December 06, 2006

Kitchen science

The guru of kitchen science Harold McGee writes about what happens when "When Science Sniffs Around the Kitchen" in a new occasional column, The Curious Cook, starting in today's New York Times:
It was 30 years ago in a university library that I first stumbled across the scientific approach to food in the pages of Cereal Chemistry, The Journal of Food Science and similar publications. As I browsed through a couple of issues I couldn’t help grinning at the incongruity of high scientific language and high-tech instrumentation being applied to utterly ordinary, everyday things. It was strangely exhilarating to see such intellectual firepower aimed at the kneading of bread dough or the grilling of a hamburger or the mitigation of the gassy effects of beans, to be confronted with startling scanning-electron-microscope close-ups of the bacteria in yogurt, the mold in blue cheese, the surface of cooked spaghetti....

This occasional column, the Curious Cook, will be a window on that big and busy world, on the endless intricacies of foods and the ingenuity of the people who make them and study them. The column is meant to share the buzz, to pass along news of interesting scientific research on food, cooking and eating. Because some of the larger issues are well covered elsewhere — nutrition, the influence of diet on long-term health, food production and the environment, genetically modified organisms — I’ll pay more attention to studies of particular foods, the kinds of subjects that originally drew me away from teaching literature and into the mysteries of emulsions and glutens and Maillard reactions.

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