Before arriving at the table, food goes through multiple physical and chemical changes. Humans are not only driven by instinct when feeding themselves because over the years they have been cooking the most basic of foods
Rachel Pereda Daggers
During the nineteenth century, respectable scientists were already teaching cooking courses, publishing manuals on reactions in foods and treatises on nutrition, while scientific and gastronomic revolution went hand in hand.
Nowadays, modern restaurant kitchens look like research laboratories where scientific advances play their part in the search for the best flavours for the palate.
Science is about asking good questions and coming up with the best answers. And cooking, says University of Pittsburgh Chemistry professor, Robert Wolke, is more about science than art.
“Smells are nothing more than sets of gaseous molecules that float around in the air before reaching our nose,” Wolke explains. On our planet, all living things eat, although humans are the only ones that cook and in doing so transform the fruits of nature.
‘Cooking is not just about chemistry. It involves other sciences, such as physics, which explains the transmission of heat, mechanics which is evident each time we beat an egg and microbiology which is behind fermentation,’ adds the American expert.
Likewise, the researcher also mentions anatomy which explains the consistency of meat, engineering which is responsible for providing utensils, and technology which allows us to produce and package prepared meals.
“Being aware of the eating habits of a social group provides the basis for understanding a good part of its social conventions,” confirms the Spanish writer Manuel Vázquez Montalbán in his book Saber o no saber (‘To Know or Not to Know’).
At this point, you may question the role of science in simple activities such as frying an egg or cooking beans.
However, for those wishing to know whether a recipe works or not, delving into the mysteries of the art of good cooking is a must. With this in mind, science promotes culinary innovation.
Since physicist Nicholas Kurti and chemistry professor Hervé This coined the term ‘Molecular Gastronomy’ in 1988, a true revolution in cooking has taken place.” Just as electronic music creates its own sounds, cooking creates its own food, note by note,” said This. Despite detractors opposing the application of science to cooking, more and more scientific advances are being incorporated into culinary dishes.
In this context, we could mention the simple case of mayonnaise. A very simple emulsion made with liquid ingredients ends up creating a more or less consistent cream. This magic, according to experts, occurs thanks to egg lecithin, a natural and global emulsifier.
Looking to the future, chefs from all over the world are attempting to get Scientific Gastronomy recognised as a new and independent discipline, with its own standards.
Through innovation, nutrients, proteins and minerals can be transformed into amazing culinary dishes. (PL)
(Translated by Nigel Conibear MCIL) – Photos: Pixabay