January 2012 Archives

Star Wars Party

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Today's featured item from the Kirschner Collection is something you might use to beat the February winter blahs, or to research subcultures -- or both, depending on your interests. It's The Star Wars Party Book. This book includes recipes, games, and craft ideas around 6 different Star Wars themes (e.g. Hoth Winter Celebration or Palace Pajama Party.) Most party themes would work just fine indoors too, although some activities (I'm looking at you, Naboo Scavenger Hunt) require such plan-ahead items as use of a swimming pool.

This book can even instruct you on how to make a Death Star Piñata.
Death Star Piñata

Chinese New Year and the Drama of Cooking



"Dragon Lantern" CC BY-NC-ND linkway88

The Chinese Year of the Dragon began this week. In celebration, I'd like to highlight a cookbook by Su Chung (aka Lucille Davis): Court Dishes of China: The Cuisine of the Ch'ing Dynasty (1966). This book is interesting for several reasons. In addition to the pages and pages of recipes included in it, the Forward to the book details the dramatic story of how these recipes were acquired from the Japanese Princess Alchingioro, the wife of a political prisoner, and how the author's sense of duty compelled her to study cooking (previously not an interest of hers) to carefully compile this cookbook. It's quite a sensational history of food and culture.

Cooking With Science

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Our chemistry librarian recently alerted me of this upcoming lecture on physics and cooking here at the U of M. Sounds very interesting!


Public Lecture by David Weitz

Physics and Cooking

MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (January 2012) - Do you want to understand how (and why) food foams are made or why the elasticity of steak matters? Why do some chefs use liquid nitrogen (at about -320 degrees F) to freeze ingredients? The School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Minnesota is proud to announce a public lecture given by Professor David Weitz on February 9, 2012. Dr. Weitz' lecture is entitled "Physics and Cooking" and is inspired by understanding the science of pioneering approaches to preparation and presentation of foods at several famous restaurants.

This talk will present some examples of physics and science of cooking and will include demonstrations. The examples are based on an introductory science course offered at Harvard University by Weitz and a team of chefs, including Ferran Adria, and the Alícia Foundation, that explores a new way of motivating interest in science and teaching it to non-scientists. The theme of the course is the connections between cooking, soft matter physics, materials science and organic chemistry. The science of several innovative techniques in cooking, including foams and use of gelation, as well as more common processes, will be explored.

Weitz received his Ph.D. from Harvard. He worked at Exxon Research and Engineering as a research physicist for nearly 18 years, and then became a Professor of Physics at the University of Pennsylvania. He moved to Harvard about 12 years ago, and is currently Professor of Physics and Applied Physics. He is also the director of Harvard's Materials Research Science and Engineering Center. He helped arrange the establishment of the BASF Advance Research Initiative at Harvard, which he co-directs. His research interests are in soft matter physics and biophysics. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

This public lecture will be held in 150 Tate Laboratory of Physics and will begin at 7:00 p.m. The lecture is free and open to the public.


Cherry Before Dissolving
If you want to start thinking about the science of food in advance (or after!), the Kirschner Collection offers an interesting perspective. Three titles of particular interest are:

Craig, S. E. W. (1911). Scientific cooking with scientific methods . Standard Pub. Co.

Lowe, B. (1943). Experimental cookery from the chemical and physical standpoint. (Third.). New York: J. Wiley & sons, inc.

McGee, H. (1992). The curious cook: more kitchen science and lore. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Beaker image "Cherry Before Dissolving" CC BY-SA, Randal Cooper.