All posts by William Leonard

Changing Dinners: Meal-Kits the New Microwave Dinner?

Photo from Blue Apron

A recent article in the Seattle Times investigated the rise in so called “meal-kit” companies such as Blue Apron, which deliver ingredients and instructions to your doorstep to make fancy dishes in your own home.

These meal-kit companies have gotten rave reviews from places such as the New York Times, and many millennials see this as an opportunity to hone their  cooking skills.

Do you appreciate this way of empowering people to cook their own food as a divergence from the rise of ready-made meals and frozen foods? Or do you think that these kits are made for suckers who aren’t willing to go to a grocery store themselves.


The Confusion Over Bacon and Other Processed Meats

Recently, Reuters posted an article discussing the World Health Organization’s classification of processed meat as a carcinogen. When this classification came out, news sources pointed out that these meats were placed on the same level of carcinogen as plutonium.

However, as this report discusses, the group that the WHO consulted to make this classification does not have levels of severity regarding carcinogens. The levels they use are carcinogenic, possibly carcinogenic, and not carcinogenic. Therefore, even though bacon may possess carcinogens, it likely does not contain as many as toxic items such as cigarettes or plutonium.

What do you think? Does this criticism of the classification raise doubts about the adverse effects of processed meats? Or should we still attempt to stay away from these meats?

Credit: Reuters


Middle Eastern Cuisine Expands into the United States

Since we recently touched upon gastrodiplomacy, I felt that this article in the New York Times was of particular interest to us. It discusses the spread of sesame seed products throughout the US and their origins in the Middle East and the Balkans.

Tahini is the specific product that is featured throughout this article. Tahini is a sort of buttery dip made from sesame seeds that have been dipped in salt water then ground into paste. It’s commonly found in hummus and desserts such as halvah.

The article also mentions that many new restaurant have popped up using Tahini in their products. For example, a donut shop in Cambridge, MA, has started to fill some of their donuts with tahini instead of Boston cream. Do you think that this could become a part of the American diet? And do you think that this might lead to better relations with the Middle East?

No Difference Between Coke Life and HFCS Coke?

You may remember that a few weeks ago I presented on corn and its presence in high fructose corn syrup. Specifically, I touched on corn syrup in sodas as compared to natural sweeteners, such as stevia. Well, it turns out there may not be much of a difference.

Scientists recently found that many types of this soda actually possess the monosaccharides of fructose and glucose as opposed to sucrose, which is what they claim to have due to the natural sweeteners. High fructose corn syrup is almost entirely made up of these monosaccharides. Scientists found that the acidic nature of soda breaks down the sucrose into its base components slowly over time.

What do you think? Do sodas like Coke Life or other with naturally sweeteners taste different to you?


Turning Molecular Gastronomy Into a Business

In a recent article on the Globe and Mail, the author took a look at someone our age making a business out of selling ingredients needed for molecular gastronomy for you to entertain guests at a party. His website itself is pretty interesting, as he has sections where he discusses what molecular gastronomy is and how the chemicals react.

I felt this was a great tie in to the presentation a few weeks ago to demonstrate that this really is a phenomenon that is gaining popularity. It can appear amazing to people who don’t have a sophisticated understanding of chemistry, and its a good method of show, don’t tell.

The article itself focused on how he might better brand his business. In particular, how he might advertise the chemicals as being entirely safe. We know that the chemicals he works with are found in common and natural sources, but in an age where there is a fear of complicated chemicals, he is struggling to sell his products. The business experts advised plastering messages demonstrating it’s safe. Which brings about 2 different questions.

How would you highlight your ingredients as safe in the modern world we live in today?

Have you had any experiences with molecular gastronomy?

Chemistry Food Life Hacks by William Leonard

Here is a video by the American Chemical Society about three food hacks (and one normal life hack) for cooking involving simple chemical reactions that we’ve touched on in class. I could have definitely used the one regarding onions for yesterday, when I was cutting onions for Chili. Anyways, for those too short on time, here are the three cooking hacks in a sentence or less:

  1. To test if an egg is rotten, put it in a glass of water. If it sinks, it’s good but if it’s rotten it’ll float. This is because of pores in the egg’s shell, which open up over time and allow a gas in that makes it smelly, and causes it to rise in water.

2. Refrigerating an onion before cutting it can cut down on the release of enzymes and amino acids when cutting the onion that cause a chain reaction to create the compound which triggers your crying.

3. You can stop your veggies from losing their vibrancy by keeping their cook time  to 7 minutes or less. Cooking the veggies breaks down cell walls preventing the spread of acids, which change the cores of the chlorophyll A and B molecules in the veggies, which cause discoloration.

Here is a link to the video if you can’t get the embedded video.

So as an easy question, do you have any life hacks like these that you would like to share for the benefit of the class?