culinary chemistry

don't you wish this is what your science experiment looked like? YUM!

don’t you wish this is what your science experiment looked like? YUM!

As part of Union’s core curriculum, every student is required to take a science with lab course. I really enjoyed science in high school, but I never got around to taking any science courses in college (I left that up to my twin sister). Consequently, come senior year there was a bit of a scramble to fit in my lab requirement. I didn’t want to feel like I was simply re-learning information from my younger years, so I decided to petition for a notoriously awesome course in our curriculum: Culinary Chemistry. And, I am happy to say, I was accepted!

The class has been tons of fun and I have genuinely learned so much. It is fascinating to learn about the science behind cooking techniques/traditions that I’ve always taken for granted; things we do “just because that’s what we’ve always done.” For example: putting fresh pineapple slices on a ham. Doesn’t it just taste better that way? Well, yes, but also because the enzymes unique to the pineapple help break down the protein in the ham. Or why some peppers taste “hot.” It’s due to something called “chemesthesis” and the best way to cool down your mouth afterwards is not to drink tons of water, but to drink something like milk that the particles are actually soluble in. I honestly learn a new perspective on food in that class every single day.

Undeniably, the best part of the course is it’s labs — isn’t that technically why I’m taking it?! — our labs are held in a Minerva kitchen and have so far involved baking cookies, deep-frying donuts, making cheese, and trying our hand at confections (including the delicious toffee pictured above!). Oh course we vary myriad independent variables and measure dependent variables and make hypotheses and are very scientific about the whole thing, but at the end of the day we can go back to our dorms with our minds full and our bellies full! Culinary Chemistry is one of the tastiest treats of a course that Union has to offer!

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My name is Catherine Elizabeth Ziac (Cat, for short) and I am a senior at Union College in Schenectady, NY. When I'm not studying for my major in economics or my minor in Russian, you can find me skimming through catalogs, playing the flute, fishing, online window shopping, chatting with my sisters (my twin, Julia, studying physics at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, CA, or my little sister Maddy, currently a senior in high school), or out and about in good old Schenectady with my wonderful Union friends! I love pink nails, long showers, office supplies, and going to the public library. I spend too much time looking at blogs and skimming the WSJ online, but I still believe in the merits of a hand-written letter. I am always in the mood for yogurt and granola and am never without a piece of gum. I usually answer "blue" when asked my favorite color, but I know in my heart that it's always been and always will be garnet!

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