Cooking is an art. A perfect macaroon requires a batter with the perfect proportion of ingredients. Whisking too vigorously or adding too little sugar leads to the failure of the macaroon.
Cooking is science. Radiation in the oven accelerates the movement of water molecules. With the high temperature, the water molecules on the surface leave quickly while the water molecules inside the macaroon evaporate slowly, resulting in a Macaroon with a crispy surface but soft filling.
Cooking is a way of living. Food is the primary source of gaining energy and keep us alive.
As technologies have developed sharply and as we have accumulated increasing amounts of experience in cooking, our methods of cooking have transformed. The purpose of processing food is not just making sure that food is edible or tasty anymore. People have started to focus on a variety of aspects of food. It has to have the perfect ingredients, perfect texture, perfect color, perfect flavors and perfect aromas. In other words, everything has to be perfect and balanced, even if it is just a simple dessert.
With help from researchers, more and more unknowns about food and cooking are being discovered. Gastronomy is the study of the relationship between food and culture; the art of preparing and serving rich or delicate and appetizing food; and the science of good eating. It is also a new money maker. Restaurants advertise their foods that use Molecular Gastronomy and profit from it. However, you don’t need to be a scientist or an advanced professional cook to make Gastronomy food! You don’t need fancy or professional equipment either. As long as you have a spoon, a syringe, a cup, and some ingredients, which you can easily buy online, you can practice molecular gastronomy too! The chemistry behind it is easy to understand too!
For example, when sodium alginate reacts with calcium chloride, calcium alginate is produced and precipitates. Alginate is a polysaccharide that only thickens liquid with the presence of ions like calcium. Alginates cross-link with each other in the presence of calcium to form a network, the sphere wall. So, why is sodium alginate is soluble while calcium alginate is not? It turns out that calcium has an oxidation state of +2, while sodium has an oxidation state of +1. Compared with Na+, calcium needs to form an extra bond, which spans two alginates. The sphere is thus formed. Sodium and chloride are the spectator ions in this chemical reaction.
With the displacement reaction, we can make caviar from chemicals. This technique now doesn’t only stay in the kitchen and on the food table anymore. People also utilize it in the “water bottle” industry. The popular edible water ball online is actually using this technique. The edible surface of the water ball is made from alginate too. See, science can be close to us and can be easy to understand. Sometimes the science behind the cool stuff we have watched online is not complicated. And Gastronomy, the study of the relationship of food and culture, is a subject that bring us closer to food, and does not create distance between food and us, as industrialization sometimes does. It gives us a new way of living and a new style of living.
One of the other prospects of Gastronomy is re-discovering the taste of food and how our olfactory system works. Molecules like those found in miracle berries can make us temporarily lose the ability to taste the sourness of the food.
After taking one tablet of the miracle berry, we tried the foods shown in the picture, including the lemons which normally give us an unbearable sour taste. Surprisingly, it turns out that this is the tastiest lemonade I’ve ever tried. The lemons don’t have the extreme sour taste anymore. Instead, it gave me a rich sweetness with a little bit of competing sour taste. However, the used-to-be-tasty pickle was not so much anymore. The desirable sourness was gone, leaving all the old competing flavors as the main flavors we can taste now. There are other compounds that can affect our olfactory system differently, like making us not tasting the sweetness (as in gymnema sylvestre).
Overall, Gastronomy gives us a new perspective to use in looking at food and the science behind it. It is not simply a science or an art; it is a combination of science and art. It gives us the chance to use science to develop more art and a new way of eating.
1) McGee, Harold. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. New York: Scribner, 2004. Print.
3) “Cross Linking Polymers” RSC Advancing the Chemistry. Web. 30 Apr, 2017. http://www.rsc.org/Education/Teachers/Resources/Inspirational/resources/3.1.9.pdf
4)Peters, Adele. “The Edible Water Bottle is How You Will Drink In The Future.” FastCompany. Web. 1 May, 2017. https://www.fastcompany.com/40403025/this-edible-water-bottle-is-how-youll-drink-in-the-future
4) Kowart, R. Kristen. Edible Water Bottle. The Spirited Science. Web. 30 Apr, 2017. http://thespiritscience.net/2014/04/26/edible-water-bottles/
5)McDonald,Colin. “spherification” Cnet. Web.30 Apr,2017. https://www.cnet.com/news/appliance-science-edible-water-bottles-and-the-strange-chemistry-of-spherification/