Food Chemistry

Clarke University
City, State: 
Dubuque, IA
Sunil Malapati (Clarke University), Elizabeth Pollock (Stockton College), Keith Symcox (University of Tulsa)
26 Jun 2016 - 01 Jul 2016



Exploring Chemistry through Food makes science fun and approachable to a non-science student while providing an endless array of everyday examples to teach chemical concepts to Chemistry majors and non-majors alike.  The first chemistry experiments probably started in the kitchen and one can envisage recipes as being laboratory protocols.  Scientists are increasingly collaborating with the culinary world to redefine the boundaries of cooking, while a new wave of celebrity chefs on TV and in print have made food more accessible and have stimulated interest in the underlying science to the lay public as well as creating a foodie movement.  

The Food Chemistry workshop is geared to meet the needs of science educators working to design their own course in Food Chemistry as well as those who wish to incorporate the chemistry of food into more traditional courses.  The workshop will provide the participants with a basic understanding of the connections between chemistry, food and cooking as well as strategies to incorporate food into the chemistry curriculum.  The activities for each day will include a limited amount of lecture; the emphasis will be on hands-on activities, discovery-based lessons, and experimentation in the kitchen.  There will also be plenary session talks that will focus on one topic in more depth.  Workshop participants will prepare some of their meals, allowing them hands on experience with the science behind the preparation of food.  Planned field trips may include a winery, an organic farm or an industrial food processing plant.

Workshop participants will receive a full complement of resources to plan their own courses.  The resources will include text materials, laboratory experiments, demonstrations, discovery-based lesson plans, and lists of print, video and online resources.  The last day of the workshop will be used to develop strategies to incorporate Food Chemistry materials into their individual curricula.

Topics to be covered

Flavor.  Taste and smell are the most purely chemical of senses and this will form the basis of teaching the core Chemistry concepts involving atoms, ions and molecular structure.  Participants will experience a discovery-based approach, first making observations involving flavor and then determining the underlying scientific principles.  Experiments involve manipulation of the taste receptors, as well as flavor pairings and other methods of modifying taste perception.  Flavor pairing will be the focus of kitchen exercises.  Curriculum components involve Organic and Biochemistry.

Mixtures.  Most of the foods we consume are mixtures, especially colloidal dispersions.  The nature of solutions, colloids and suspensions will be examined with a focus on polarity.  Solution properties such as osmosis, LaPlace pressure and the marangani effect will be examined through demonstrations and hands-on activities.  Kitchen exercises will involve foam and emulsion properties including condiment preparation.  Curriculum components involve General and Physical Chemistry.

Nutrition, Safety and Analysis.  The nature of macronutrients and micronutrients will be the focus of this section, with an exploration of digestion and nutrient storage within the body, including the role of excess nutrition.  Participants will explore online resources and their reliability.   Laboratory exercises include calorimetry, nutrient analysis, etc.  Educators who wish to use Food Chemistry either to supplement or supplant their Chemistry courses for Nursing, Physical Education, etc can use this section to increase the amount of ‘hard science’ they plan to do.  Social, cultural, economic and environmental issues will also be explored.  

Cooking Methods.  A range of dry and wet methods of cooking will be introduced with a concurrent discussion of heat transfer methods.  Laboratory exercises include specific heats of utensil materials.  Kitchen exercises will address cooking techniques.  Curriculum components involve General and Physical Chemistry.

Food Reactions(1).  This section will focus on acid-base reactions, redox reactions and food-specific browning reactions (caramelization, Maillard reactions).  Demonstrations involving color will complement inquiry-based labs involving apples, beans and red cabbage.  Curriculum components involve General, Organic and Biochemistry.

Food Reactions(2).  This section will focus on textural changes involving proteins and carbohydrates including gel and foam formation. The use of these textural changes in cutting-edge culinary practices, known by the umbrella term ‘Molecular Gastronomy’ will be explored.  Experiments include protein denaturation studies of eggs, fish and meat, effect of pineapple on jello, etc.  Kitchen exercises will include baking, making marshmallows, and employing molecular gastronomy techniques.  Curriculum components involve Physical and Biochemistry.


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