Waiter, There’s a Science in My Soup

Food is sexy. You may take a moment to absorb this.

There are two kinds of people in the world. Those saying, “Damn straight!”, and those saying “Meh. I don’t know about sexy…”

To you “damn straighers” out there, damn straight. To those who say “meh”, sorry, you are wrong. Food is sexy and I can prove it.

Eat a piece of chocolate mousse cake and then tell me food isn’t sexy. I dare you. Think about it…

…the feeling of soft, rich mousse on your tongue. Chocolate coating the roof of your mouth – deep, dark, slightly smoky. A whiff of mild spice makes your nose crinkle and the back of your throat tingle ever so slightly. Whipped cream blends the flavors until you can no longer tell where one stops and another starts. And, and, is that a hint of orange zest? Then the crust. The hazelnut-brown butter toffee crust. Eyes closed you turn the fork over as your lips desperately search for just one last morsel clinging to the tines of the fork. A sigh that brings back a whisper of the spice and orange. When was the last time you made that look?

Food. Is. Sexy.

Now that we agree on that, why am I arguing that food is sexy on a science blog? 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?

Are you hungry for some tasty science and sexy food? I hope so. Tomorrow, we’ll kick off our culinary adventure with that most unique of ingredients, the egg, and it’s importance to a coy little dish we call creme brûlée.

3 thoughts on “Waiter, There’s a Science in My Soup”

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