Food is Science, yo!

The class I was most worried about in advance this semester was Food Science. I had visions of sketching chemical formulas for food and tracing their changes as they moved through the digestive tract. The epitome of “not fun.” The class is also at the ungodly hour of 8am, and since I live 45-60 minutes away from campus, depending on the weather and traffic, and have circadian rhythms that render me catatonic before 9am,  I was pretty distressed.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I mean, yes, the getting up early and driving through a blizzard is pretty sucky. But the class itself is so much fun! No chemical formulas – but we do learn all kinds of super interesting things about how foods are put together, staring with building blocks like starches and types of fiber, and then moving into how they work together to create more complex dishes. We learned how gluten works, which was particularly interesting to me, of course. And then we learned how liquids and fats inhibit or work with gluten to create different textured bakery. In lab, we get to actually make the foods that use the components we’re learning about – and then we taste them.

Yeah. We taste EVERYTHING. Granted, I can’t actually taste everything. For example, here is my tasting plate from the muffin lab:

Soy muffin, corn muffin, and whole grain GF muffin. (c) emilystarblog 2015

And here is my lab partner’s tasting plate:

The gluteny tasting plate. (c) emilystarblog 2015

So yes, that part’s a little pathetic for me. But on the plus side, my partners have also been whining like crazy that they can’t stand to eat another bread slice/cream puff/muffin/pie crust or they’re going to vomit all over our kitchen. So much so that when we moved on to fruits and veggies this week they were incredibly excited. Perhaps the gluten-free thing is more full of win than I anticipated?

Speaking of Fruit and Veggie Week, we froze some a few weeks ago and tasted them this week. We also cooked veggies in different ways (casseroles, boiling, steaming) and tasted them; and we studied how different cooking methods affect pigment and nutrient loss. Cooking veggies in water with the lid on preserves the color much better than with the lid off, but blanching them will actually brighten the color, because the cooking process is halted with the ice bath. Here’s some spinach cooked at varying times – you can definitely tell which ones are overcooked.

(c) emilystarblog 2015

As far as fruits go, our lab tech brought in all kinds of exotic fruits for us to taste. Here’s my tasting plate:

(c) emilystarblog 2015

Aren’t they PRETTY?!?! From the top little guy going clockwise, there’s a kumquat, papaya, starfruit, and cactus pear. The perfect pick-me-up for a gloomy winter’s day. This was definitely my favorite tasting plate so far. I’ve always wanted to try starfruit, and it felt so exotic to say, “Oh yes, I had some cactus pears for breakfast today…” (Imagine this said with a snooty Thurston Howell III accent, of course).

If you don’t know who Thurston Howell III is, I suggest you click over to YouTube and watch some Gilligan’s Island immediately. Go. Right now. I’ll be here when you get back.

Our professor is awesome, too. She’s really cheerful, obviously loves what she teaches, and makes every class fun. You feel like you’re just hanging out with her a few times a week – and honestly, I think that’s a big reason I’m able to forget the 6am blues and get my sleepy butt to campus all the time. 

One of the stories she told us was about her elementary aged son – apparently in attempting to explain something, he said, “It’s just science, yo!”

Kids these days. 

It’s become kind of our class catch catchphrase, though – at least once per class someone says it. 

So that’s the scoop on food science! Next week we’re moving on to protein, so I’m sure I’ll be able to get some good (or potentially disgusting) pictures out of that lab!

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