The three Michelin-starred Chicago restaurant debuted a clear miniature pumpkin pie in September, and people are just now freaking out about it.
The creation is clearly unsettling for some Twitter users:
Alinea’s executive chef Mike Bagale and chef de cuisine Simon Davies called the pie a “distillation of pumpkin pie” in an interview with Vogue. But what exactly does that mean, in terms that we can understand?
The crust is made of a classic pâte brisée (butter crust), so the filling is where things get scientific. Alinea heats up a mixture of cooked pumpkin, ginger powder, cinnamon, cloves and sweetened condensed milk. The vapors from the heated mixture eventually condense into colorless droplets, which then possess the aromatics of pumpkin pie. (Alinea uses a machine called a “rotary evaporator” to do this — it’s not done in your average pot.) A puddle of the clear condensation is then mixed with gelatin to create the filling. The result? All the flavors of pumpkin pie filling, with a totally different look.
Jen Tran, an Instagram user who has tried the pie, described the texture as, “Not too jello-like, similar to the smooth consistency of regular pumpkin pie. Tasted like normal, but the clear part totally messes with your mind!”
There’s a reason it messes with your mind. One key psychological aspect of eating involves color and perception.
Melanie Mühl and Diana Von Kopp, authors of “How We Eat And Think With Our Stomach,” explain that “we instinctively recoil from food that has the ‘wrong’ color. Because vision is our dominant sensory input, a change in a food’s color can overwhelm our other senses and lead to a false positive for taste.”
In other words, visual cues affect how we perceive taste, which explains why Crystal Pepsi bombed in the ’90s, and why some wine experts can’t correctly identify white wine when red dye has been added to it.
Traditional pumpkin pie might be a whole lot easier to make, but if you really want to mess with your guests’ minds this Thanksgiving, try making Alinea’s recipe.