Basic components of food and cooking

According to Peter Barham, “Much of what happens in cookery is best described as chemistry.” (p.7)

“Chemistry is all about the way in which atoms join together to make molecules. There are only about 100 different elements in the whole Universe, the smallest ‘indivisible’ unit of each element being an atom. In practice, when considering food and cooking we need only be concerned with a few of these elements; most of what we cook and eat is made up of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen with a smattering of nitrogen and traces of sodium, sulphur, potassium and a few others.” (p.7) Barham insists that by having a basic understanding of chemistry and of “the important types of molecules found in food – sugars, fats, proteins, etc.” you can “begin to understand how these different types of molecule react with each other when you are cooking even the simplest dishes.” (p.7)

“The processes by which different atoms (or molecules) are brought together and made to form new molecules are generally called ‘chemical reactions’. The development of ‘meaty’ flavours on heating and browning is caused by some complex chemistry called ‘Maillard reactions’. The fact that boiled eggs set hard is due to chemical reactions between the proteins in the egg. Food sticks to pans during cooking because proteins react chemically with metals at high temperatures.” (p.7)

There are two particularly important classes of small molecules involved in food and cooking, fats and sugars.” (p.10)

Two types of polymers are of particular importance in cookery. Proteins and starches are long molecules made up by joining together many separate repeating units. We call such molecules long chain polymers. Proteins are made up from units called amino acids while starches are made up by stringing together sugar molecules.” (p.10)

Ref: Peter Barham (c2001) The Science of Cooking. Springer-Verlag: Berlin

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About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
This entry was posted in education around food and meals, Science education. Bookmark the permalink.

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