There is no conception in man's mind
which hath not at first, totally or in parts,
been begotten upon by the organs of sense.
---Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, 1651

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What is Food Science?

The CIA lecture on Texture was a resounding success. The first part was geared towards helping students understand what Food Science was and was not - for example, when I asked them to tell me what their ideas of Food Science were they responded "Biotech," "Alton Brown," and "Molecular Gastronomy." Biotechnology and genetic engineering is a subfield of a subfield of Food Science. Alton Brown does a decent job covering the pop science aspects of food science, but he is an admitted anthropologist. And Molecular Gastronomy in its current incarnation is chemistry.

The second half of the lecture was based on a post I made here called The Tactile Symphony. I spurred a lot of conversation among students and got them thinking about the truly multidimensional nature of the culinary experience.

See a summary of my lecture and grab a pdf of the presentation here:

So, what is Food Science?

Food Science is a place for anyone who has a scientific inquiry about any aspect of food, from the taste and flavor, psychology, biology, chemistry, food safety, physics, nutrition, farming, fermentation, cheese making, enology, brewing, packaging, marketing and even protein structures and genetics. A food scientist learns a little about all of these things, and learns a lot and specializes in one or two aspects.

I think it is important that in this day and age to dispel myths about a field that have become increasingly harsh-toned. Food Science has been aligned with everything that is wrong with our food system, which admittedly could use improvement, but we don't go along damning the entire field of Doctors every time one incompetent surgeon leaves a scalpel in someone's abdomen. Its just that the field itself is relatively unknown, which thus makes it easy to create misconceptions about.

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