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The Thermochemical Joy of Cooking

michael posted more than 10 years ago | from the crispy-on-the-outside dept.

Entertainment 275

daeley writes "Wired has a feature on Alton Brown, host of FoodNetwork's Good Eats and favorite chef of geek foodies everywhere: The Thermochemical Joy of Cooking. AB has his own website, of course, and his own blog, of course. (If you are familiar with Alton's distinctive delivery, you can hear his voice as you read. My only complaint is that he doesn't write anywhere near often enough.) He's also been interviewed on Slashdot. From the Wired article: 'Brown, 41, is a culinary hacker, the poster boy for a movement that's coming to a boil in kitchens across America. The essence: Cooking is a science, not an art, informed by chemistry, physics, and biology. "Everything in food is science," Brown says. "The only subjective part is when you eat it."'"

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finally! (4, Funny)

lawngnome (573912) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304700)

finally I can wear a labcoat and a chefs hat in the kitchen and not feel like a dork.

Re:finally! (5, Insightful)

Mateito (746185) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304863)

I advise you to wear something under that chefs hat and lab coat, especially if you are using sharp knives or hot oil.

I love cooking.. always have.. and I don't believe that it can always be reduced to science.. at least not to practical science. (Think three body problem.) The chicken you buy today will not have exactly the same flavour as the chicken you buy next week. And every beef cut needs to be treated like the individual it is.

I cook well, but have friend who are masters. I can taste what they taste, but can't say "okay, this needs a pinch of cumin and a little cardamon to make it perfect. These guys have the knowledge of what works with what, but also the honed taste abilites and experiences that tell you then what is needed.

And, to all those who haven't yet discovered it, cooking will get you chicks. My fianceé fell first for my cooking :)

Not a very profound assertion (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9304701)

Everything in -life- is a science. Cooks wish they were biologists. Biologists wish they were physicists. Physicists wish they were chemists. Chemists wish they were God.

NO ONE WANTS TO BE A CHEMIST (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9304779)

Re:Not a very profound assertion (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9304815)

Noononono. You've got it backwards. Biologists wish they were chemists. Chemists wish they were physicists (because ultimately, thats where the root of their studies is)... And physicists wish they were god (and ultimately, they are more likely to be more god-like than all of the above--Atom bomb and all).

Except perhaps that biologists could unleash plagues of locusts, by tweaking the environment, which is close enough. Chemists are just wanna-bees.

Re:Not a very profound assertion (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9304852)

Physicists wish they were chemists

Pah! Chemistry is just a small part of Atomic Physics.

Re:Not a very profound assertion (5, Interesting)

KoriaDesevis (781774) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304933)

Cooks wish they were biologists.

Bakers are, in a sense, biologists. They know that yeast in bread and rolls thrive in warm temperatures, and that the ideal temperature for yeast activity is between 120 an 130 degrees F. Heat the dough to 140, and the yeast dies. Salt will kill yeast if brought in direct contact with it as well. And yeast loves sugar - so much so that if you leave the sugar out of bread, the yeast will start breaking down the complex sugars in the flour, which in turn changes the flavor of the breads.

Bakers must know the environmental conditions they need to set up for yeast (a living fungus), or they will find themselves without a bakery. In this sense, they have to be biologists, albeit in a limited sense.

Re:Not a very profound assertion (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9305028)

And God wishes He were a mathematician.

If cooking is science (1)

superpulpsicle (533373) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304711)

Then you must be referring to Burger King of McDonalds. Cause it shouldn't be that damn complicated.

Re:If cooking is science (4, Insightful)

jacksonyee (590218) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304833)

Shouldn't be complicated?

Cooking is an area where it can be as complicated as you want it to be-ranging all the way from sticking a piece of meat into the fire to a masterful blend of 72 ingredients into a pot of French soup simmered for eight hours over charcoal. Most people do not do anything very complicated, but if you don't think that there isn't science in cooking, then all of our safety precautions, refrigeration technology, FDA guides, food pyramid, nutritional labels, calorie counts, and everything else really isn't necessary. The human diet is one of the most studied scientific areas in history; even more so if you take medicine and drugs into consideration.

Now, granted I don't bother to pay attention to most of the research being done nowadays because taste and effects are so individualized, but there certainly is science involved in the process of cooking beyond a simple receipe for something that tastes good.

Re:If cooking is science (3, Insightful)

Enry (630) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304931)

It can be as complicated as you want it to be.

If you want to just follow the recipe, it's not that complicated. Step 1, beat eggs, step 2, add flour, etc.

But, if you want to see what you can do with it, to put your own spin on it, to hack it, then you need to be a bit more complicated. And to do that, you need to understand what's happening and more importantly, why it's happening.

Visual Basic is to Emeril as Perl is to Alton Brown

Forgot a credit (4, Informative)

MrP- (45616) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304712)

Don't forget, he's also commentator for Iron Chef America: Battle of the Masters (and hopefully just Iron Chef America.. they better make new episodes!!)

Re:Forgot a credit (4, Insightful)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304774)

Yeah, the new Iron Chef America actually managed to get the ambience and feel of Iron Chef correct, unlike the one they did with William Shatner. That one just sucked. Alton's knowledge of the science of the ingredients being used (IE: Seaweed containing an MSG-like chemical which turns up the volume on flavor) also made his commentary very interesting.

My only complaint with his show is that we're not getting enough new episodes. They should make Food Network the "All-Alton-Brown-All-The-Time network!" Well maybe not that much, but you get the idea :-)

His hour-long salt episode which aired just recently was pretty cool too.

Re:Forgot a credit (1)

MrP- (45616) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304946)

[i]"His hour-long salt episode which aired just recently was pretty cool too."[/i]

Yeah, I had to eat a bowl of kosher salt after watching it =P (yeah i'm weird)

Re:Forgot a credit (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9304966)

holy shit, ive been posting to slashdot since 1997 and ive NEVER posted bbcode like that. damn i feel depressed now

Re:Forgot a credit (1)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 10 years ago | (#9305049)

My only complaint to that was the floor reporter is a complete idiot. He had no idea what was going on, and didn't even seem to pay attention. There was more than one occasion that AB answered his own questions (on stuff like "what went into that blender?" Isn't that the whole point of the floor announcers job???).

Oh, and that salt episode was pretty good. He finally explains his obsession with salt :-)

Re:Forgot a credit (5, Funny)

GPLDAN (732269) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304878)

It would be great if Alton went over and smacked Bobby Flay upside the head with a meat tenderizer. Repeatedly. Hard.

Re:Forgot a credit (4, Insightful)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 10 years ago | (#9305079)

Actually, I like the choice of chefs... There's a chef to love (Batali), a chef to hate (Flay), and a chef that just floors you on how he can make any ingredients into something amazing (Puck).

If cooking is science.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9304713)

..the arts is science as well. Every really good cook will confirm you it's an art not only(!) science.

FP (1)

Suicide Bomberman (679592) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304722)

Fourth post (or possibly Fifth Post).

crap (1)

Suicide Bomberman (679592) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304749)

okay, I fail it

Re:crap (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9304877)


Achtung!

You are ze disgrace to ze Motherland mit der sixthen-posten und zu karma-whorink! Kindly machen der EFF-PEE und zer next artikle, or der Sturmtroopers vil be making und house-call.

Sincerely,

A. Hitler

Bring it on, bitch (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9305039)

I couldn't care less about the 'motherland' and you krauts are all fucking pussies. I don't give half a crap about stormtroopers at my front door because you're all worthless pieces of fuck. It's no wonder you could only muster the courage to pick on kikes and fags because they're the only ones who are even bigger pussies than you lot. And it just so happens that I'm neither jewish nor homosexual, so I don't care how many of you punks there are, I'll eat you for fucking breakfast!

You totally fail it. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9304766)

Sir, with that Sixth post you totally fail it.

Warmest Regards,
DomKore.

are you really that stupid ? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9304736)


yeah cooking isn't an art like music isn't or making a movie or even writing good code

I'm a Real Chemist and a Real Chef... (2, Insightful)

caveat (26803) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304740)

and I *hate* alton. yes, there is a lot of chemistry and science in cooking, and it is very interesting, and a lot of it can be boiled down to quantifiable, deterministic values - but ultimately, COOKING IS AN ART. if it wasn't, any regular joe could pick up a copy of the Joy of Cooking and be running a four-star restaurant in a week. i can't count how often something i've tried in the kitchen that chemically and scientifically should have worked fine, but in the end came out curdled, or tasteless, or fallen. maybe "regular" home cooking can be broken down into pure numbers that anybody can grind out, but making truly excellent food will always need that certain artists' touch.

Re:I'm a Real Chemist and a Real Chef... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9304805)

You, sir, are full of shit.

Re:I'm a Real Chemist and a Real Chef... (-1, Flamebait)

pubjames (468013) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304819)

COOKING IS AN ART

I couldn't agree with you more.

After looking at his site I thought, this man has no style, how can he be a good cook? Maybe it's the European in me, but this guy looks stereotypically American - loud, brash, and with no taste!

Also, I couldn't actually find much on his web site about actually cooking for the love of fine food, it was all about what equipment you need - I guess he is just trying to sell stuff.

Re:I'm a Real Chemist and a Real Chef... (0, Troll)

tealover (187148) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304859)

Maybe it's the European in me

Then you'd better tell the European to pull out.

Moderators... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9304935)


Don't rate things down just because you don't like what they say.

Re:Moderators... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9305016)

Um, your post is 100% flamebait. You make no point or fact, just agree, throw in ethnicity into it, and insult something.

Re:I'm a Real Chemist and a Real Chef... (4, Insightful)

nelsonal (549144) | more than 10 years ago | (#9305005)

I've found Alton to be an excellent resource for establishing the basics, at some point every chef learned how to saute, and some seasonings went with fish and chicken. After that they learned more about experimentation and expression and became artists. Alton isn't trying to teach people how to move to artists (like most of the programming on the food network) he's showing people the basics. From their curiousity can build on that knowledge and his viewers can develop their own style.
In his case the geek set, learning the basics involves a lot of science (we like to understand how things work not just that if I heat the oil on medium and drop the meat in for 5 min it cooks). I know with everything if I understand how a process works from interest rate calc derivation to quantum physics to custard formation, I'm a whole lot more likely to remember the steps involved and correctly apply them. The love of fine food comes after you've baked the salmon served it with wine, a nice salad, and asparagus with hollandaise sauce and you take a bite.

Re:I'm a Real Chemist and a Real Chef... (2, Insightful)

SquadBoy (167263) | more than 10 years ago | (#9305026)

Yup this is why I'm am all for nuking Europe from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

Re:I'm a Real Chemist and a Real Chef... (4, Insightful)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304835)

That's your snobby 'chef side' talking.

Alton, himself, never calls himself a chef. In fact, he isn't trying to make you into one. He just perfects simplier dishes... and encourages people, especially geeks, to "play with their food" and understand whats going on when you do!

A true physicist may not like "Bill Nye" or "Mr.Wizard" because they do silly experiments with children, but it encourages people to delve more into science even more... Alton is much like the Mr Wizard of cooking... encouraging 'us kids' to cook and understand what's going on when we do it. And just like how Mr.Wizard didn't teach you how to make a nuclear reacture our of kitchen supplies, AB doesn't teach you how to perfect a $500 cavier/froi gras dish.

You hate AB, but anyone that DOES watch the show will easily put AB's infamous "French Chef" voice on when reading your entry. ;-)

By this logic... (1)

PhysicsGenius (565228) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304854)

...COOKING IS AN ART. if it wasn't, any regular joe could pick up a copy of the Joy of Cooking and be running a four-star restaurant in a week.

If "variable talent among humans" is the criterion, then *everything* is an "art". Including science.

Re:I'm a Real Chemist and a Real Chef... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9304866)

Yes, but Alton Brown gets a hella lot of pussy. Can you say the same?

You may be a food artiste, but if it doesn't gain you more pussy, then what is it really good for? You know I'm right. Yep. I can see you smiling. you KNOW I am right. Heh heh. Now go out there and stink up your finger. right on!

Re:I'm a Real Chemist and a Real Chef... (1)

endx7 (706884) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304882)

COOKING IS AN ART. if it wasn't, any regular joe could pick up a copy of the Joy of Cooking and be running a four-star restaurant in a week.

Hold on, I'll be getting my Nobel Prize for Chemistry in a week. And those grants are coming in already!

Re:I'm a Real Chemist and a Real Chef... (5, Insightful)

troyml (122411) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304885)

I suppose you hate Shirley Corriher, Rose Levy Berenbaum, Harold McGee, etc... all authors who have helped me understand the science of food.

Alton recognizes that cooking is an art... his show itself is art and imho good art. But understanding how the art works leads to better ability.

Pottery is a science, heat, minerals, sand, clay, glass etc.... and darn near any fool can lump some clay together and stick it in a kiln. But the real artists either through experience or through study learn how the materials respond to pressure, heat, time etc.... use this type of clay, this composition of glaze, fire it to this level for this length of time... and voila get the desired result.

Do I hate really good potters..... could say the same for many other mediums... paint, metalwork, etc.. etc.. etc.

Don't be a culinary snob... your successes lie on the same principles and 'science' that anyone elses do and if you understand that all the better.

I just finished perusing the CIA's (Culinary Institute of America) book 'The Professional Chef' and they certainly recognize that to suceed at the art of cooking one must come to terms with the science of it, and even the math, the business acumen, the labor and the grind that it can be as well.

Re:I'm a Real Chemist and a Real Chef... (4, Insightful)

mrtrumbe (412155) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304958)

I love Alton. But I love him for precisly the same reason you hate him: cooking is an art.

The concept you seem to be missing, maybe due to your existing knowledge as a chemist, is that knowing the processes behind why things curdle, are tasteless or fall is part of the art of cooking. Very few TV cooks tell you the "processes behind the meal," which are essential to understanding the art of cooking. Alton fills that gap.

I certainly agree with you that it takes much more than science to get that omlette to come out just right, etc. It requires much skill and practice, the right tools and knowledge of how to use them. But I don't think Alton would disagree with you, either.

Think about one of the examples you gave: curdling. If you knew the underlying cause of curdled milk, you can apply that knowledge to a wide variety of recipies, not just the one you were working on. Yet most TV chefs don't get to that level. Sure their recipe might show you how to avoid curdling throught a precise list of steps and procedures. But very few would tell you why those steps are necessary to prevent curdling. Alton does just that.

Cooking is an art with many scientific principles behind it. Any cook who dismisses the artistry of cooking will undoubtedly never be a great chef. Any cook who ignores completely the science behind cooking will likewise never advance in his artistry.

I will admit, however, that a great chef may not have the same type of scientific knowledge that Alton advances. It may be sufficient to know, for example, that acid + milk + heat = curdled milk. But I really don't see the harm in knowing what chemical reactions happen in such a scenario.

Hey, you don't want to get to that level? Emeril airs a half hour after Good Eats. He's a fountain of enlightenment if I've ever seen one. :rolleyes:

Taft

Re:I'm a Real Chemist and a Real Chef... (1)

oops (41598) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304960)

There's no reason why you can't combine the two. For instance the 3-Michelin-starred Heston Blumenthal does this. See [fatduck.co.uk] his weekly Guardian columns [guardian.co.uk] for more info. BAcon and Egg ice cream, anyone ?

Re:I'm a Real Chemist and a Real Chef... (4, Insightful)

idontgno (624372) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304973)

Geez. It's both. Tell me great chefs don't at least intuitively understand the science. The greatest can work without a "canned scientific" knowledge of the science, but since science is just acute observation and theory-building, experienced chefs are scientists whether they acnowledge that or not.

Yes, the most important parts of the creative decision process are artistic, informed by experience and critically directed by intuition. But the science is always there, waiting to make your creative fancies and stunning insights take shape. Or fail to, because physical reality imposes a harsh penalty if you try to oppose its inexorable truths. Witness many failed souffles, burnt sauces, and other culinary disasters caused by trying something that just can't work.

By the way, haven't I seen the exact same arguments in another favorite geek arena?

s/COOKING/PROGRAMMING/g
Same-same, basically. No amount of creativity is going to overcome the fundamental science of your medium. The wise [cook|coder] learns how to push the science to the very edge of the envelope to accomodate brilliant new visions of [fppd|software].

Re:I'm a Real Chemist and a Real Chef... (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304991)

Crap.
$s/fppd/food/
Why is the submit button so close to the preview button?

Re:I'm a Real Chemist and a Real Chef... (1, Interesting)

caveat (26803) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304981)

wow, fast results...i was a bit quick on the draw with that, let me clarify. i dont' have a as much of a problem with alton himself as people like the submitter, who do think that by reducing the culinary arts to the most empirical values, anybody can become an alain ducasse or a masaharu morimoto. like i said, home cookery can be broken down and still yield excellent results for a pot roast or coleslaw, but all the science in the world isn't going to help you make a better shabu-shabu, paella, or cassoulet.

yes, i am putting on snobby chef airs (which i really have no right to do, i'm just the sous/saucier), but i'm also speaking from the firsthand experience of trying to fuse chemistry and cooking. if that concept really does it for you, try baking - that branch of the food arts really is a science, everything has to be weighed out just right and mixed in the proper order and fashion, or the proper reactions won't take place and you get a limp, flabby cake or gooey, chewy bread. i'm actually surprised i dont' see alton in the bake shop more...

Re:I'm a Real Chemist and a Real Chef... (1)

RazzleFrog (537054) | more than 10 years ago | (#9305087)

I have a music degree (amongst others). One part of learning music was understanding the science behind music. What makes consonance and dissonance, the difference between well-tempered and equal tempered, etc. I studied hundreds of different works to recognize the formulas that recurred through different styles (3rd movement is a waltz).

Knowing all of that helped me understand music better and perhaps made me a better composer and performer but I still pretty much suck compared to the greats. Oddly enough, most of the greats got by with little more than cursory knowledge of music (see Charlie Parker).

My point is that cooking is very similar. Knowing the science behind it isn't going to turn you into Jacques Pepin anymore than music science turned me into Gerry Mulligan but it can make us amateurs just a little bit better.

Re:I'm a Real Chemist and a Real Chef... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9304994)

Bullshit. Where did you get your culinary degree that they didn't have at least one course of food science? Alton never says that cooking is just following formulas. What he does is explain how things work and why they work that way. He explains why an age old technique works and why some things don't work.

Short-order cook at McDonald's doesn't make you a chef.

You Miss the Point (2, Informative)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 10 years ago | (#9305061)

Alton's show introduces you to some basic concepts of how stuff works in the kitchen. His show won't make you a three-star chef but it can free you from TV dinners every night. Even if you don't care to tinker, his canned recipes work right out of the box, although some of them do take some tinkering up here in Denver.

If all his show does is make people think about their equipment and help them get over their fear of getting that ol' wok extra-freaky-hot, he's done more than any other TV chef I've ever seen.

Re:I'm a Real Chemist and a Real Chef... (1)

king-manic (409855) | more than 10 years ago | (#9305106)

I'm a regular Joe, I picked up some equipment and well I run a restraunt :). A chinese food restarunt but I also do gormet cooking. Takes a whiel to learn and many many many many unfortunate mistakes but cooking isn't as hard as say rocket science.

Anecdote: One time I was making a batch of scalloped potatoes, I decided to add a bit of oregano. The cap came off and I added a bit too much. I removed what I could but the mixture already absorbed the oraganos flavor. Thus my scallop potatoes tasted like tree bark. I've gotten better.

Understanding science doesn't eliminate art. (4, Insightful)

Jaywalk (94910) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304751)

"Everything in food is science," Brown says. "The only subjective part is when you eat it."
True only if you never leave the cookbook. As with any art, a creative cook is trying to obtain an emotional experience; make the observer (i.e., diner) say "This is good." Since the buttons you're trying to push are deep within the brain's wiring, you're working with a complex system, so intuition often serves better than empirical knowledge. Will paprika work better here, or cinnamon? The answer is often not what would be expected by rational analysis.

Understanding the science behind cookery does not eliminate the art. Computers can generate sonnets which are grammatically and syntactically perfect, but they're not worth reading. Painting can be reduced to a science as well, but only if you limit it to paint-by-numbers.

Two different things being discussed here... (4, Insightful)

Otto (17870) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304816)

You're talking about cooking as a creative and expressive medium, and that's perfectly valid. If you're trying to create something new, something you haven't tried before, then yes, you're absolutely spot on.

On the other hand, if you're cooking because you're hungry and you want to eat, then it's a bit of a different story.

Cooking is the act of preparing something (as food), usually by the application of heat. Beyond that, any definition you read into it is your own. Cooking as art and cooking as a way to get rid of hunger are both acceptable uses of the word.

Cooking as art is creative. Cooking as hunger-elimination is usually not. Day in and day out, I gotta eat, and I usually use the second definition. Once I know how to prepare a thing, I can prepare that thing the same way virtually every time (hey, I'm only human, I screw it up sometimes). If I want to create something different though, then I can do that as well. But I don't often have that kind of time.

Where the "art" comes in. (1, Funny)

Araneas (175181) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304910)

The Wife looking in fridge: "There's nothing to eat."

Me looking in same fridge 10 sec later: "Eggs cheese, muchrooms and a chunk of left over ham. Omlettes coming right up."

Wife=happy.

Re:Two different things being discussed here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9304917)

Cooking is the act of preparing something (as food), usually by the application of heat. Beyond that, any definition you read into it is your own. Cooking as art and cooking as a way to get rid of hunger are both acceptable uses of the word.

It's the same with coding.

Re:Understanding science doesn't eliminate art. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9304836)

Wow, man, can you believe that Alton Brown? I bet that dude gets a lot of pussy!

Re:Understanding science doesn't eliminate art. (2, Insightful)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304876)

OK, I already said this once...

You are thinking of two things... a cook makes a meal (much like in Otters reply), a chef makes new dishes. Alton is NOT a chef, and he makes sure that he's pretty clear in his shows and books that he is NOT a chef. He shows how to cook something and gives you the scientific insight to know what is going on while doing it. This insight COULD give someone enough knowledge to make his/her own dishes (which some artistic thinking as well), but the insight, itself, is science, not art.

Re:Understanding science doesn't eliminate art. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9304943)

But Alton Brown doesn't just say "if you make a geek-meal it's science". He says "everything in food is science, the only subjective part is when you eat it." And that's the bullshit.

Re:Understanding science doesn't eliminate art. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9304889)

Since when where sonnets meant to be "grammatically and syntactically perfect." Considering language is somewhat evolutionary, or at least organic, in it's nature, there is no such thing as "grammatically and syntactically perfect" other than what people can understand. Otherwise nobody would ever of invented @ or the interrobang (?!) or any made up word ever, or we would still be speaking pre Chaucer esq english.

Sonnets are good for reasons other than their grammar. Sonnets are enjoyable to read because of their content, and our emotional attachments to the things they talk about, as well as their meter which forces the writer to use new and inventive sentence strucutres to convey their ideas.

In fact, if sonnets are about anything, they are about imperfection as you would see it.

I expect sonnets could be written scientificially. But the process for doing so would be very very complex, especially for a computer. Not because they need to be inventive (Anyone that says computers are not able to be creative, you obviously know very little about A.I.) but due to the wealth of vocabulary, accopanying lexical information, and knowledge of different ideas and concepts.

Your suggestion that computers can write sonnets which are "perfect" but are no good reading is based on the premise of an over simplified interpretation of what sonnets are, and the world in general and is the result of a narrow and unimaginative (or uninformed) mind.

Everything is formula. Art is just more complicated than other things.

Re:Understanding science doesn't eliminate art. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9304921)

The best solution I can come up with involves needle electrodes in a person's brain, yet for some reason everyone I've spoken to has found some problem with this. Why is it so difficult for people to accept that invasive brain surgery coupled with electrical discharges offer us the best opportunity yet of understanding the systems behind the desired responses? If we do it right, we might even be able to do away with the 'art', and stimulate the response electronically. Yet still, despite all these potential benefits, people still say I'm crazy. I'm crazy? You're the ones who are afraid of a little progress. I'm the only same person here!

Isn't that what he is saying? (4, Insightful)

gosand (234100) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304927)

True only if you never leave the cookbook. As with any art, a creative cook is trying to obtain an emotional experience; make the observer (i.e., diner) say "This is good." Since the buttons you're trying to push are deep within the brain's wiring, you're working with a complex system, so intuition often serves better than empirical knowledge. Will paprika work better here, or cinnamon? The answer is often not what would be expected by rational analysis.

I agree, but isn't that what he is saying by the statement "The only subjective part is when you eat it."? I mean, taste is subjective, and that is where the chef really puts the paint to the canvas, so to speak. I mean, if you have art, but you don't know the science, then you are producing pretty stuff that doesn't taste good. Well, I guess technically you don't need to know the science, but if something works well, it is based on science.

I love Alton's shows, because he tells the WHYs. I also love the book Cookwise for the same reasons. If you know why certain things work and why others don't, it gives you a building block for making better food. The chef really needs to be the gauge and the creator. They need to know their audience. They have to put all the "stuff" together in creative (or simple) ways. If you know why things work the way they do, even on a simple level, it helps. A lot. Sure, it may suffice to know things without knowing the science, but learning the WHYs is fun and interesting.

Re:Understanding science doesn't eliminate art. (1)

NewtonTwo (767015) | more than 10 years ago | (#9305048)

The answer is often not what would be expected by rational analysis.

Isn't this post about the 'science' of cooking, I'm sure its mentioned elsewhere that there's already a book on the 'Joy (Art)' of cooking.

Scientific Method [wikipedia.org]

1 Observation
2 Definition
3 Hypothesis
4 Deduction from the hypothesis
5 Experiment
6 Conclusion
7 Evaluation
8 Repeat/Reproduce

As far as I can tell, you pose a question regarding paprika or cinnamon (aka: step 3) and stop.

Re:Understanding science doesn't eliminate art. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9305080)

Everything in art is science, really. Painters need to know (intuitively or directly) how the chemical makeup of different paints/mediums react with various canvases. How watercolors blend, how oils dry. Music is all about measurable scientific quantities, octaves, harmonics, why certain combinations of sound make ear-pleasing "chords", where others make disturbing dissonant sounds.

A good artist has to first understand the science behind his craft, whether it be roasting meat on the grill, or whacking off in the back of the theater during Shrek 2.

Next book... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9304752)

"The Endocrinological Joy Of Sex"

This is why he rules... (5, Funny)

darth_MALL (657218) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304754)

From the article:
"What other chef writes a script in which he gets punched in the head by Boxing Nun puppets named Tender and Flaky, as they fight over whether the two textural qualities can coexist in one pie crust?" Truly an American Icon :-P

The Science Mastered (4, Funny)

Prince Vegeta SSJ4 (718736) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304769)

I don't know how they did it, But McDonalds [mcdonalds.com] has created the perfect food. It contains more calories per gram than any fuel on the planet, ask Morgan Spurlock [rottentomatoes.com] , you can obtain it in a Jiffy [216.239.41.104] .

It is only edible by humans, I've never seen anything else touch my #2. And it never spoils (leave it out and it just gets hard, no mold, no green, no nothing!).

Culinary perfection.

Re:The Science Mastered (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9305084)

>>I've never seen anything else touch my #2

Ask your mother about this.

Of course, there are those who say... (3, Insightful)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304780)

...that science is more of an art than a science.

Obviously, there are certain guidelines to follow, or it's not science (or cooking), it's just messing around. But as long as you're within those guidelines--for both disciplines--it's important to be as creative as possible.

But the main difference here with cooking is that you don't really need to know WHY something works, just that it work. If 10 minutes in the fridge makes my pie crust flakier, great! I don't care if it's about the dual-bond lipids remaining in a suspension long enough for the proteins to bond...

Re:Of course, there are those who say... (1)

Mateito (746185) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304926)

> But the main difference here with cooking is
> that you don't really need to know WHY something
> works, just that it work.

You can say the same thing about chemistry.. you don't need to solve the shroedinger equation everytime you want to determine the outcome of a reaction.

However, it does help to know some of the science behind cooking. Why, for example, can't you beat an egg white if there is even a drop of yolk in it? Knowing things like this means that your waffles don't turn into wavy pancakes.

Everything is Science (4, Funny)

Manassas (569545) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304781)

food, sex, food, sex, food, sex...

Never really got into cooking shows until... (3, Interesting)

Judg3 (88435) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304788)

I was stuck with basic cable, but the cable guy accidentally left the Food network on. Nothing much to watch on basic at 3am, so Food network it was.

That's when I met the stylings of AB - he got me to love to cook. Granted, I always liked to cook, but after watching his show I *love* to cook.
For some reason his style just matches what I like - he talks about something and it sticks in your head. And because he shows the science behind the food, when you make a new dish, you can almost tell the outcome before you start - you know how eveything will react!

Plus, I dig the dry humor, how he refers to the ingredient list as "hardware" and soft(wet)ware", the camera angles you don't see on a regular cooking show - even the corny acting I like hehe.

Re:Never really got into cooking shows until... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9304941)

Food Network is basic cable, so that was no accident.

Hackers are artists, not scientists (3, Insightful)

Kismet (13199) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304792)

A good article on this is "Hackers and Painters" [paulgraham.com] by Paul Graham.

My favorite part:


I've never liked the term "computer science." The main reason I don't like it is that there's no such thing. Computer science is a grab bag of tenuously related areas thrown together by an accident of history, like Yugoslavia. At one end you have people who are really mathematicians, but call what they're doing computer science so they can get DARPA grants. In the middle you have people working on something like the natural history of computers-- studying the behavior of algorithms for routing data through networks, for example. And then at the other extreme you have the hackers, who are trying to write interesting software, and for whom computers are just a medium of expression, as concrete is for architects or paint for painters. It's as if mathematicians, physicists, and architects all had to be in the same department.


I'd apply the same principles to cooking. Alton is a culinary chemist, maybe. A culinary hacker, never.

Re:Hackers are artists, not scientists (3, Insightful)

KodaK (5477) | more than 10 years ago | (#9305104)

A culinary hacker, never.

I disagree. The man added a tailpipe to his charcoal grill so he can blow air into the coals from a modified hair dryer and increase the overall temperature. That's a hardware hack if I've ever seen one.

He's also cooked a roast in a clay flower pot, smoked bacon in a locker, smoked salmon in a cardboard box with a hot plate, among many other "food hacks."

I'd say that stuff pretty well embraces the "hacker ethos" -- as pretentious a term as that may be.

Cooking is an art (2, Insightful)

teutonic_leech (596265) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304798)

There is more to cooking than just science. Think about it - how many variations of 'proteins, acids, amino acids, fats, carbohydrates' are out there? It's not in how those ingredients are being mixed, the magic lies in which ones you mix together. Of course discard the word 'magic' in the context of British recipes ;-)

Re:Cooking is an art (1)

MrP- (45616) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304918)

Yes, cooking is an art.. but once you know how to cook as an art, the science is fun to learn also.. thats why i like Good Eats and Alton's book

Dupe (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9304806)

It's a dupe [slashdot.org]

Steven.

To see what a "science only" chef is like.. (1)

xyloplax (607967) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304807)

See the movie "Mostly Martha" which is not only a fantastic movie, but shows what passionless cooking is like when someone views their job as a technical issue and does not feel for what they do.

It isn't just science... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9304808)

I have been cooking great foods for several years now, and it isn't just science. Geek or not, anyone should be able to follow a recipe and prepare a decent meal. Skill definately plays a part though.

This isn't mixing concrete. No science will tell you what flavors and spices are compatible. Understanding the thermodynamics of your boiling pot of water won't save you from burning your kraft dinner, if you don't have the patience and care to attend to your cooking.

Cooking is really common sense. Follow the recipe, and it should turn out good every time.

IMHO, there is more science in getting the proper balance of vitamins and nutrients from your food, rather than in preparing it.

What ingredients go together... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9304813)

I wish there were more explanations of WHY certain ingredients go well together.
eg: tuna & cheese, beef & tomatoes, carrots, onions & celery (aka "mirepoix"), etc.
Is it the balance between bitter & sweet? Or is it just "magic"

(ps: you should all try root beer & orange juice...now that's a mix that tastes great but looks awful)

TDz.

Re:Although I do like the mythbusters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9304843)

Myth: Washing mushrooms causes them to soak up excess water.

Truth: Even when soaked for 5 minutes, standard button mushrooms retain less than 3 percent of their weight in water. Washing affects them even less.

If you like this, (1, Informative)

nexthec (31732) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304817)

you should check out What Einstein Told His Cook [wwnorton.com] , a interesting, informed and somewhat scientific approach to cooking in the kitchen. To quote a two line review: " Science in the kitchen. Wolke, a columnist for the Washington Post, offers explanations, humour and some pretty engaging recipes. Unlike many other books of this nature, Wolke wields a lively and light pen."

Re:If you like this, (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9304950)

What Einstein Told His Cock:

yummy yummy yummy i got luv in my tummy!

Everything in cooking is science? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9304827)

That's such a useless generalization. That's like saying everything in art is science which is about as good as saying everything in science is art. All these are true to a degree and useful in certain contexts, but generally ambiguous enough to be meaningless.

Re:Everything in cooking is science? (1)

JazzHarper (745403) | more than 10 years ago | (#9305077)

"The Professor to his cook: You are a little
opinionated, and I have had some trouble making you
understand that the phenomena which take place in
your laboratory are nothing other than the execution
of the eternal laws of nature, and that certain
things that you do without thinking, and only
because you have seen others do them, derive
nonetheless from the highest scientific principles".
-- Brillat-Savarin, The Physiology of Taste (1825)

Quoted in the introduction to On Food and Cooking, The Science and Lore of the Kitchen,
by Harold McGee. Highly recommended reading.
--

This weekend (1)

MrRuslan (767128) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304860)

After about 10 shots of vodka i decided to do some food hacking myself and made souptea. I had a cup of noodles and my girlfreind made some tea and i poered half of cup into my soup and taseted it curiusly it wasnt bad. First i tasted the soup then the tea with sugar. Perhaps lipton should make this stuff? a patent is in order!

Good cooking is a science great cooking is an art. (3, Insightful)

cemaco (665884) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304870)

Things like presentation or even knowing how to choose the right ingredients is not an exact science. Then there is variety. Do you want your food made the exact same way with no variety every time and everywhere, because someone is following a set script? Makes me think about food replicators with dread!

ok, he said it way more concisely than i did (1)

caveat (26803) | more than 10 years ago | (#9305004)

that's my problem, i'm always way too wordy when i'm trying to get a simple point across (see my post above for a perfect example).

Re:Good cooking is a science great cooking is an a (1)

hornrimsylvia (696514) | more than 10 years ago | (#9305043)

I think the show discourages everyone getting the same results. Alton shows you what can be varied in a few recipes, but lets you know why it turned out well in the first place. Those are the variables you don't have leeway with. Makes sense to me because I'm a programmer, and I work well with variables. The cooking/mixing is just compiling, and sometimes you need an accelrator or something. Cooking, just like any art, is only an art because someone has a high level of mastery of the fundamentals. This show displays the why of the fundamentals, so we don't have to go through 30 flopped souffles, and continue to do a dance to the souffle goddess for the ones after the good one.

Re:Good cooking is a science great cooking is an a (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9305067)

another food hack -

chocolate bacon

when cooking bacon put 2 or 3 chocolate chips on it. The sugar burns off and leaves the bacon sort of like maple smoked bacon but coacoa.

The non-joy of watching (1)

ballpoint (192660) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304890)

a thermodynamically challenged cook

- cooking rice, pasta or potatoes in an uncovered recipient while the water is boiling feverishly and huge quantities of steam are generated;
- adding enormous amounts of water to a preparation, only to boil it off later on;
- baking meat in overheated and burnt oil that splatters all around;
- continuously shifting pans on and off the heat source instead of it adjusting to a proper power level;
- not turning down a slowly reacting heat source (like an electric plate) when the wanted temperature is nearly reached;
- dumping french^H^H^H^edom fries from the freezer straight into the oil, generating explosions of steam and oil (hint: thaw and warm the fries in a microwave first).

Re:The non-joy of watching (1)

Enry (630) | more than 10 years ago | (#9305006)

cooking rice, pasta or potatoes in an uncovered recipient while the water is boiling feverishly and huge quantities of steam are generated

Don't cover pasta - it'll boil over. The rest you want to leave covered.

adding enormous amounts of water to a preparation, only to boil it off later on

That's ok, so long as you're not losing anything else

baking meat in overheated and burnt oil that splatters all around

Cover in aluminum foil.

continuously shifting pans on and off the heat source instead of it adjusting to a proper power level

There are cases where you want to take something on and off the heat for a little while.

not turning down a slowly reacting heat source (like an electric plate) when the wanted temperature is nearly reached

Uhm...Not sure about this one. Leave the temperature to what tou want and let the hotplate regulate it.

dumping french^H^H^H^edom fries from the freezer straight into the oil, generating explosions of steam and oil

Not a problem either, so long as you don't throw them in and you don't put too many in at one time. Hint: Put in only a few at a time or else the fries will suck too much heat out of the oil and take longer to cook and get really greasy.

Re:The non-joy of watching (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9305008)

Not trying to sound like a troll but...
Everything you just described is cooking 101 that kids learn at school. (atleast i did)

Cooking is a art. Sure it might be science how it reacts. But i yet have to meet science that explains why certain ingrediants taste well together. You can not brute force the perfect dish, the perfect dish comes from years of experience seeing what people like and tasting how it tastes. (i guess that in a way is brute forcing but i guess you get my point..) Creating a recipe is a art, creating the food is art, small variations that bring all the flavour is a art. Sure you can just go and follow the recipe 100% and get boring monotone food.. if you so wish..

Nothing to see here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9304908)

If you are a fan Alton Brown, then you have already seen everything there is in the article - so save your money. About 30% of it is practically a transcript of the "I Pie" episode anyway.

If you aren't already a fan, check it out. In the two minutes it takes to read it, you'll know if it's your cup of tea or not.

Alton's cause (3, Interesting)

Woogiemonger (628172) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304939)

Well, Alton's certainly not training master artists that you'd find in a 4 star restaurant last I checked, but he knows what he's talking about in terms of food. To be a chef, from my experience.. I'm an amateur ... you first need to be a scientist. The art of cooking comes afterwards. If your bread doesn't rise, that's a piece of garbage, not your distinctive style of bread.

Also, Alton knows a whole lot about how to make the cooking experience more enjoyable so you can worry about the art more than the science. The best way to thaw a chicken.. put it in a bowl with barely running cold water spilling into it, rather than having it sit in the oven. See, now I can worry more about what seasoning to choose instead!

Zen proverb (1)

mikeee (137160) | more than 10 years ago | (#9305036)

What is appropriate for the master is not appropriate for the student. Once the building is complete, we tear down the scaffolding.

Two biggies so far from Alton Brown... (1)

dpilot (134227) | more than 10 years ago | (#9305113)

1: The confidence to let meat/poultry SIT there on the grill cooking, and not keep flipping it. As a result, my grilled foods are still properly cooked, but there's less tendancy to dry them out.

2: The basic roux. Making gravy has evaded my wife for years. A few iterations and adaptations of AB's basic roux recipe, and I can make gravy that the family enjoys.

I really need to try making meringues, again. I was never happy with my results, years ago. Outer shell a bit hard, inside overcooked, airgap in between.

You might also want to check out.. (2, Informative)

gadders (73754) | more than 10 years ago | (#9304948)

Heston Blumenthal [guardian.co.uk] , the improbably named chef of the two-Michelin-star rated Fat Duck restaurant [fatduck.co.uk] in Bray, England. He has a show on the Discovery Channel in the UK called Kitchen Chemistry [discoverychannel.co.uk] where he discusses "the science behind cooking and how it affects the way that we perceive taste and flavour."

I've only eaten at his brasserie, but the food was superb. This chap knows what he's doing.

If you like Alton Brown... (3, Interesting)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 10 years ago | (#9305010)

Chances are, you'll also like "What Einstien Told His Cook" by Robert Wolke. It's a very scientific view of cooking, telling you exactly why things happen the way they do in cooking and going over the chemical process. It's a very fun read, and is not only informative but humorous as well.

Great book. You can read reviwes and stuff about it here [tinyurl.com] .

Good Eats (0, Redundant)

KrisHolland (660643) | more than 10 years ago | (#9305050)

I always watch Good Eats, I think someone has all the episodes on Suprnova.

I use a microwave oven (1, Funny)

WormholeFiend (674934) | more than 10 years ago | (#9305073)

so, can I call it "magneto-thermo-nuclear" cooking?

But which came first? (1)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | more than 10 years ago | (#9305097)

The octopus [8legged.com] or this guy?
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