This blog is my attempt to reconnect with the world of chemistry. I have a PhD in Inorganic Chemistry and make a living doing research for a large company in Michigan. As times have changed, that company has changed its focus and I no longer have as much chance to do the basic, fundamental research which I most enjoy. Through this blog, I am hoping to recapture the magic which I felt during my graduate (and undergraduate) days in college. Expect topics on chemistry and alchemy along with some non-chemistry related items which I think might be interesting.

"The chymists are a strange class of mortals, impelled by an almost insane impulse to seek their pleasure among smoke and vapour, soot and flame, poisons and poverty; yet among all these evils I seem to live so sweetly that may I die if I would change places with the Persian King."

Johann Joachim Becher (phlogistonist)
Acta Laboratorii Chymica Monacensis, seu Physica Subterranea, (1669).

Friday, February 15, 2008

Cooking With Chemicals

A friend of mine (non-chemist) once told me that chemists should make great cooks. To reinforce this idea, he has given me several books on cooking over the years which, to be honest, I have not taken advantage of fully. Cooking can be enjoyable, but only when you have the time to do it right, and I haven’t had that in a looooong time. Perhaps it might be more accurate to say that good synthetic chemists should make good cooks. Cooking is not so much about carefully measuring out ingredients or following recipes to the letter, it’s about knowing how to improvise and knowing what you can and cannot get away with. It’s the same with chemical preps. Be honest, how many of you start taking liberties with a prep once you became familiar with it? You no longer needed to time your steps, you just knew when to stop heating or when to add the next reagent. Subtle color changes have often been enough to tell me exactly what to do next. (Color changes are more of an inorganic thing. When your reactants, products, and intermediates are all clear or white, it’s a lot harder to do this.)

HervĂ© This is a well-known chemist/chef in France. He’s made a career out of understanding the chemistry of cooking. Want to know why pepper should be added to a stock only eight minutes before it is taken off the heat? Ask this guy. I’ve read stories explaining the chemistry of foods before, but this guy is amazing. Read about him yourself.

No comments: