Science of New Dishes and New Organisms

Food: A Cultural Culinary History—Episode 35

Hello, Great Courses fans. This audio-podcast has been cooked, removed from the oven, and is being lovingly delivered to a new audio-platform. In its absence, please enjoy the video series that it was based off, streaming now on The Great Courses Plus. Click here to watch it now.

The following episode transcript and images will remain for posterity. Enjoy!

In today’s podcast we’re going to witness the melding of science and fine dining in the ingenious creations of “modernist” cuisine. Then we’re going to take a scientific look at principles of genetic modification of foods, and discuss the promises and potential dangers. Finally, we’re going to explore the implications of technologies such as cloning and hydroponics.

Images for this Episode:

Culinary Activities for this Episode:

• Cooking Well with a Microwave

The microwave oven is perhaps the most important new cooking technology of the late 20th  century. Many people contend that you can’t cook in a microwave—that it is essentially just for defrosting, cooking popcorn, and making ready-made meals. The latter alone has assured the microwave a permanent place in the modern kitchen. However, there are a few foods that actually cook well in the microwave, especially vegetables. The following is not only quick and easy, but also really good.

Eggplant Casserole

Peel two large eggplants, and cut them into very thin slices. Pour a little olive oil into the bottom of the casserole, and season with a little salt, oregano, and basil. An excellent alternative is za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice mix with wild thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds. Lay on a layer of eggplant slices, season the same way, and add a drizzle of olive oil. Continue until the casserole is full. You can also add a little tomato sauce between each layer. Cover and microwave for 10 minutes or until softened. Remove the cover and pour off any excess accumulated liquid, and microwave again for five more minutes. Serve.

Suggested Reading:

McGee, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen.

Oddy, From Plain Fare to Fusion Food: British Diet from the 1890s to the 1990s.

Pollan, The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World.

Smith, American Tuna: The Rise and Fall of an Improbable Food.

Smith, Nutrition in Britain: Science, Scientists and Politics in the Twentieth Century.

This, Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor.

Vega, et al., The Kitchen as Laboratory: Reflections on the Science of Food and Cooking.

Vileisis, Kitchen Literacy: How We Lost Knowledge of Where Food Comes from and Why We Need to Get It Back.

Images courtesy of:

• Soux Vide: By Pedro.serna – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
• Chicken ala King: Shutterstock
• Filippo Marinetti: [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Herve Thisi: By Rdavout (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Spherification: CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
• Ferran Adria : Generalitat de Catalunya [Attribution or Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons
• Alinea: By Rebecca Siegel (Flickr: Alinea) CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
• PapayaPublic domain, via Wikimedia Commons
• Same plant, different expressions: Thinkstock
• Monarch butterfly: Thinkstock
• BSEPublic domain, via Wikimedia Commons
• Hydroponic farming: Thinkstock