The last time I had to deal with chemistry, or rather; had to keep was in high school. One of my two sisters is a chemistry teacher and I thought at the time that the talent for it would be genetic, so I chose her with confidence – and then gave up on her as soon as possible. I still have a fever when I see chemical formulas.
I noticed that when I The comparison of flavors by Indo-American molecular biologist and food writer Nik Sharma. The book explores the science behind cooking and to illustrate its explanations it uses chemical drawings. When I saw it, I wanted to put the book down, because my mind immediately freezes at the sight of these formulas.
But I took courage. Once the recipes started and those formulas turned into sentences with words, not only did I get it, but I took what he wrote for granted: for example, corn in bread adds a layer of sweet flavor.
It’s true The comparison of flavors is how different ingredients go together or not and what effect you get when you combine them. Sharma explains that taste is determined by six elements: experience, see, hear, smell, smell and taste.
The composition of the ingredients influences taste and structure. In India, for example, raw papaya is used in meat marinades; raw papaya contains protease, “an enzyme that breaks proteins into small pieces”. It sounds complicated, doesn’t it, but it just means the meat is getting more tender.
Cooking is a science. In our family kitchens where we make recipes out of habit or try new things, and certainly in gourmet kitchens where they experiment at a high level and make real edible balloons from sugar, like in the American restaurant Alinea.
The book has seven chapters: sour, bitter, salty, sweet, salty, fiery, fatty. In between, Sharma not only gives a lot of explanation about the ingredients, how they are made and what structure they give, but also the right words to describe the experiences and tastes. It’s often forgotten, but turning food into words, explaining the taste of something, is a serious job.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC on the morning of September 13, 2021
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