Thursday, April 17, 2008

Some culinary science

Culinary science...simple introduction

A subject near and dear to all: Cooking--the physics of food preparation. It can be done indoors and/or outdoors and for the most part involve three forms of thermodynamics: Radiation [thanks to Einstein], convection [ovens], and conduction [pots, pans, dutch ovens]. How well I remember the aluminum monster sitting on the old gas stove: The pressure cooker. I prayed that the safety valve wasn't plugged. Jeeze--death by green beans. Actually, the physics are rather simple involving the excitation of atoms and increase in kinetic energy which through a sometimes complicated process the chemistry of the product being cooked changes and, well, becomes cooked...ready to eat. It's the chemistry that can get complex when making confections and, say, distilling maple syrup. And the temperatures can be very critical otherwise the complex sugars will do weird things--like burn.

Peanut, soy, sunflower, soy bean, coconut, palm, olive, corn, canola, cotton seed--all vegetable oils used for cooking and have striking different characteristics as to composition, performability, and health. Disregarding their individual palatability, complexity of the saturated fat content and health issues, and whether they are used for cooking foods or as an emulsifier of tasty flavors for salads, the primary function is as a tool in the distribution of heat to cook foods for safe consumption at consistent temperatures without boil off. [Although, a fine roast can be cooked in the convection oven with constant checking and water additions.] Their viscosity, high flash points, high smoke points, and the ability to transfer beneficial thermal activity without being self-consumed as water is are valuable pluses. And as a side note, many spent cooking oils have been considered as alternate fuels and many industrial applications such as inhibiting oxidation and friction reduction in moving parts.

I thought a bit more about the cooking process and remembered that there was an old phrase used by some cooks when discussing the quantity of condiments: A pinch of this and a hint of that--yep, "cook book chemistry". But, the kitchen is a rather cool laboratory. I suppose there are no hard rules and variety is the key word--within the framework of the fundamental of the physical sciences. [ I suppose other sciences too, like biology: Yeast and fresh delights from oceans, lakes, and rivers.] Variables are everywhere: Timing, gas or electric stoves, utensils [copper, aluminum, iron, steel]. Just check the back of a frozen pizza box or Betty Crocker cake mix for cooking or baking instructions. The times are a function of your location: Death Valley or Pike's Peak.

Remember Fourier? Fourier’s law of heat conduction states that the rate at which heat is conducted through a body per unit cross-sectional area is proportional to the negative of the temperature gradient existing in the body.

Expressed like this:

A peculiar phenomena observed in the kitchen [and other places]. Ever prepare salmon patties? You have a iron skillet with a quantity of cooking oil being heated while the salmon is blended with an egg [binder], crackers [filler], and seasoning and check the readiness of the cooking oil by sprinkling a drop or two of water into the skillet and observing the reaction. Violent spattering usually indicates that the cooking oil is hot enough to prepare the salmon patties. This is a peculiar physics phenomena and is called the "Leidenfrost effect" [Johann Gottlob Leidenfrost] [When a surface is at a much higher temperature than that of boiling water (100 degrees C) water will first contact the surface and lift clear to hover on its own vapor layer. Vaporization takes minutes as against seconds for lower surface temperatures.]. Certain types of "pillow lava" demonstrate this concept as well as the spectacular walk over hot coals with bare feet--ARGH.

And let's not forget butter. Probably next to cooking oil, especially olive oil, butter is extensively used in the culinary process. And there is a lot of chemistry in butter...and taste.

"Butter Manufacture"

You may want to exercise caution on this brand.

Do you "brown" your meat? It is basically a non-enzymatic chemical reaction between an amino acid and a reducing sugar usually requiring the addition of heat. This feature has some essential characteristics when cooking namely the associated flavors when "browning" meat before the actual cooking. Just consider the flavor factor when comparing a roast cooked only in a crockpot or oven without first searing the meat in a skillet. There is a huge difference.

"In days of old/when knights were bold...", whoops wrong intro, but this culinary procedure is ancient and initially intended for preservation rather than cooking and eating enhancements--"brining". With the advent of independent refrigeration systems [ye old refrigerator] where temperatures for the short storage could be maintained around 40°F, there wasn't a need anymore for "brining"--the meat, poultry, and fish were safe from the pesky salmonella bacteria. Well, trends do come and go and "brining" is in vogue now. Now, it is used to show off culinary prowess and add some variety in the pallet of the joys of eating. And there is science there too. The basic idea is to alter the chemistry of proteins and water with a curing time in salt water under refrigeration. Salt, NaCl [sodium chloride], will ionize into positive charged Na ions and negative charged Cl ions. Through the magic of the chemistry of the salt and proteins of the commodity, complex compounds are formed and create gaps in the product where the water will fill. The end result is a product saturated with moisture which combined with the individual's thermoconductive choice will enhance the quality of the product for pleasing consumption. [Seasoning is optional at any point.]

"All About Brining"

Don't forget the eggs. Exeter University scientist has developed a formula for soft-boiling. The standard time is 3 minutes, but it actually takes a bit longer. The scientist stipulates that one must know the temperature of the egg and its weight.


"If M is the egg's mass i.e.: weight, and Tegg is its initial temperature then a medium egg weighing 50g that takes four and a half minutes to cook when it has come straight from the fridge, takes a few seconds less than four minutes to cook if it has been stored at room temperature. A small egg coming straight from the fridge will take about 4 minutes 15 seconds to cook, but a large egg will take almost five and a half minutes. Eggs-act timing thanks to physics."--Institute of Physics.

Cooking some pasta? You have started to boil some water and became busy with other kitchen concerns and noticed that the water was becoming aggressive and about to boil over the pan. Two primary solutions to the problem. Turn the heat down/off or add some common table salt of which you will probably need anyway to season the pasta. Adding the salt will for a short time increase the boiling activity and then suddenly become retarded in volatility. Why? The boiling point was raised calming the situation. Add the pasta and monitor the rolling action to finish cooking the pasta. Actually any non-volatile particulate could be used such as sand--yuck. [Similar idea is involved with ethylene glycol as an addition to water in an automobile's cooling system.] The salt [sodium chloride] exhibits nucleation sites that allow the water to rapidly boil and displace thermal energy. Next time: Check the ebullient frequently.

Speaking of pasta...why does dry spaghetti always break into several pieces?

"Why does dry spaghetti always break into several pieces -- and not just two pieces -- when snapped? This perplexing question has now been answered by two physicists at the University of Paris 6 in France, who say that elastic waves travelling along the pasta cause it to fragment. The result has applications in materials and civil engineering...."

"The physics of pasta"

Why certain prepared foods such as chili or pasta dishes are enhanced in flavor after cooking, chilling, and cooking the next day? The enhanced flavor of certain leftovers is do to the break down of the spices and seasoning used in the original preparation process and allowed to chemically blend together thus altering the intensity. This magic is done over time and in a cool environment. It may well also have to do with an individual's taste buds. But the fact remains that soups, chili, and pasta are enhanced in flavor upon re-cooking.

Martha Filipic [Ohio State University]:

Why is it that stews and soups always taste better after spending a day in the refrigerator?

Well, that's something that lies in the taste buds of the beholder, doesn't it? After all, some people actually despise leftovers, whether it's day-old meatloaf or yesterday's stew.

But many people would agree with you and swear that homemade foods like soups, stews, chili and spaghetti sauce all taste better after cooking them on the stove,then letting them sit in the refrigerator overnight. However, the scientific reasoning behind this phenomenon isn't clear-cut.

Many food scientists believe "flavor blending" is at work. That is, when you mix different ingredients together and add herbs and spices, their distinct flavors begin to merge. The longer they're together, the more they mingle. If scientists were to measure the compounds that produce the food's overall taste, they would initially find many spikes and peaks of the distinct flavors. Over time, those spikes and peaks would dissipate as the flavors combined. The chili powder in chili would become less harsh; the beans in the mix would be less "beany" but more flavorful from the spices, tomatoes and meat.

What's happening is that the chemicals and oils that produce flavor and aroma are being released from the different ingredients. That doesn't always happen quickly, and it may not totally occur while the food cooks.

You can see that kind of occurrence at work with the new "Magic Twist" Kool-Aid drinks. For example, the "Changin' Cherry" flavor starts green and turns blue -- although it always tastes like cherry. How does it work? It uses two colorings -- one yellow and the other blue. The initial color is a blend of the two, making the drink green. As more of the less-soluble blue coloring agent gets released, it overwhelms the yellow dye, changing the color of the beverage to blue. A similar but more subtle type of thing happens with flavor compounds: Some may take longer than others to be released.

Another factor also may affect the flavor of leftovers: As you reheat the food, more water is released as steam. That alone can intensify the flavor of your favorite soup, making you think it tastes better the next day.

Even before the food is to be prepared, some thought should be given to the cooking instruments used--the pots and pans. And some knowledge of the thermal source too--gas or electric.

"Cooking for Engineers"

I hate the %$%$#$% things but they are useful and effective--"pressure cookers". All of it involves temperature, pressure and volume [gas law (PV=nrt)].

"How Does A Pressure Cooker Work?"

PolyTetraFluoroEthylene is a fluorocarbon-based polymer and most familiar in the kitchen as non-stick cookware. Physics of material coatings at work...also saves cleanup time too.

"The History of Teflon®"

[tetrafluoroethylene / polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)]

The story of Teflon® began April 6, 1938, at DuPont's Jackson Laboratory in New Jersey. DuPont chemist, Dr. Roy J. Plunkett, was working with gases related to Freon® refrigerants, another DuPont product. Upon checking a frozen, compressed sample of tetrafluoroethylene, he and his associates discovered that the sample had polymerized spontaneously into a white, waxy solid to form polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE).

PTFE is inert to virtually all chemicals and is considered the most slippery material in existence. These properties have made it one of the most valuable and versatile technologies ever invented, contributing to significant advancements in areas such as aerospace, communications, electronics, industrial processes and architecture. As DuPont registered trademark Teflon®, it has become a familiar household name, recognized worldwide for the superior non-stick properties associated with its use as a coating on cookware and as a soil and stain repellant for fabrics and textile products.

The Teflon® trademark was coined by DuPont and registered in 1945; the first products were sold commercially under the trademark beginning in 1946. Applications and product innovations snowballed quickly. Today, the family of Teflon® fluoropolymers from DuPont consists of: PTFE, the original resin; FEP, introduced in 1960; Tefzel® ETFE in 1970; and PFA, in 1972.

The invention of PTFE has been described as "an example of serendipity, a flash of genius, a lucky accident ... even a mixture of all three." Whatever the exact circumstances of the discovery, one thing is certain: PTFE revolutionized the plastics industry and, in turn, gave birth to limitless applications of benefit to mankind. In 1990, U.S. President George Bush presented the National Medal of Technology to DuPont for the company's pioneering role in the development and commercialization of man-made polymers over the last half century. The citation lists Teflon® fluoropolymer resin as one of these special products.

Dr. Roy Plunkett (1911-1994) has been recognized the world over by scientific, academic and civic communities. He was inducted into the Plastics Hall of Fame in 1973, and, in 1985, into the National Inventors' Hall of Fame joining such distinguished scientists and innovators as Thomas Edison, Louis Pasteur and the Wright Brothers.

The spirit of invention with DuPont fluoropolymers that was led by Dr. Plunkett is commemorated globally with the DuPont Plunkett Awards For Innovation With Teflon®.

Okay, you have sauteed, fried, baked, caramelized, browned, boiled, brined, roasted...and boasted about your cooking acumen. Everyone gained five, it's time to clean up the mess. No automatic dishwashers for this fill a sink full of hot water and detergent and spend the next 45 minutes scrubbing, washing, rinsing, drying, and replacing everything that was soiled. A full tummy and a clean kitchen yield a Smile .

Now consider what is happening in the sink full of dirty dishes. Hot [thermal] water accelerates the complex chemistry and physics of emulsifying the grime and grease as well as a little "elbow grease" on the nonstick pans [thermal, friction, chemistry].

Now is the time for some dessert: Perhaps chocolate caramel pecan cheesecake, blueberry cobbler, or persimmon pudding. Maybe just a bowl of ice cream. And top it off appreciating the chemistry and physics a fine sniffer of VSOP Armagnac [brandy]. But all of that is another story.

A late night snack: Popcorn

""Let’s suck away!" physicist Paul Quinn announces, flipping the switch on his stove-top vacuum cooker. There’s a long, low gurgling noise as a gauge registers the pressure drop inside, and the sound of muted machine-gun fire rattles the pot. Almost immediately, Quinn's lab at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania is permeated with 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline, the aroma given off by popcorn as it cooks. Eight minutes later, he removes the lid to reveal a pot brimming with fresh Orville Redenbacher's. Though it's not apparent until the contents are poured into a graduated beaker, this popcorn has almost twice the volume of regular stove-top popcorn."

"Giving popcorn more pop!"

Cutting edge research tackles how to boost its fluffy volume and end forever the pesky problem of 'Old Maids'


Alana Semuels

May 2nd, 2005

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

At this very moment, serious-minded scientists are hard at work. Some are trying to cure cancer, some are detecting global warming, others are transplanting organs and pumping hearts back to life. And then there are the guys studying popcorn. Whether it be increasing the size of an individual piece or eliminating "Old Maids," those annoying unpopped kernels at the bottom of the bowl, researchers from Kutztown to California have focused their efforts on making popcorn just a little bit better for all Americans.
While the Americans who consume 17 billion quarts of popped popcorn a year aren't exactly clamoring for a popcorn revolution, the average man off the street might not object to having his 54 quarts of popcorn a year fluffier and fully popped. And even if he wouldn't, scientists at Purdue University's Whistler Center for Carbohydrate Research want to know. They have been studying the practical applications of carbohydrates for years, and recently -- or should we say finally -- got around to wondering just how to reduce the number of popcorn kernels that don't pop. "We just wanted to see whether there is anything at the structural level that can be ascribed to the popping performance," said Rengaswami Chandrasekaran, a professor of structural biochemistry at Purdue University. The physics of why kernels pop are simple. An outer shell called the pericarp locks moisture inside of the kernel until it is heated, swelling the kernel until the pericarp ruptures. When the kernel pops, the moisture inside is released; the result is the fluffy stuff we call popcorn. But in some breeds of popcorn, the physics don't work out quite as well. Chandrasekaran and his colleagues studied 14 genetic varieties of popcorn and found that the kernels with the strongest pericarp produce the fewest unpopped kernels.
A kernel with a stronger pericarp can hold moisture better than a kernel with a weaker one, they found. This moisture remains in the kernel as the pressure inside builds with the heat, while in kernels with weaker pericarps, the moisture can leak out, so the pressure will not build up, and the kernel will never pop. This doesn't have too much relevance to the everyday popcorn eater -- yet. But in a food industry where more is usually better, it might not be long before it does. "This opens up new avenues to the breeders to breed better popcorn varieties," Chandrasekaran said. "You can do that by natural selection or by genetic engineering." Not able to genetically engineer your own popcorn? You might ask Paul Quinn if he'll lend you his special popcorn machine to make better popcorn.
Quinn was a graduate student at Lehigh University in 1999 when his adviser, Daniel Hong, started thinking about how to apply physics to everyday things. He published a paper looking at popcorn as a simple model of adiabatic expansion -- similar to the bursting of an overinflated tire. He and Quinn, along with graduate student Joseph Both, wanted to see if they could make kernels of popcorn even bigger. Hong died of complications from a liver transplant in 2002 and Both moved on to Stanford University, but Quinn, who had already left Lehigh, decided to finish the experiment.
So he built a vacuum popper. Quinn, now an assistant professor of physics at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, hooked a vacuum pump into a stovetop pressure cooker, hoping that the decrease in pressure would allow the kernels to expand further than they do in a microwave or in a regular stovetop popper. To his surprise, the popcorn was almost twice as big as regular popcorn, and had fewer unpopped kernels. He doubled the popcorn's volume. "The theory is very simple, which is why we didn't think it was going to work," Quinn said. Although his training is in physics and granular materials, Quinn is continuing work on his special popper, and has applied for a patent on the device. The new apparatus would let the everyday popcorn lover take advantage of the process he discovered, though he's secretive about it for now. Discover magazine describes it as a contraption with two dog-food bowls and an off-the-shelf microwave. Quinn said results of his testing thus far are promising. But both Quinn and Chandrasekaran say their work is not just for popcorn eaters. The Carbohydrate Center conducts all sorts of research about starches like popcorn; finding a way to slow the digestion of starches, for instance, might help reduce obesity, Chandrasekaran said. Quinn doesn't want to have much to do with the food production; he says he just likes the pure physics of popcorn. If he makes money from his new device, then all the better, but he's not expecting much. "Me, I just like it as a learning tool," he said. "I'll see where it takes me."

And finally..."If you are working on a Ph. D., chances are you're too busy feeding your brain to plan your next meal. Particle physicists share how they managed when they needed cheap or fast meals during grad school."

From Symmetry [Fermilab publication on particle physics]:

"Noodles à la Kephart"


Bob Kephart

"Noodles à la Kephart got me through graduate school at SUNY Stony Brook."

Boil a large package of macaroni.

When cooked, add a brick of Velveeta cheese and a package of the cheapest hot dogs* you can find, cut up.


Empty into dish.

Eat for lunch and dinner each day for one week.

When finished, return to Step 1.

May be garnished with canned peas, eaten cold from can.

*Caution: Do not read ingredients on hot dog package.

"The Science At the Very Soul of Cooking
The short line from hunks of meat on spits to cranberry foam on Top Chef"


Bruno Maddox

December 27, 2007


I thought the "pizza pebbles" at restau­rant WD~50 had a lot going for them. Into each of the four brownish, marble-size spheres-arranged in one of the straightest rows you'll ever see-chef Wylie Dufresne seemed to have captured both the essence and the totality of an entire New York pizzeria. You could literally taste all of it: the pizza, the decor, the classic surfeit of oregano, even the jaded, fat dexterity of the staff-all in a small, brown pellet with a soft, futuristic texture. Quite remarkable.

My companion managed only half a pebble, declared it tasted "like sand," and asked if I wanted to finish hers. I declined with a laugh and patted her knee. She's a sweet, funny kid, and I like her a lot.

Next up was Dufresne’s famous "knot foie," a thick, squared-off shoelace of pale pink foie gras tied up and garnished with miniature sugary breakfast cereal. Regular foie gras will break if you try to knot it, the waiter told us. After months of experimentation, Dufresne hit upon the trick of gently melting the foie gras, stabilizing it with agar gum, then cooling it, at which point it apparently becomes as pliant as a pipe cleaner.

"But why knot it at all?" asked my companion.

"Oh," said the waiter. "This is an example of Wylie’s being playful."

I apologized to him with my face and he left. He'd given my companion more explanation than she deserved, I reckoned. However not long after, having watched her nibble and reject a cube of Dufresne's legendary fried mayonnaise, I decided it was time to do some explaining myself.

See, bashing Dufresne's style of food preparation is in vogue right now, at least among a small but fierce group that includes serious foodies, most culturally literate Europeans, and untold millions of Americans who follow the hit Bravo reality series Top Chef.

If you didn't watch the season in question, you missed something tragic and beautiful. The villain of the series was a strange young man named Marcel Vigneron. His hairstyle was a gigantic rear-mounted pompadour, like an enormous pair of elf ears rendered in hair. His demeanor was that of a young Peter Lorre, with the swivelly eyes and the permanent smirk and the reedy, snickery voice. And Marcel was a self-declared believer in something he called "molecular gastronomy," a faith he expressed, to the deepening bewilderment of the judging panel, by garnishing dish after dish with a sticky blob of colored foam.

On TV, at least, the foam looked like the kind of thing insects leave on twigs after laying a bunch of nasty eggs, but Marcel was proud of it. "And Marcel, what do you have for us?" Padma Lakshmi, the world’s most beautiful woman, would ask him, looking concerned, because she could plainly see that there was foam. "Uh . . . just a turkey roulade," he’d mumble. "With a cranberry foam." The other contestants called him "foam boy," claimed to detect a paucity of sexual experience in a cherry tart he made that was supposed to embody lust, and eventually drank a lot of wine and tried to shave his head.

Molecular gastronomy is, you have probably gathered by now, the same high art that Dufresne practices, and the idea that it is a steaming pile of pretentious nonsense is nothing new. In fact it’s as old-some would say exactly as old-as the term “molecular gastronomy” itself. It didn’t help that the term was coinvented and popularized by a grand Frenchman by the name of Hervé This (pronounced TEESS). But to the movement’s many critics, the bigger problem is that molecular gastronomy doesn’t actually mean anything. Gastronomy, after all, is just a fancy term for the practice of good cooking. As for molecular . . . well, what This seemed to be calling for was a new approach to cooking that would embrace Science without apology. But all cooking is molecular, and it always has been.

When the first cavemen impaled chunks of meat on sticks and held them in the fire, they did so in a deliberate attempt to alter the molecular structure of the meat, even if they lacked the fancy words to say so. Not only has cooking always been molecular, but cooks have always looked to Science in hopes of improving their recipes. Ask any Italian chef why he’s so picky about the rice in his risotto, and he’ll tell you that a high starch content (starch being a tidy combination of two molecules) results in a creamier finished product. Ask him how to check the doneness of a piece of meat, and he might suggest a scientific instrument known as a thermometer.

It’s a point so obvious one feels silly making it. The relationship of cooking to Science is the same as that of engineering to Science: an intimacy that approaches identity. Which does raise the question of what This and his co-movementists thought they were bringing to the table.

Gimmickry is the cynic's answer. At El Bulli in Spain, chef Ferran Adrià Acosta, the first legend of molecular gastronomy-Babe Ruth to This’s Abner Doubleday-dazzles his diners with gastronomic impossibilities from liquid ham croquettes to caviar made from apples. At the Fat Duck restaurant outside London, the movement’s reigning king, Heston Blumenthal, is serving up snail porridge and has started encouraging his diners to wear headphones, into which can be piped the sound of their own chewing.

At first, second, and third glances, molecular gastronomy seems a clear-cut analogue of the progressive rock movement that briefly ruined popular music in the 1970s. Both cases involve a handful of nerdy left-brain men taking it upon themselves to grandly overthink, reinvent, and almost take credit for a previously easy­going medium that had been getting on fine without them. The progressive rockers-Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, to name but three-can today at least try to argue that popular music was in a rut when they came along and that if nothing else-such as listenable-their self-consciously intellectual approach to music was at least different.

But since when has food been in a rut? One of the precious things about food is that it’s one of the few pleasures in life whose novelty never wears off. When This invented molecular gastronomy, it wasn’t as if anyone was complaining about being served yet another delicious, lovingly prepared hot meal. Where, then, do these self-appointed revolutionaries get off, with their fancy foams and gels? Who asked them to fix food, when food was one of the few things in the world that wasn’t ever broke?

No one asked them, any honest answer to that question must begin. However, it must then necessarily continue: But where did you get the idea that food wasn't, or isn't, broke? Try telling that to a salmonella sufferer or to a nut-allergic baseball fan for whom the phrase "peanuts and cracker­jack" is just an abstract string of syllables. Try telling a camp full of refugees that the best meal the guilty rich will ever be able to send them is a bag of uncooked U.N. flour. No, I didn't think so.

Am I suggesting we feed, and simultaneously enchant, the poor by flinging them handfuls of Wylie Dufresne's knotted foie gras? At the risk of disappointing my detractors, I am not. But it takes a very blink­ered view of the world to gaze upon a chef attempting to redesign our diet from the molecules up and declare the whole thing pretentious and vain-especially since those don’t strike me as very serious charges against a movement with the world-changing potential of molecular gastronomy. The age looms near when a man like Wylie Dufresne will follow his muse into the DNA lab, rearranging the genetic code of a potato to make it dance to his tune in some highfalutin appetizer and accidentally curing world hunger in the process. Scientists are already designing pork chops that go down like health food and tomatoes that vaccinate their eaters against hepatitis.

The need of certain people to understand the science of food has given us everything we have: long, happy lives full of drunken evenings; of campfire marshmallows; of spraying whipped cream across a special lady’s abdomen. . . . That these heroes are no longer unsung, that they have organized themselves beneath the banner of molecular gastronomy and are pushing into the future with more drive and focus than before is not a snub to those earlier science cooks but a fulfillment of what surely must have been their dream. The least the rest of us can do is keep an open mind to the new concoctions of molecular gastronomy.

Is Wylie Dufresne’s fried mayonnaise delicious? Does it eclipse the memory of your grandmother's meat loaf? It does not. But you should have seen the astonishment that filled the face of an expert on colloidal chemistry, whom I found myself sitting next to at a dinner last week, when I happened to mention Wylie's fried mayo.

"Fried," she began, then shook her head. "No. You can’t fry mayonnaise. The heat will break the emulsion. And the colloids . . . They-you can fry mayonnaise?"

Yes, I told her, taking a peculiar pride in someone else’s accomplishment. You can now.

On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by, Harold McGee.

ISBN-10: 0684800012

ISBN-13: 978-0684800011

Publishers Weekly wrote:

Before antioxidants, extra-virgin olive oil and supermarket sushi commanded public obsession, the first edition of this book swept readers and cooks into the everyday magic of the kitchen: it became an overnight classic. Now, 20 years later, McGee has taken his slightly outdated volume and turned it into a stunning masterpiece that combines science, linguistics, history, poetry and, of course, gastronomy. He dances from the spicy flavor of Hawaiian seaweed to the scientific method of creating no-stir peanut butter, quoting Chinese poet Shu Xi and biblical proverbs along the way. McGee's conversational style-rich with exclamation points and everyday examples-allows him to explain complex chemical reactions, like caramelization, without dumbing them down. His book will also be hailed as groundbreaking in its breakdown of taste and flavor. Though several cookbooks have begun to answer the questions of why certain foods go well together, McGee draws on recent agricultural research, neuroscience reviews and chemical publications to chart the different flavor chemicals in herbs and spices, fruits and vegetables. Odd synergies appear, like the creation of fruity esters in dry-cured ham-the same that occur naturally in melons! McGee also corrects the European bias of the first edition, moving beyond the Mediterranean to discuss the foods of Asia and Mexico. Almost every single page of this edition has been rewritten, but the book retains the same light touch as the original. McGee has successfully revised the bible of food science-and produced a fascinating, charming text.

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