe in food that is high in salt and calories, and frowns upon too much wine with dinner--it dulls the taste of the food. Romera likes to tantalize his guests with different kinds of ingredients, such as coffee flowers and snapdragons. While I'll probably never make it to his restaurant, just reading about his cuisine was tantalizing.

I think one reason this article fascinated me is that it was a surprise to learn of a neurologist-chef. It's just not a combination one would be likely to come upon. Both these professions are so demanding, require so much training, and have so little in common that combining them would seem close to impossible. Maybe, but where there's a will--and a passion driving that will--there is a way. I often tell my students that if they have more than one interest or area of expertise, they are more employable, because they can fit in niches where others can't: a police officer with computer skills can handle databases or a math teacher with musical talent can help with the school band. However, having some breadth of interests isn't just economically helpful; it also makes life a lot more interesting. If one of those interests involves biology, then so much the better. As I thought about Romera's complex career, other examples came to mind of those with multiple interests that include the living world.

* Gardeners & Statesmen

A couple of months ago, a friend of mine who is a neurophysiologist (in itself a hyphenated expertise) and also a gardener, told me about a book she had just read, Founding Gardeners by Andrea Wulf (2011). I had read Wulf's earlier book, Brother Gardeners (2009), about the relationships among British gardeners, explorers, and colonial American plantsmen, so I knew she was a good writer. …

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