“…baking is a science”

Editor’s Note: A strip from Danielle Corsetto’s Girls with Slingshots reminded us of Ben’s inaugural post here at The Finch & Pea. Excerpt from post originally published 30 August 2012.

Adapted from "Girls with Slingshots #1882" by Danielle Corsetto (All Rights Reserved - Adapted & Used with Permission)

Adapted from “Girls with Slingshots #1882″ by Danielle Corsetto (All Rights Reserved – Adapted & Used with Permission)

Good food, sexy food is the result of passion and science. We talk a lot about passion in cooking, but passion alone can’t make a chocolate mousse cake. Passion can’t ensure efficient heat transfer, make proteins bind, crystallize molecules, or drive chemical reactions. There is science in your food, even if you don’t know how it got there.

I’m here to introduce you, the patrons of The Finch & Pea, to some delicious nosh, to stoke your passion for cooking, and to help you understand how cooking works.

Understanding the science behind a recipe – what the ingredients really are, how they interact with each other, how they change when you manipulate them – will make you a better cook, chef, and diner. When I go to write a cake recipe, knowing flour type composition, hydration ratios, chemical reactions of leavening agents, and methods for strengthen emulsions drastically affects the success of the recipe. Cooking isn’t just about passion. It’s about words you heard in chemistry and physics class. Words like heat conductivity, melting point, vaporization temperatures, phase transition, pressure effects on physical states, hygroscopic minerals, and density differentials all play an important role in almost every aspect of cooking.

Together we are going to explore the science behind everyday cooking. Why should you salt a steak an hour before cooking, but never right before? Why shouldn’t you use vanilla extract? How can baking soda ruin your cookies? How does granulated sugar “cook” your strawberries when poured over top?

Science for the People: Mental Health Myths

sftp-square-fistonly-whitebgThis week, we’re listening to “Mental Illness Myths,” a panel discussion about public perceptions of mental health  at CONvergence 2014. Panelists Megan Press, Miri Mogilevsky, Julia Burke and Olivia James discuss misconceptions about diagnosis, treatment and symptoms, and the harm that stigma does to individuals affected by mental illness.

 

Things break

Complex structures break in interesting and unexpected ways. This is applicable to both sea shells* and civilizations. Some results are prettier than others.

Evernote Snapshot 20140914 112508

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The Art of Science: Pollination as Inspiration

Pollen Grains, Jo Golesworthy

Pollen Grains, Jo Golesworthy

To many people, pollen is a nuisance, coating cars and irritating nasal passages. For artists Jo Golesworthy and Wolfgang Laib, pollen is an inspiration.

Pollen grains are the tiny cases holding the male reproductive cells (gametophytes) of flowering plants. The grains come in a variety of shapes and sizes and have a wide range of surface markings and textures, making them useful for plant identification in fields such as paleoecology, paleontology, archeology, and forensics.

This variety marks the sculptures of Jo Golesworthy, a UK-based artist who creates massively scaled-up versions of many types of pollen from alder and birch to pussy willow and poppy. Her pieces, made by hand from a limestone compound, can be displayed outdoors, where the artist says they will “slowly grow a botanic patina of their own.”

Wofgang Laib, Pollen from Hazelnut, 2013

Wofgang Laib, Pollen from Hazelnut, 2013

German artist Wolfgang Laib creates his works out of real pollen, meticulously arranging it in lines, grids, mounds, or – for his largest work – a glowing golden carpet.  Laib’s spectacular 2013 installation, Pollen from Hazelnut, an 18 x 21 foot rectangle of pollen sifted onto the floor of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, required more than a decade’s worth of pollen that the artist himself collected from around his hometown. Laib says that his work, although almost entirely based on nature, refers to many other things, including devotional practices and ancient art.

But essentially, it’s all about the pollen.  As Laib told MoMA, “pollen is the potential beginning of the life of the plant. It is as simple, as beautiful, and as complex as this. And of course it has so many meanings. I think everybody who lives knows that pollen is important.”

Apenheul

Last month I went to the Netherlands to visit family. I didn’t just get to see my immediate family, but also some more distant relatives: the inhabitants of Apenheul Primate Park.

Here’s a selection of the many photos I took that day.
Squirrel monkey
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