How is chemistry related to cooking?
The chemistry of cooking
Creating Chemistry: Which myth about food did you particularly enjoy disenchanting?
Harold McGee: I recently tested the theory that you have to cook pasta in a large amount of water. I live in California, where water is scarce and we are concerned about our energy consumption. It has been shown that noodles can also be cooked in a small amount of water - around 1.4 liters are sufficient instead of 4 to 6 liters. The water doesn't have to boil at first, it can still be cold - it doesn't change the taste. This works because pasta absorbs water very slowly at temperatures well below the boiling point. Therefore, not much happens in the minutes the water is heated. And no matter how much starch the cooking water contains, the firm surface of the pasta is more starchy and remains sticky until it is greased with sauce or oil. Given the amount of noodles cooked annually, one could save a lot of water and hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil a year.
Why was nutritional science limited to the food industry in the 20th century?
Science was not confined to this, it was simply absorbed by developments in modernity that were more urgent and of greater concern than what is happening in the kitchens at home and in restaurants. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries there were problems with can making and it was urgent to find out why some cans exploded on shelves. Then came the Spanish-American War and the First World War, and the troops had to be provided with food. Laws were introduced to monitor food safety. Scientific talent went into the manufacturing industry. There was initially no time for a more relaxed view of the contribution that scientific research can make to cooking at home or in a restaurant.
What has made molecular cuisine so interesting over the past decade?
The world has opened up, and with it the national cuisine has lost its importance. If you want to make a name for yourself as an ambitious chef today, you have to be inventive. In this regard, science is particularly interesting for top chefs - they realize that it can help them break new ground. If you understand the basics, you can vary dishes or even develop completely new ideas that you would never come up with if you just cooked recipes from previous generations. For example, chefs have worked with liquid sauces and solid jellies like aspic for centuries. But Heston Blumenthal learned of “liquid jellies” that are liquid when poured and solidify when at rest. Building on this, he created a teacup in which one part of the tea is hot and the other part ice-cold - without any separating barrier.
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