Molecular Gastronomy is Part of Food Science

In a recent issue of Food Technology, the magazine for IFT members, Hervé This responds to the suggestion that molecular gastronomy is part culinary art and part science. He gives a very good summary of the differences between cookery/culinary, food science and food technology:

“Cooking is a technique (sometimes an art) and the objective is to make food.”

“On the other hand, molecular gastronomy is a science. It is performed in a laboratory.”

“Furthermore, science is not technology. Thus, applied science cannot exist. Application involves technology (from techne, doing, and logos, study). When examining mechanisms of phenomena, the goal is not to apply knowledge (application), but rather to produce it.”

He admits that he himself had problems during his thesis of separating out science from technology but he states very strongly that molecular gastronomy is science and molecular cooking is using the results from molecular gastronomy to create new food items or improve old ones. This’ Ph.D. thesis, on Physical Chemistry of Materials, was entitled Molecular and Physical Gastronomy or the equivalent in French.

The confusion between the science, art and technology of food is present in food science. That there does not appear to be a final definition of molecular gastronomy adds to this confusion, especially as chefs have taken over this term, rather than using This’ preferred Molecular Cooking. Khymos gives a good summary of the different definitions.

I do have problems with the fact that Molecular Gastronomy is so trendy and considered to be the saving of the world’s food supply.  [So I exaggerate? What’s the problem?] Many articles about Molecular Gastronomy and the restaurants that practice molecular cookery appear to have never heard of food science.  So I appreciated the fact that This states that molecular gastronomy is part of food science but I struggle to place it within the traditional subject areas of food science.  It overlaps mostly with food chemistry.  At least This’ part of Molecular Gastronomy is heavily physical chemistry based.  The research undertaken is more directly relevant to cooking and culinary arts than much of food chemistry.  For example, my research on the Maillard reaction has few direct practical applications, unless you are willing to mix amino acids and sugars together in your kitchen.  I still would not recommend eating the results of my research.

Within the article he gives an excellent summary of what science is – the idea of testing a hypothesis to give new information which increases our knowledge of a system.   I might even use some of these ideas for teaching.


Hervé This Molecular Gastronomy vs. Molecular Cooking Food Technology December 2008 (PDF)


Recipe: Miso, Barley and Vegetable Stew

Barley Miso Vegetable Stew

As part of my menu this week, I wanted to make a stew with barley as I have a lot of barley in my pantry and need to use it up. I had originally purchased the barley for a mushroom barley and miso soup, which was delicious but as much as I love mushrooms, I ate a lot of them last week and this week I made mushroom pate, so I wanted to try something different this time. There had to be another use for barley, right?

I found it difficult to find a recipe in all my recipe books for barley that was not pearled barley. On the internets, I found this site about barley which included an easy Barley Veggie Soup. So I sort of took that recipe and ran with it.

Miso, Barley and Vegetable Stew


1/2 – 1 cup uncooked barley

2 tbs oil

2 cloves garlic (minced)

1 onion (chopped)

4 celery stalks (chopped)*

2 carrots (peeled and chopped)

2 turnips (peeled and chopped)

½ teaspoon dried and crushed rosemary (I use a pestle and mortar)

4 cups or more water or vegetable broth

1-2 tps miso

Grated cheddar cheese to top


Stew cooking


Fry the onion, rosemary, and garlic in the oil for a few minutes and add the celery, followed in turn by the carrot and the turnip*. Mix in the barley.

Add two cups of water and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat so that the stew is simmering.

Cook for about 45 mins, adding water as needed.

Once the barley is soft (it will swell to about 3x its original size) mix in the miso. If you are unfamiliar with the taste of mise use one teaspoon. Otherwise add to taste.

Add the frozen sweet corn.

Cook for about 3 more minutes.

Serve hot, topped with grated cheese.

* I don’t waste any time preparing my vegetables beforehand. Once the onion and garlic are ready, they go in the oil which is heated once they are added. Then I start washing and chopping the celery, once ready it goes in the pan and the carrot are prepared. The turnip is prepared after the carrots. The time taken for each prep is about the cooking time needed between each vegetable.



Good Friday = Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Bun

It is just an English tradition. I made these adapting this BBC recipe, which seemed more realistically British with this vegan recipe.

I was interested to read in the introduction to this recipe that the cross on the bun is a fertility symbol not a religious one. Another case of the Christian church adopting a symbol already in use. If you click on the top photo it will take you to wikipedia where you can read more about this ancient English tradition.

Here is another photo of mine:

Hot Cross Bun

There were many different ways of emphasizing the cross, they all cut the cross before baking but one recipe added a lemon glace afterwards. Two used a flour- water mix with one rolling out the arms as a pastry and sticking them in the gaps and the other piped in a flour-water mixture before cooking. I just cut the buns with a knife and left them plain. They were glazed with maple syrup after baking.

I do not honestly remember if hot cross buns were that significant with my family. We were too excited about chocolate Easter Eggs. I made them this time after my boss [at the bookstore] talked about them – his grandmother was from England and he has lots of memories of the different foods she prepared. I was going to go up to Trader Joe’s and see if they had them, but it was too far to go and baking them was fun, if not a little nerve wracking as the dough was less elastic and didn’t rise a much as I expected. I’ll get a chance to make them more successfully next year!

Hot Cross Bun Recipe


1 cup soy milk (warmed)

1 tbs or packet dried bakers yeast

1 tsp sugar

31/2 cups white flour

1/2 cup wholewheat flour

2 tps allspice

1/3 cup butter (about 2/3 of a stick?)

1/2 cups sugar

Zest of one lemon (I peeled mine with a peeler and cut up the strips with scissors – it was actually easier than grating)

3/4 cups currants (use raisins if you cannot find currants) (currants are NOT the same as black currants or red currants)

Hot maple syrup or honey


Mix the soy milk, tsp of sugar and yeast together and set aside to ferment.

Mix the flours, spices, sugar, lemon zest together in a large bowl.

Cut the butter into the flour mix – keep cutting with a table or pastry knife until it is really mixed in flour. Mix the finally bits with your hands as if making pastry.

Stir the yeast-soy milk into the flour and mix to make a dough.

Knead your dough. If it is too dry or too tough add more soy milk or water.

Add the currants – I rolled out the dough and sprinkled about 1/3 of the currants into the middle and rolled up the dough and kneaded it a few times. I did this three times in total.

Roll the dough into a ball and leave covered until doubled (1 h or more).

Punch down and leave again (40 mins or more).

Divide the dough into 16 pieces [this is easier than 12!] and roll into balls. Place balls into parchment paper and flatten slightly. With a sharp knife cut two thirds of the way through to make the cross. Place in a clean plastic bag for 40 mins [not sure why].

Bake in a preheated oven at 475 oF for 10 -15 mins. They should be golden brown on the top.

Remove from oven and glaze with hot maple syrup or honey.

Serve warm (you can heat them in microwave or toast them) on Good Friday with butter.

Sliced open hot cross bun

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B is for Books

I could let B go by without discussing books. I have lots and lots of books. I always thought it would be great to have enough books so that you could always read a book on any topic whenever you wanted. Like having a private bookstore or library. I think I succeeded, here is one bookcase, which contains cookery books:

Cookery Books

Not just cookery books, also books about food – even some of my food science books. I need a bigger bookcase to fit all my food-based books, so the rest of them are in the study with my science and history books:

When I need to relax, I sit in my living room and read my fiction books. I have a bookcase and a half of fiction books, including a whole shelf of books by Dick Francis:

Ignore the booze on the first bookcase – it is a collection from other people who were leaving town. Really. I can also look at my collection of biographies and art books:

Or I can check out my gardening books for advice and ideas about plants:

And last but not least I have a great collection knitting books:

Roses are Orange

My house needed some color soon Friday I got these gorgeous roses from the grocery store. I wanted tulips, but there were not any yet. These roses are almost tulip colored.

Earlier in the day I was at A Gardens of Yarn and bought this yarn:

New Yarn

Are you noticing a color theme here?Then later that evening regular commentator, Lisa, and occasional guest blogger, Hudaa, and I got together and had a make your own pizza party. It was great fun – we made the whole pizza from scratch:


Definitely a orange colored Friday.

The pizza recipe is from Rose Elliot‘s The Complete Vegetarian (Amazon), which is the mainstay of my recipe book collection.