Culinary terms: Deconstructed

I was wondering if somebody knows whether there is a specific professional term for the so called deconstructed dishes ? Like a deconstructed cheesecake where you get the crumbly base in a jar and the whipped cheese on top, or a deconstructed lasagna where the cooked lasagna sheets are simply mixed with the sauce and filling on a plate...I'd imagine if it exists it would likely be French, but any term from any culinary tradition counts as an answer. Or perhaps the idea itself is American in origin?

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Dea Henrich
Dea Henrich July 2, 2012

I think "deconstructed" is the correct term. It's a term taken from semiotics, and it has sort of the same usage: take apart a thing into its component parts, so that we can approach it in a different way.

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amysarah
amysarah July 2, 2012

I think Dea Henrich is right. I don't know where deconstructionism was first applied to cooking, but the philosophy began in France in the '60's, most famously with Jacques Derrida. It originally focused on literature and texts, but it caught on big in the United States and found its way into architecture, design, art, music...so I guess it's no surprise that the culinary world got in on the act too.

When I was in school, semiotics were all the rage - it produced some iconoclastic and brilliant student work.....and some things that were almost comically disjointed messes. Based on the deconstructed dishes I've eaten, the same spectrum exists in cooking.

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pierino
pierino July 2, 2012

amysarah is correct on the origin of the term with Jacques Derrida, not just literature but the art world as well. In cooking it refers to taking something apart and perhaps than putting it back together in a different way. The culinary equivalent of "reverse engineering". I like messing around with deconstructionism myself.

boulangere
boulangere July 2, 2012

Amysarah, you and I have had similar experiences in education and in food: from the brilliant to the mess. What I mostly remember is the faddishness of it - in both venues.

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amysarah
amysarah July 2, 2012

Exactly, boulangere. When ideas like that become so trendy, for every thought-provoking high....there will be a silly 'Hey, look at me being a deconstructionist!' low - whether it's a rearranged cassoulet or a building. (Sometimes intriguing and delicious....and sometimes you just can't find the damn door!)

Droplet
Droplet July 2, 2012

I guess I am a bit too young to remember the time when it was so popular, so it's interesting to learn. Somehow I always thought that the term was a bit too descriptive/technical when you are naming a dish and was always left with a feeling that somewhere in some culinary tradition (France?) an alternate term exists (without being a Francophile whatsoever).

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pierino
pierino July 3, 2012

And it can get worse. For awhile there anything that was stacked up could be called a "napolean". A napolean is a pastry, period. And now you get stuff like "pasta primavera alfredo with chicken". That's not deconstructionism, that's just ill informed bad taste.

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