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'Thou shalt be inventive'

Applying concepts in science and engineering, world-famous chefs are reimagining what and how we eat (Harvard Gazette)

Dave Arnold kicked off the 2012 Science & Cooking public lecture series on September 4. The complete schedule is available at seas.harvard.edu/cooking. (Photo by Kris Snibbe, Harvard News Office.)

The following excerpt from an article by Sarah Sweeney originally appeared in the Harvard Gazette.

Chemistry and the kitchen aren’t separate worlds anymore. Throw in a bit of artistry, and you just might incarnate today’s cutting-edge chef who uses liquid nitrogen to make an insta-ice cream, right at your restaurant table.

Science and food are as married as salt and pepper. Even Benjamin Franklin’s historic experiments with oil on England’s Clapham Pond relate to the formation of mayonnaise, according to Harold McGee, New York Times food science columnist and an authority on the history of the school of cooking now referred to as molecular gastronomy.

“Franklin put a half-teaspoon of oil on the shoreline and watched the wind spread it. He wanted to see what extent of the pond the oil would cover, and he found that one half-teaspoon of oil would cover a half acre of the pond,” said McGee.

“His experiment is directly relevant to understanding mayonnaise making, because what you’re doing in mayonnaise making is trying to coat lots and lots of oil surface with emulsifiers from egg yolk, so all these things give you an insight into the fundamental aspects of nature.”

McGee, alongside chef-mixologist Dave Arnold, headlined Tuesday night’s season opener of the “Science and Cooking” public lecture series, part of the Gen Ed course “Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to the Science of Soft Matter,” sponsored by the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Playing with one’s food goes way back, said McGee. Even an unearthed medieval recipe for roast chicken contained a lively element: tying the chicken tightly, so that when the bird cooks and air tries to escape, the sound of the air resembles a chicken’s call...

Read the entire article in the Harvard Gazette

View the schedule of public lectures here.

Topics: Cooking