The scientist's view of the kitchen world
This past mother’s day, I happened to be visiting my parents’ house. I decided that in lieu of a formal gift, I would make dinner for the family to give my mom a break. Upon informing her of this plan, my father, mother, and brother all start making excuses about how I really don’t need to go out of my way. Yea, they did protest too much. Turns out that when my husband (then fiance) had visited my parents to ask my father for my hand, he had told them a story about how horrible my cooking was. It became an inside joke between my husband, parents, and brother about how I cooked, and I quote, “food a dog wouldn’t eat.”
I still married the bugger.
Here’s the thing about me: I do not like being bad at things. So I decided that I was going to make everyone eat their words. Literally. But when I looked at cooking books, everything was written to one of two audiences: the house spouse who cared more about saving time and money than cooking a good, healthy meal and who certainly didn’t have time to learn technique or skills OR a chef who has already been to culinary school. What about the person who wants to learn technique and methodology from scratch, is intelligent, has the time to put into learning skills, and cares about the taste rather than the convenience?
My husband, one night, mentioned a show called Good Eats and thought I might like it. Bam! Just what I needed. Turns out cooking is mostly science with a bit of art. Well, science is something I can understand. You see, food and cooking are governed by scientific rules and chemical relationships brought together by intricacies of heat transfer (my expertise happens to be in fluid dynamics and heat transfer). So to be a good cook, you don’t need to know an encyclopedia of recipes, you just need to know the theory: how does salt break down? Why do denser materials slow heat transfer? When does glucose caramelize? And you need the right set of tools.
This blog is aimed less at recipes and more at theory (see my post on salt – bet you didn’t think I could write pages upon pages on salt alone!). I welcome questions and comments and, please, if you have something you would like me to investigate (say, why are Brussels sprouts bitter and how can I cook them to deliciousness?) I promise I will do my absolute best to respond with a well researched answer.
I also hate hate hate despise pseudoscience so you will quickly notice almost all of my posts eventually devolve into a pseudoscience rant. Hey, someone has to inform the masses!
Finally, you may be curious as to the name of this blog – Quad Erat Coquendum. In mathematics, we often use a technique called a “proof” to show a relationship or derivation. For example, we start with:
Equation A = Equation B
and then go through a mathematical process, the proof, to show that A and B are indeed equal. A proof, if properly written out will end similar to how it begins with:
Equation A = Equation B
which means we show that the initial relationship holds true, quod erat demonstrandum. Which is Latin for, “that which has been shown,” meaning, “if you look at the above work, you will see why this is true.”
“Coquendum” is Latin for “cooked.” So QEC translates to, “that which has been cooked.” And since cooking is really just chemistry, heat transfer, and math, this is just my little homage to the beauty of mathematics and science that make the more subjective arts possible.