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The Father of Molecular Gastronomy Whips Up a New Formula

Zonk posted about 7 years ago | from the delicious-science dept.

Science 144

An anonymous reader writes "French chemist and cook Hervé This maintains his quest to find the scientific precision behind great tasting food. Chef This is just one of a growing number of cooks that approaches food from a scientific perspective; making recipes in a lab instead of in the kitchen. The difference is that This was one of the pioneers of the field. 'This and a colleague, the late Oxford physicist Nicholas Kurti, conducted the experiments in their spare time. In 1988, the pair coined a term to describe their nascent field: molecular gastronomy. The name has since been applied to the kitchen wizardry of chefs like el Bulli's Ferran Adria and Alinea's Grant Achatz. But This is interested in basic culinary knowledge -- not flashy preparations -- and has continued to accumulate his precisions, which now number some 25,000.'"

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Grammar? (-1, Offtopic)

Valacosa (863657) | about 7 years ago | (#20127849)

Okay Slashdot, seriously, what the hell? The first couple of sentences don't even make sense, if you can even call them sentences. Where are the periods? Ugh, thanks Slashdot, for convincing me to get some sleep.

Re:Grammar? (4, Informative)

rm999 (775449) | about 7 years ago | (#20127875)

The guy's name is "This." Yes, you probably do need some sleep, and I do too because I thought the same thing at first ;)

Re:Grammar? (5, Funny)

The Clockwork Troll (655321) | about 7 years ago | (#20128001)

This "this" is not that this. That "this" is this but this "this" is This. Got that?

Re:Grammar? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20128301)

What?

Re:Grammar? (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | about 7 years ago | (#20128557)

It depends on what the meaning of the word 'this' is.

Re:Grammar? (5, Funny)

Gordonjcp (186804) | about 7 years ago | (#20128059)

An object-orientated chef?
 

$this->makeMousse('chocolate');

Re:Grammar? (1)

lpontiac (173839) | about 7 years ago | (#20128203)

Your code isn't enterprise enough. I'm not usually a fan of enterprise code, but.. chocolate factory.. mmm..

Re:Grammar? (1)

Eudial (590661) | about 7 years ago | (#20129261)

Oh the misunderstandings!

Assimilate This! No wait... where are you going?!

- That's no knife... This is a knife!
- Really, he is?!

- This IS SPARTA!
- Really, he is?!

You get the picture.

Re:Grammar? (1)

ian_mackereth (889101) | about 7 years ago | (#20127877)

Now that you've had a good night's sleep, you'll see that the chef's surname is "This", which is what was confusing you in your fatigue-addled state.

Re:Grammar? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20127887)

This is his name.

Re:Grammar? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20127915)

So, Who's on first?

Re:Grammar? (0, Offtopic)

bytesex (112972) | about 7 years ago | (#20127979)

Yes.

Re:Grammar? (0, Offtopic)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 7 years ago | (#20128137)

No, he's in right field!

Re:Grammar? (-1, Troll)

edittard (805475) | about 7 years ago | (#20128073)

It looks to me like it's either written by a non-native speaker and/or it was machine translated.

Re:Grammar? (1, Informative)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 7 years ago | (#20128441)

Whoever modded the parent troll is an ass. Precisions exists in French (if you put an acute on the e), and it means details. The word doesn't exist in English since an uncountable noun has no plural.

Seems like a case of a faux-ami, non?

Re:Grammar? (0, Offtopic)

dbIII (701233) | about 7 years ago | (#20128221)

There are no periods - full stop.

If This is confusing, RTFA (0)

niktesla (761443) | about 7 years ago | (#20127857)

If you are confused by the psoting, read the *fine* article! It will clarify This! ;) I hope I'm not the only one who had a time figuring out This article.

Re:If This is confusing, RTFA (0, Offtopic)

siyavash (677724) | about 7 years ago | (#20128035)

Dear sir,

As the fellow spelling nazi, I would like to let you know about a spelling error in your post. It should be "posting", not "psoting".

From now on, please do use the preview button before posting.

best regards
The spell ferry!

Just kidding mate. :p ...but seriously, you are right. The article made much more sense thant the short version of it.

Re:If This is confusing, RTFA (-1, Offtopic)

jez9999 (618189) | about 7 years ago | (#20128065)

As a superior spelling Nazi, I'd like to inform you that 'Nazi' should be capitalized.

Re:If This is confusing, RTFA (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20128081)

As a typography Nazi, I'd like to point out that your choice of quotation mark is incorrect.

You should be using 'proper quotes' rather than 'fail quotes'.

Re:If This is confusing, RTFA (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20128181)

I am not the ones being corrected, but in their behalf, as the "I'm tired of compulsive correctors" Nazi, I sentence you all to be executed for wasting our time with grammar correction posts. Life's too short to not allow for a few small errors in the communications of others once in a while. While compulsive correctness is valuable and desirable when writing code, normal human interaction requires tolerance and flexibility . If you have Asperger's Syndrome with grammar idiot savant specialty, you probably have a valuable role in your programming organization. But jeeze, all of you, cut others a break on fiddly small grammar errors. The world is imperfect. You cannot possibly make it perfect, and instead you make yourself endlessly intrusive.

Re:If This is confusing, RTFA (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20128669)

As a 'Meta Nazi' Nazi, I deem you to all be gay Jews and to be gassed at the morning of Friday, August 8. As Nazis, I expect you to demonstrate your loyalty to the party and perform the gassing yourselves.

Re:If This is confusing, RTFA (0, Offtopic)

focoma (865351) | about 7 years ago | (#20128255)

The article made much more sense thant the short version of it.
Please hand over your Spelling Nazi card before leaving. Thank you.

Re:If This is confusing, RTFA (0, Offtopic)

siyavash (677724) | about 7 years ago | (#20128267)

It's on the table over there. But damn you! :(

hehhe... I noticed that error the second I clicked "submit" and I was like "Do'h". My co-worker looked funny at me.

Re:If This is confusing, RTFA (-1, Offtopic)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 7 years ago | (#20128451)

"My co-worker looked funny at me."

You wouldn't happen to be a nuclear technician?

Re:If This is confusing, RTFA (-1, Offtopic)

Muad'Dave (255648) | about 7 years ago | (#20129035)

The spell ferry!

So you're a boat that is typically used for transporting goods, vehicles, and passengers across relatively short distances that has been pressed into service carrying magical paraphernalia for Hogwarts, I presume?

Perhaps you meant "The Spelling Faerie" or "The Spelling Fairy"?

Food Network (1)

Walzmyn (913748) | about 7 years ago | (#20128349)

Yeah, that was a bit confusing.
But dosen't "Chef This" sound like a great title for a Food Network show?

This is confusing..(off topic) (4, Funny)

utenaslashed (882318) | about 7 years ago | (#20127895)

Every reply has "Reply to This"... and 'This et al.' could be abbreviated as 'These'..endless fun..pun?

Re:This is confusing..(off topic) (1)

CptPicard (680154) | about 7 years ago | (#20129999)

Just imagine the amount of mail the poor guy is getting when apparently all replies on slashdot go to him!

This (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20127907)

This is an interesting article

Re:This (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20129447)

This is not an article!

Confused (-1, Redundant)

irishstallion (1008667) | about 7 years ago | (#20127917)

What is his name?

Re:Confused (2, Funny)

irishstallion (1008667) | about 7 years ago | (#20127925)

You are wrong, sir. This is his name.

Re:Confused (0, Redundant)

irishstallion (1008667) | about 7 years ago | (#20127933)

No, that's what I am asking you, what is his name?

Re:Confused (0, Redundant)

irishstallion (1008667) | about 7 years ago | (#20127945)

Are you deaf? What's not his name, This is his name.

Re:Confused (0, Redundant)

irishstallion (1008667) | about 7 years ago | (#20127957)

Are you being a wise guy here? I don't care what his name isn't, I want to know what it is!

Re:Confused (0, Redundant)

irishstallion (1008667) | about 7 years ago | (#20127969)

This is his name, and that's all there is to it!

Re:Confused (0, Redundant)

RuBLed (995686) | about 7 years ago | (#20127951)

You are wrong, sir. This is his name.


So what is his name?

(I'm so burned by This...)

Re:Confused (0, Redundant)

RuBLed (995686) | about 7 years ago | (#20127963)

Note: I'm so not replying to myself more than once...

Who's This? (0, Redundant)

coldcell (714061) | about 7 years ago | (#20127987)

Queue the endless "Who's on first" routines:

"Who's This?"

"This is a chef, Who is a comedian."

"What?"

...etc. :)

Re:Who's This? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20127999)

I swear to God I'm going to start kicking random people in the balls in the middle of the street if people keep saying "queue ". It's "cue"! CUE the endless "Who's on first" routines!

Re:Who's This? (0, Offtopic)

Synonymous Dastard (1126353) | about 7 years ago | (#20128209)

Ok.

Queue. Queue. Queue. Queue queue queue. QUEUE!

Please post the videos ;)

Re:Who's This? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20128605)

If you're in the middle of the street, how can you tell if they're saying 'queue' or 'cue'?

Re:Who's This? (0, Offtopic)

Synonymous Dastard (1126353) | about 7 years ago | (#20128733)

If they say "This is a Maître Cue" instead of "This is a Maître Queux", the pronunciation is not the same.
However, we're back to the topic.

Re:Who's This? (0, Offtopic)

yellowalienbaby (897469) | about 7 years ago | (#20128731)

hoho. I only decided to read the comments to see how quickly someone mentioned LArry Curly n Mo

Re:Who's This? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20129571)

Why would someone mention Larry, Curly, and Moe? And where do you see them mentioned? You need to brush up on your vaudevillians.

More on This (5, Informative)

dargaud (518470) | about 7 years ago | (#20127995)

He has a monthly page in the french edition of Scientific American (Pour La Science [pourlascience.com] ) and several books out: He's also a nice guy and I've exchanged cooking tips with him by email !

Re:More on This (1)

japa (28571) | about 7 years ago | (#20128019)

He's also a nice guy and I've exchanged cooking tips with him by email !

I wonder if he likes the slashdot effect to his Inbox which the above comment of yours is likely to generate :).

Re:More on This (3, Informative)

ivano (584883) | about 7 years ago | (#20128079)

Or go to the bible: McGee's "On food and cooking"

McGee On Food and Cooking is the bible (3, Informative)

Richard W.M. Jones (591125) | about 7 years ago | (#20128563)

Mod parent up.

Even better, a link to the book at Amazon: McGee On Food and Cooking (Hardcover) [amazon.com] . (The hardcover version is worth getting).

Rich.

Re:McGee On Food and Cooking is the bible (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20128807)

One-liner book review (3, Insightful)

Stavr0 (35032) | about 7 years ago | (#20129221)

If you're a science geek get these books
If you're a cooking geek ('foodie') get these books

If you're a science geek and a cooking geek you already have these books.

Molecular Gastronomy would make an excellent Slashdot book review.

Let's not forget Ferran Adria (2, Informative)

spun (1352) | about 7 years ago | (#20129673)

His El Bulli restaurant beat out Heston Blumenthal's The Fat Duck in the Restaurant Top 50. He is also considered a pioneer of molecular gastronomy and has written several books on the subject. He was featured on Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, with dishes like cotton candy fish.

We have Heston Blumenthal (5, Informative)

simong (32944) | about 7 years ago | (#20128023)

And his restaurant [fatduck.co.uk] . He has become notorious for his creations such as smoked bacon flavoured ice cream and snail porridge (which is actually supposed to be a snail risotto made with oats). He also says that Molecular gastronomy is dead [guardian.co.uk] , so who do we believe?

Re:We have Heston Blumenthal (1)

edittard (805475) | about 7 years ago | (#20128105)

He also says that Molecular gastronomy is dead, so who do we believe?
Certainly not the grauniad. What does netcraft say?

Re:We have Heston Blumenthal (3, Informative)

otie (915090) | about 7 years ago | (#20128123)

As the article you linked says, Blumenthal just said the term "molecular gastronomy" is confusing and elitist. He doesn't mean the actual field where scientific precision is used to examine cooking is dead.

Re:We have Heston Blumenthal (2, Informative)

uohcicds (472888) | about 7 years ago | (#20128307)

Blumenthal's restaurant (complete with a research kitchen) The Fat Duck in Bray was named the Worlds' Best Restaurant in 2005 by "Restaurant" magazine (see http://www.theworlds50best.com/ [theworlds50best.com] ). It also came second in 2004, 2006 and 2007. I always enjoyed the columns he wrote for the Guardian (he now writes for the Sunday Times), which I found fun, interesting and not pompous at all, unusually for the food industry. He's recently done some TV in the UK in a series called "In Search of Perfection", where he tries to put new spins on traditional foods, such as spaghetti Bolognese, Black Forest gateau, roast beef, fish & chips etc.. The piece where he effectively created a sandblaster to coat the Black Forest Gateau with chocolate was something indeed to behold.

Re:We have Heston Blumenthal (4, Interesting)

julesh (229690) | about 7 years ago | (#20128341)

One thing I've tried and loved is Blumenthal's ideas for low temperature cooking [wikipedia.org] . There's something about a joint of beef, roast for 10 hours at 55 degrees, that is hard to imagine until you've tried it...

Re:We have Heston Blumenthal (2, Informative)

sjwaste (780063) | about 7 years ago | (#20129055)

If anyone's interested in this and is in the DC area, you can taste it affordably. Central Michel Richard, I think on 12th and Pennsylvania, has short ribs on the menu cooked sous vide. And it'll only set you back like $25. I had 'em, definitely the best thing on the menu.

Re:We have Heston Blumenthal (2, Interesting)

jfengel (409917) | about 7 years ago | (#20130057)

Also, chef Jose Andres at Cafe Atlantico among others. One of my favorites: his "magic mojito", consisting of a ball of mojito-flavored cotton candy and a wad of "lime air", which is an intensely-flavored foam with a consistency of soap bubbles. (It's got to be some sort of edible emulsifier and lime oil.)

Next week I'm going to his Minibar, basically a 30-course showoff of molecular gastronomy (and a lot more than $25, I'm afraid. It's a birthday present to a foodie friend of mine and a once-in-a-lifetime experience, at least at that price.)

Re:We have Heston Blumenthal (1)

Otter (3800) | about 7 years ago | (#20129597)

There's something about a joint of beef, roast for 10 hours at 55 degrees, that is hard to imagine until you've tried it...

I puzzled over how cold your home must be if you can cook at 55 degrees (and my wife always complains because I keep the thermostat at 60!) before realizing you meant 55 C!

Here in Fahrenheit Land, we call cooking like that "barbecue" and it's long familiar to even the lowliest hillbilly. But as you say, it's hard to imagine how good it is until you've tried it.

Re:We have Heston Blumenthal (3, Informative)

sjwaste (780063) | about 7 years ago | (#20129679)

Barbecue is very similar, but the method I think we're talking about is sous vide. Basically, the meat is sealed up in a vacuum bag and cooked at even a lower temp than bbq generally is done, usually at the "done" temperature of whatever it is you're cooking. So for a medium rare piece of beef, you put the pouch in 130 degree water for sometimes days until its done.

Barbecue uses slightly higher temperatures and smoke as its dry heat source. Also, the meat is not sealed up with its juices. So you get something similar (and delicious), but not quite the same. If you ever come across it, give it a shot.

Re:We have Heston Blumenthal (1)

Otter (3800) | about 7 years ago | (#20129851)

Ah, I see -- thanks! I read an article about sous vide in the Amtrak magazine (I think it featured the place you mentioned in your other post) on a long, slow ride from Boston to DC with nothing to eat but Amtrak hot dogs and frozen pizzas. I'd have rushed off to the restaurant immediately upon arrival if the train hadn't come in at 1 am.

But does it taste good? (4, Interesting)

DrogMan (708650) | about 7 years ago | (#20128053)

There was a (UK) TV program on recently with a bloke who specialises in puddings (Sweet Baby James or something it's called and he makes the most fantastic easy to make puddings!!!) and he challenged a scientific chef and Mrs Farmhouse cook to bake a Victoria sponge cake... The boffin at HQ went to great lengths about how important it was to measure the ingredients and combine them in such a way and timed the cooking to the second... Mrs. Farmhouse woman just put in some of this and enough of that and beat it up with a hand whisk until it looked OK then baked it "until it's done".

Then they took the cakes to the cake buyer/tester in Harrods. Guess which one tasted and looked the best? The Mrs. Farmhouse one, of-course!

There's also a series on right now hosted by some scientific cook bod - it's quite entertaining, (especially when he deep fried a whole chicken in the last series - left it in a second too long and it caught fire) but I can't help thinking his name ought to be a "new millenium" substitute for "Gordon Bennett"... It's "Heston Blumenthal".

Re:But does it taste good? (2, Informative)

transiit (33489) | about 7 years ago | (#20128233)

you're getting bogged down in the sensationalism.

An understanding of some of the chemical or molecular interactions in your food can be handy knowledge. It'll keep you away from the old Swedish Lemon Angel [everything2.com] debacle at least.

My limited experience with food scientists suggests that they rarely think about measuring things to infinite precision, but rather think about the underlying systems. More of a hacker mentality.

Re:But does it taste good? (1)

julesh (229690) | about 7 years ago | (#20128371)

It's worth noting the Blumenthal runs a restaurant considered by many to be one of the best in the world.

Just saying...

Re:But does it taste good? (4, Insightful)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | about 7 years ago | (#20128405)

Cooking, molecular or otherwise, is not about getting the recipe right to the nth decimal. As someone wrote in another post, you'll always have variations in products, temperatures, cooking ware etc. Completing a recipe to perfection has a lot to do with reacting to feedback: knowing your ingredients, smells, texture, taste. Mrs. Farmhouse got it right with her "looks ok" approach; the "scientific chef" was being a silly. If you ignore the feedback and just watch the egg timer, it won't come out as good.

Cooking science is about understanding what happens to food when we prepare it. It won't give us a runbook to achieve that perfect flavour, but it will help us to understand the process so that we get better at managing it.

Re:But does it taste good? (1)

spun (1352) | about 7 years ago | (#20129737)

The lady must have made a lot of sponge cakes to get it right without a recipe. Baking is far harder to get right than cooking, and sponge cakes can be very tricky. In baking, a difference of 1/4 teaspoon in some ingredients, or 10 degrees, or for puff pastry, the humidity, can totally change a recipe.

Cooking science isn't just about what happens to food when we prepare it. Food scientists know that different people react to different flavors differently. Some people can't even taste certain flavors.

Re:But does it taste good? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20129719)

You may be thinking of Alton Brown. He's got a show on the food network called "Good Eats". He is crazy smart, very funny, and took a lot of science in culinary school. He has a unique style that blends cooking with science.

Lab Snacks (1)

Aqua OS X (458522) | about 7 years ago | (#20128069)

I don't see what's very new about this story.

Come on, this is Slashdot. Half of the people here live off food that was flavor-engineered in a lab and vacu-formed into some sort of food-like eXtreme cheese thing.

Re:Lab Snacks (1)

RuBLed (995686) | about 7 years ago | (#20128091)

yummy pizza...

Re:Lab Snacks (2, Interesting)

pla (258480) | about 7 years ago | (#20128211)

Come on, this is Slashdot. Half of the people here live off food that was flavor-engineered in a lab and vacu-formed into some sort of food-like eXtreme cheese thing.

I highly recommend the book "Twinky, Deconstructed" to elaborate on your point. Informative, and despite the subject matter, makes for a light, enjoyable read.

I've always cared about what I eat and could identify at least the basic purpose of most items on an ingredient label ("Sugar, sugar, an emollient, another sugar, preservative, etc"), but this book really taught me quite a lot. I can't say it did much to improve my apetite for mass-produced snack foods, but most of it blew me away as to why, for example, they use so many different sugars (short reason for a lot of the less obvious ingredients - the less water they use, the longer food stays fresh).

It also surprised me how much of our food production qualifies as a matter of national security. Or how much of it comes from a mine rather than a farm (really!).


(I have no connection to the author or publisher).

How many geeks like to cook? (4, Informative)

spun (1352) | about 7 years ago | (#20129827)

Okay, I have a theory that a certain number of geeks love to cook and are really very good at it. I've been cooking since I was eight and I can make almost anything without looking at a recipe. I may be wrong, but I imagine some very good cooks post here.

One resource I can't recommend highly enough is Cook's Illustrated magazine, put out by the folks who do the PBS show, America's Test Kitchen. It has no advertisements, just in depth recipes and reviews you can trust. In each recipe, the highlight common problems and the solutions they've found through experimentation. They also tell about the failures and why they failed, and the science behind what went right and wrong.

harold mcgee (2, Informative)

romit_icarus (613431) | about 7 years ago | (#20128083)

One of the best books to offer the basics of the 'science' of cooking is Harold Mcgee's On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. http://www.amazon.com/Food-Cooking-Science-Lore-Ki tchen/dp/0684800012/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/105-1551306-21 10061?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1186389795&sr=8-1 [amazon.com]

German "version": Thomas Vilgis (1)

pimpimpim (811140) | about 7 years ago | (#20129773)

For the Germans among us I can recommend the books of Thomas Vilgis [mpip-mainz.mpg.de] . It doesn't cover the total range of food science and food history as McGee does, but does a nice job bringing the main physical principles of food technology.

As for the people that confuse this 'molecular gastronomy' with 'Engineered food' and preprocessed food, you miss the point. It is about taking the normal ingredients, you could even get it from the organic food store if you want, but trying to understand what the background-cause is of, for example, the cake that went wrong, or how to make a well-done steak. This can all be done without any chemical additives, just using good ingredients and the knowledge of the cooking process. This knowledge is still lacking a lot, it is very complicated physics and chemistry here, you also need to have a background in both to fully understand what is happening.

Science and cookery (4, Interesting)

19061969 (939279) | about 7 years ago | (#20128085)

This article reminds me of a course that used to be run at Bristol University called, "The physics of a Black Forest gateau" by Peter Barham. By all accounts, it was tremendously popular and always fully booked, so much so that other culinary treats were dealt with in the same manner (http://www.bris.ac.uk/news/2005/874.html)

Food from a chemistry lab? (1)

FiniteElementalist (1073824) | about 7 years ago | (#20128129)

I'm afraid of what happens if he decides to kick it up a notch.

BAM!

Kitchen and Baseball (0, Redundant)

aysa (452184) | about 7 years ago | (#20128155)

This's in the kitchen but Who's on first and What's on second?

lab vs home made. (3, Interesting)

timmarhy (659436) | about 7 years ago | (#20128227)

There very good reasons that home made always tastes better then anything manufactured in a lab, and it's nothing to do with love or "vibe" or any of that hippy crap.

one reason, is that at home we have the ability to adapt to variations in the raw product, which you will get no matter how hard you try to control in a lab.

the other, is that the taste and smell receptors in our mouth are many factors more sensitive then lab equipment, meaning cooking "till it's done" is just a laymans way of saying a good cooks sense of smell is a much better indication of when food is ready then any lab insturment.

so while the IDEA that food can be scientifically expressed is correct, we are a LONG way from being able compete with those old nanna's down the road who make that awesome apple pie.

Re:lab vs home made. (2, Informative)

DecPascal (539598) | about 7 years ago | (#20128817)

Do not missunderstand This. His purpose is knowledge of what append while cooking, not the way or where it is done.
One of his first discovery was the yellow part of an egg is cooked at 68C and white part at 63C. It seems nobody ever wonder about it!
The direct application of this knowledge is to make "perfect" boiled eggs. Simply put eggs in an oven at 65C. (You can do it at home, like I did ;-) )
Other example: He discovered that quicker an ice cream was frozen, smaller were cristals in it, and smaller critals are, better it taste.
Application: Some restaurants make "liquid nitrogen" ice-cream (you are breathing 4 time more nitrogen than oxygen, so no nitrogen is no dangerous). More diffcult to do at home :-s
This do not care about application (well, at least, he does not felt responsible of it). The knowledge is a key, that can open many doors. Some of his research are used for cooking jam or better cork (to avoid corked wine), not for try to poison the whole planet ;-)

Meh! (1)

Linker3000 (626634) | about 7 years ago | (#20128277)

And you really think the following are made or formulated in Granny's kitchen and not by chemists in some industrial-sized 'lab':

Cola & other soft drinks
Yoghurt
Cheese in spray cans
Extruded corn snacks
Fast food burgers
etc.

Re:Meh! (1)

TheJasper (1031512) | about 7 years ago | (#20128545)

And you really think the following are made or formulated in Granny's kitchen and not by chemists in some industrial-sized 'lab':
well, let's see.

Cola & other soft drinks
Well, Cola was originaly created by a chemist/pharmacist type of person, and nowadays that pretty much equates to industrial lab.

Yoghurt
Well, maybe you are fooled by the ultra expensive left-turning specially formulated guaranteed to extend your life by 10 year or 5 minutes (whichever is less). I however eat regular yoghurt. As has been made for thousands of years. Sure, the mass production probably occurs in controlled, sterile conditions. But not much industrial lab in there.

Cheese in spray cans
Well, if you want to call it cheese....

Extruded corn snacks
hmm, maybe. Not necessarily though. Also industrial isn't equal to lab.

Fast food burgers
what lab? you take a cow, grind it up and make patties. Where does the lab come in? Industrial sure. Are there artificial additives? Probably. On the whole though it doesn't qualify in my book.
Personally I buy gound beef and make my own hamburgers.

Sure the food industry uses chemistry and what not. Why not? This doesn't mean all our food comes out of a lab.

I suggest for your next meal you skip Mcdonalds, walk past Pizza Hut, take a left at Taco Bell and go into the grocery store. Ok it get difficult now. Do not go to the cold freezer section. Go to that place you always skip. You know, you always thought it was florist? Well they sell vegetables. They come from the ground. In fact you can buy a whole lot of non-factory foods if only you agree to food which requires more work than your average microwave is willing to do.

Re:Meh! (1)

Linker3000 (626634) | about 7 years ago | (#20129399)

Speaking as one who lives in the middle of the country and buys all their produce at local farm shops, I think you are taking my post too seriously.

Re:Meh! (1)

TheJasper (1031512) | about 7 years ago | (#20129973)

Speaking as one who gets sick of people complaining how hard it is to eat healthy food when all they have to do is stop with the candy and start with the carrots... well yes you're absolutely right.

btw I'm not kidding. Here in the netherlands I've heard people complain about how hard it is to eat healthy and even the consumer union said that supermarkets weren't doing enough to label healthy foods! My god, look it's an apple! what's that in the sky, is a brocoli? is it a brussel sprout? No its supper food! I figured everyones mom taught them candy bad veggies good, but apparantly some people are to dense for words. Personally I say stuff em full of sugar and let them die. Or else let them take responsibility for themselves. But I digress ;)

Are there many Slashdot geeks who cook? (3, Interesting)

pandrijeczko (588093) | about 7 years ago | (#20128299)

I must say that working (and playing) with computers all of my life, I thoroughly enjoy cooking as a welcome diversion from the world of silicon into the world of the organic.

My general rules for cooking are as follows:

1. The wok is my best friend - in it I can do anything from simple stir fries to complex curries & other Asian dishes.

2. Stir, stir and stir some more.

3. Despite being a techie and part time programmer where accuracy and preparation are paramount, I NEVER obey a recipe. Cooking is always about tasting and making things up as you go along, I cannot stand the formality around eating - serve it up with a nice wine or two to friends and just get on with enjoying it.

4. Unless you do something really silly, or try to make a recipe that's far too complex, it's impossible to mess things up. Again, it's all about making it up as you go along with a rough knowledge of what herbs go with what meats or fish.

Any other programming cooks reading this?

Re:Are there many Slashdot geeks who cook? (1)

timmarhy (659436) | about 7 years ago | (#20128501)

i cook - a lot. and i program a lot. in fact i grow my own herbs and brew my own beers, purely for taste. as far as most herbs go fresh (real fresh, not 2 week old supermarket "fresh") is the best.

Re:Are there many Slashdot geeks who cook? (1)

Praseodymn (195411) | about 7 years ago | (#20128551)

Though I would agree that a wok is a very useful tool, I'd have to disagree with your last two points.
You should follow a recipe the first time around, but more importantly than that, you should compare as many different recipes for a given item as you can get your hands on to see which are the most basic, most fundamental, and accurate. You can therefore toss out the ones that won't work. There are a lot of broken recipes around.
Second, you most certainly CAN screw up. A lot of people do. I've been cooking professionally for 5 years (I'm very young), and I screw up fairly regularly. We learn from mistakes, so not admitting that you've made a mistake is missing an opportunity to improve.

That being said, enthusiasm amongst amateurs is a godsend. Too many people don't respect the work of professional cooks. Good to see an article on /. about my particular area of geekdom.

Re:Are there many Slashdot geeks who cook? (2, Interesting)

TheJasper (1031512) | about 7 years ago | (#20128583)

Actually I know a lot of cooking nerds. In fact, Andrew Tanenbaum has even written a cookbook called 'How to prepare your input'.

My rules are:

1. Taste it. Taste it raw, taste it cooking and taste it done. Taste herbs, spices, meat, fish, oil, vinegar. basically everything. Am I being clear on this?

2. Nothing makes up for good ingredients and good materials. I generally don't like aluminum pans because the thermal properties suck.

3. Because of being a programmer where accuracy and preparation are paramount, I NEVER obey a recipe. You see, recipes don't take into account local variations. Thus they are only guidelines. Following a recipe to the letter is often a prelude to disaster. anyway most recipes aren't even that exact. A pinch of salt. Medium heat.

4. Cooking is easy. Most of it is a question of technique. This requires practice. Some techniques are difficult. Most aren't. Don't be afraid. Just do. And pretend that whatever comes out of the kitchen is exactly as you'd planned it.

Re:Are there many Slashdot geeks who cook? (1)

pedestrian crossing (802349) | about 7 years ago | (#20128665)

2. Nothing makes up for good ingredients and good materials. I generally don't like aluminum pans because the thermal properties suck.

Copper rules!

3. Because of being a programmer where accuracy and preparation are paramount, I NEVER obey a recipe. You see, recipes don't take into account local variations. Thus they are only guidelines. Following a recipe to the letter is often a prelude to disaster. anyway most recipes aren't even that exact. A pinch of salt. Medium heat.

I like the advice of an earlier poster, look at several recipes for the same thing and decide how you are going to proceed from there. Putting a laptop in the kitchen to surf recipes has been great.

4. Cooking is easy. Most of it is a question of technique. This requires practice. Some techniques are difficult. Most aren't. Don't be afraid. Just do. And pretend that whatever comes out of the kitchen is exactly as you'd planned it.

Like Julia Child said, "Never apologize for your cooking."

Re:Are there many Slashdot geeks who cook? (1)

Oktober Sunset (838224) | about 7 years ago | (#20129335)

Copper rules!

Cast Iron FTW!

Re:Are there many Slashdot geeks who cook? (1)

chefbb (691732) | about 7 years ago | (#20128695)

1. Taste it. Taste it raw, taste it cooking and taste it done. Taste herbs, spices, meat, fish, oil, vinegar. basically everything. Am I being clear on this?
Crystal. :) You will NEVER be a really good cook until you can identify what good food tastes, smells, looks, sounds and feels like. Try as many dishes as possible.

Re:Are there many Slashdot geeks who cook? (1)

dreamchaser (49529) | about 7 years ago | (#20128679)

I've cooked even longer than I've worked with computers, and the latter started at around age 9 or 10. I love science and am a huge fan of physics and chemistry from a semi layman (I majored in chem briefly and worked some in the industry) standpoint. I'm a huge geek in many areas. I also loathe this approach to cooking. To me cooking is an art, and the subtle vagaries (which often bring to mind Chaos theory and it's ilk) are one of the most beautiful things about it.

I think we're as likely to break down cooking into pure science as we are to create a truly sentient machine intelligence within the next 20 years. That being said, there are some fascinating things about 'molecular gastronomy'. I just think the end result loses something, perhaps a bit of it's humanity?

Those are just my opinions of course, as one who loves cooking and science. As always, your milage may vary.

Re:Are there many Slashdot geeks who cook? (1)

Kantana (185308) | about 7 years ago | (#20128759)

I'd consider my self a programming cook - allthough my cooking is only a hobby.

My approach is a bit different than yours, seemingly - I'd say get some good recipes, and obey them.

Why? Obeying recipes is generally an efficient way of avoiding poor results. Sure, lots of stuff is easy to make, but say you want to make Creme Brulee, or thick 'n chewy chocolate chip cookies or a nice italian risotto? Unless you're careful, the creme brulee will turn grainy, your cookies won't be chewy and the risotto will be soggy... It's not that any of these things are especially hard to make, but you DO need to follow the recipes closely, unless you want to rely on blind luck.

Maybe these things are what you label "far too complex" - but really, they're not. They just require you to read the recipe before you start, and adhere to it. After you made them a few times, THEN you can start changing things around if you feel like it.

Dont get me wrong - there's nothing wrong with cooking things up ad hoc style, seasoning as you go, but unless you've cooked something similar to whatever you're trying to make many times before, it will be hard to get any consistent results. Once you do know the recipe by heart, THEN you can experiment.

That's my way of doing things, anyways :)

Re:Are there many Slashdot geeks who cook? (1)

jrjarrett (949308) | about 7 years ago | (#20129147)

3. Despite being a techie and part time programmer where accuracy and preparation are paramount, I NEVER obey a recipe. Cooking is always about tasting and making things up as you go along, I cannot stand the formality around eating - serve it up with a nice wine or two to friends and just get on with enjoying it.

Ugh. I, too, am a techie geek and I find when I deviate even the slightest from a recipe, I create something that you could use as an adhesive to hold the tiles on the Space Shuttle.

Re:Are there many Slashdot geeks who cook? (1)

AdamWeeden (678591) | about 7 years ago | (#20129947)

3. Despite being a techie and part time programmer where accuracy and preparation are paramount, I NEVER obey a recipe. Cooking is always about tasting and making things up as you go along, I cannot stand the formality around eating - serve it up with a nice wine or two to friends and just get on with enjoying it.
Ugh. I, too, am a techie geek and I find when I deviate even the slightest from a recipe, I create something that you could use as an adhesive to hold the tiles on the Space Shuttle.
I actually have the opposite problem. I never follow a recipe either and my food turns out wonderful. My problem though lies with reproduction of that recipe again. My wife will love something I make and chance are she'll never have it the same again because I made it up as I went along and even if I knew exactly how to reproduce it I have an uncontrollable urge to vary from the recipe in order to further my knowledge of cooking. It's almost as if I am using (a very simplified and less rigorous version of) the scientific method when cooking. Hypothesize about what adding a little more of a certain flavor will have on the overall dish and experimenting to verify my results. It's no fun doing an experiment that you already know the results of!

Re:Are there many Slashdot geeks who cook? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20129201)

Sorry, if you are using the typical American flat stove, the wok is definitely not your best friend. Being half-Chinese, I grew up learning wok cooking, and have since read up on it. Woks were designed to be set over fire pits, so that every bit of surface area would be hot. You can't really duplicate this effect on a flat stove; the best you can do is a wok ring, but this bleeds heat and is rather precarious. A flat-bottomed wok is simply half-way to a decent large skillet, which is what you really want to use for stir fries.

Re:Are there many Slashdot geeks who cook? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20129567)

I would ignore points 3 and 4 completely. You'll notice that the best restaurants don't just wing it. The flavours are very well balanced, the chef has an idea of what s/he wants to convey.

Anything that can be used as a tool to understand how flavours work together and become a better cook is valuable.

The parent sounds like someone who hasn't had a very diverse range of cooking experience.

Re:Are there many Slashdot geeks who cook? (1)

raddan (519638) | about 7 years ago | (#20129609)

Of course. My favorite dishes are usually more along the French lines-- they are often weirdly counterintuitive.

But my favorite subjects for food preparation are beer and bread. Yeast is such an amazing and versatile organism. Think-- beer and bread are quite similar: the basic ingredients for beer are grain (usually barley, but also wheat), water, yeast, and hops. Bread is grain (usually wheat), water, yeast, and salt. But they are so different! With beer, you utilize the alcohol-producing phase of the yeast organism's lifecycle; with bread, you utilize the gas-producing phase. And there's so much to know-- in fact, this article reminded me of another brewer/cook: George Fix [byo.com] , who was a professional mathematician, but whose hobby, brewing chemistry, probably contributed more to the knowledge of brewing science than any other single person. He was a frequent poster to many of the brewing listservs during the 1990's.

Anyway, cooking really makes me wish I had studied chemistry. Of course, it's never too late to open a book.

Buy this book: Cookwise (4, Informative)

gosand (234100) | about 7 years ago | (#20129739)

One of the best cooking books I own (note: it isn't just a cookbook) is Cookwise by Shirley O. Corriher. You Good Eats fans would recognize her as the portly grey-haired lady that has appeared on some episodes. This book is absolutely fantastic, and describes the WHYs of cooking. It also has some great recipes. Ever wonder what makes cookies chewy, crispy, puffy, or flat? It shows a great chart in that section that shows "more of this" leads to "more of that". e.g. if you want to make your cookies chewy, use more brown sugar and bread flour.


I think that the right tools help immensely with cooking. Get 3 very good knives, and keep them sharp. I would recommend Wusthof: 8" chefs knife, paring knife, and a bread knife. Get 3-4 plastic cutting boards of decent size. That will get you started, and try to avoid all the gadgets that you see. Learn good techniques, like how to do basic chopping/dicing, and you won't need the gadgets to do it for you.


Next, I would suggest you try some classic recipes. Use good ingredients, and learn what everything tastes like. And enjoy it!

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