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MOLECULAR GASTRONOMY is a scientific discipline that studies the physical and chemical processes that occur while cooking. Molecular gastronomy seeks to investigate and explain the chemical reasons behind the transformation of ingredients, as well as the social, artistic and technical components of Culinary and Gastronomic phenomena in general.
There are many branches of Food Science, all of which study different aspects of food such as safety, microbiology, preservation, chemistry, engineering, physics and the like. Until the advent of molecular gastronomy, there was no formal scientific discipline dedicated to studying the processes in regular cooking as done in the home or in a restaurant. The aforementioned have mostly been concerned with industrial food production and while the disciplines may overlap with each other to varying degrees, they are considered separate areas of investigation.
Though many disparate examples of the scientific investigation of cooking exist throughout history, the creation of the discipline of molecular gastronomy was intended to bring together what had previously been fragmented and isolated investigation into the chemical and physical processes of cooking into an organized discipline within food science to address what the other disciplines within food science either do not cover, or cover in a manner intended for scientists rather than chefs.
The term "Molecular and Physical Gastronomy" was coined in 1988 by Hungarian physicist Nicholas Kurti and French physical chemist Herve This. It became the title for a set of workshops held in Erice, Italy (originally titled "Science and Gastronomy") that brought together scientists and professional chefs for discussions on the science behind traditional cooking preparations. Eventually, the shortened term "Molecular Gastronomy" also became the name of the scientific discipline co-created by Kurti and This to be based on exploring the science behind traditional cooking methods.
Looking for the mechanisms of culinary transformations and processes (from a chemical and physical point of view) in three areas:
1. The social phenomena linked to culinary activity.
2. The artistic component of culinary activity.
3. The technical component of culinary activity.
The original fundamental objectives of Molecular Gastronomy were defined by This in his doctoral dissertation as:
1. Investigating culinary and gastronomical proverbs, sayings, and old wives' tales.
2. Exploring existing recipes.
3. Introducing new tools, ingredients and methods into the kitchen.
4. Inventing new dishes.
5. Using Molecular Gastronomy to help the general public understand the contribution of science to society.
AREAS OF INVESTIGATION:
1. How ingredients are changed by different cooking methods.
2. How all the senses play their own roles in our appreciation of food.
3. The mechanisms of aroma release and the perception of taste and flavor.
4. How and why we evolved our particular taste and flavor sense organs and our general food likes and dislikes.
5. How cooking methods affect the eventual flavor and texture of food ingredients.
6. How new cooking methods might produce improved results of texture and flavor.
7. How our brains interpret the signals from all our senses to tell us the "flavor" of food.
8. How our enjoyment of food is affected by other influences, our environment, our mood, how it is presented, who prepares it, etc.
NOTE: Sir Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford (1753 - 1814) was one of the early pioneers in the science of food & cooking.
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