Cooking Without Fire: Getting to know Máximo Cabrera

Máximo CabreraMáximo Cabrera, originally from Balcarce, in Buenos Aires Province, Argentina, is head chef at his restaurant-laboratory Estudio Crudo, but he also defines himself as a researcher and musician. His many different activities reflect an open mind that is curious and constantly moving.

At Terra Madre, Máximo will present the Taste Workshop Cooking Without Fire within the #foodforchange Food and Health thematic area. Intrigued by his event, I met him virtually, while waiting to taste his preparations live.

How did you first become interested in food and how did it then become your job?

As for many, this restlessness—and at the same time pleasure—ran in the family. My mother was a great cook, she prepared us all fresh and rich dishes. When I started college, the first concerns about the impact of food on health appeared, and I had the opportunity to experience the effects of food on my physical and intellectual performance. At the same time, I discovered my propensity for cooking and I realized that I could make myself useful as a cook. I started as a dishwasher and soon became head chef. I immediately realized that a cuisine based on plants was not yet sufficiently developed, so I opened the first restaurant in my living room. Since then, all my restaurants have been lab-schools.

The theme of this Terra Madre Salone del Gusto is Food for Change. Do you think that by changing the way we eat, cook, and produce, we can change the world? How? And why?

Definitely. I am convinced that it is this way. Kitchens have always represented the heart of societies, it is the environment in which alchemy, medicine, and revolutions were born. We are in an extremely favorable moment for the great silent revolution that has spontaneously taken place in millions of kitchens all over the world, through pleasure, joy, and food education. Choosing food is a stronger political act than voting: You vote once every four years, but you choose food at least four times a day. Educating yourself about the causes and consequences of your food choices is a social and personal responsibility.

 

Your Taste Workshop will take place in a space that highlights the strong correlation between food and health. In your work, you pay particular attention to raw and fermented foods. Why are these foods particularly healthy?

It gives me great joy to see how Terra Madre takes into account not only the cultural and ecological context of food but also its consequences on people’s health. Personally, I am against the food cliques and all their “isms”: rawism, vegetarianism…. I do not believe in dividing gastronomy. The global food crisis is serious and there is no time for separations. Raw food allows us to use all the nutrients, enzymes, electrolytes, trace elements, photonics, etc., without alterations, in a way that the body understands and can easily assimilate. It also gives us the opportunity to give real food to more people, almost without waste. On the other hand, fermented foods have accompanied humanity since ancient times, allowing the preservation and improvement of food from a nutritional and organoleptic point of view. In these times it is very appropriate to restore the health of our microbiota, which has undergone a major deterioration due to a hyper-industrialized diet.

Can you tell us something more about your research?

My work today has at its center not only research (be it culinary, anthropological, or neuroscientific) but above all, the dissemination of all this content in terms of educating diners. I like to provide people with the tools to become gastronomes in everyday life.

What does “gastronomy” mean in your opinion? What is the correct attitude for becoming a gastronome?

Gastronomy means something like “knowledge of the stomach” and represents a series of norms or rules for good nutrition—at least from the point of view of the etymology of the word. I prefer to take the words of Carlo Petrini, when he says that the word gastronomy contains the word astronomy, representing the study of the universe. It invites us to think about the endless relationships of food with everything we know because if we do not eat we cannot do anything. A gastronome must internalize everything: mathematics, physics, economics, geopolitics, etc. Modern education has turned us into useless specialists, it has made us lose our perception of everything. I believe in a new, more horizontal and dynamic educational system that allows those who give and those who receive education to generate real knowledge. The mental attitude of the gastronome must be open, disruptive, and inclusive.

 

What is your relationship with Slow Food?

I have been a Terra Madre chef for over 10 years and have been cooking for 20 years, and I’ve always shared Slow Food’s values. These are the same values with which my family and I approach our daily work. Investigate, educate, share, and have fun.

 

Interview by Silvia Ceriani

s.ceriani@slowfood.it

 

Recipes

 

Maximo Cabrera Fermented beet soupFermented Beet Soup

Ingredients

2 cups of broth at approx. 60 degrees.

½ cup of fermented beets

2 leaves of cabbage

1 zucchini

1 clove of garlic

¼ onion

½ green apple

2 teaspoons of coconut oil

2 teaspoons of cajú yogurt

1 sprig of dill

 

Preparation

Put everything in the mixer, blend, serve.

 

Coconut Pudding

Maximo Cabrera Coconut puddingIngredients

1 cup of ground cajú*

1 cup of shredded coconut

½ liter of filtered water

1 teaspoon of coffee with essence of vanilla

Choice of sweetener: organic sugar, xylitol, stevia

Lemon peel

2 tablespoons of coconut oil

1 teaspoon of gelatin

1 pinch of salt

* Anacardium occidentale is cultivated for the production of its nut, the cashew, and its false fruit, called maragnone or acagiú (from the Portuguese cajú).

 

Preparation

Put the cajú pulp and filtered water in the blender, blend until obtaining a very light cream. Add coconut oil, sweetener, lemon peel, and vanilla essence. Optional: ½ teaspoon of turmeric. Continue blending. Toast the shredded coconut in a pan. Transfer the contents of the blender to a separate pan, add the gelatin and stir until the mixture thickens. Add the roasted coconut, mix, and remove from the heat. Cover the bottom of a pudding mold or individual molds with a caramel of your liking. (Prepare the molds before cooking so that they can be passed very quickly from the pot to the mold, as the preparation solidifies very quickly.) Put the mix in the mold and let it cool in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

 

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