Syllabus as web page

Chemistry in the kitchen, NSC596 Fall 2010

Instructor

Todd Smith, Sci 110

Location

Science 216

Days/Time

T, F 1:30-3:20



Text

On food and cooking: the science and lore of the kitchen,

Harold McGee, 2004


Course description

Ever wonder why bread dough rises? Or what makes a chocolate bar melt when it’s heated? When we cook, we see food change. Chemistry explains these changes. Harold McGee, author of On food and cooking: the science and lore of the kitchen, agrees: “science can make cooking more interesting by connecting it with the basic workings of the natural world.” In this course, we will explore food and cooking through experiments that ask questions such as: How does heat change food? How do bacteria perform fermentation? Why is the fermented food acidic? What is an acid, anyway? Through these explorations we will build an understanding of how chemistry explains cooking.

This is a chemistry course – with the kitchen as our laboratory. The course will meet twice a week: once in the classroom, and once in the kitchen. Each week we will discuss a new topic in chemistry and then use our laboratory time in the kitchen to address our questions.


Goal of the course

  • To illustrate fundamental principles of chemistry through the practice of preparing food
  • To demonstrate how experiments help us advance our understanding of a subject, and to provide students with the confidence to perform their own experiments in the kitchen
  • To convey an appreciation for role of chemistry in everyday life - especially to cooking


Readings & Assignments

Weekly homework questions based on reading assignments in On food and cooking: the science and lore of the kitchen and other selected articles.


Attendance

Attendance is mandatory. The classroom discussion each week is necessary to understand the kitchen activity that follows; the kitchen activity is necessary to appreciate concepts introduced in the classroom. If you miss more than two class sessions during the term you cannot earn an A; more than 3 and a B is the maximum grade possible; more than 4 and a C is the maximum grade possible.


Grading policy

Your grade will be based on homework scores and a paper assignment. Homework assignments are work 10 points each, the first draft of your paper is worth 20 points, and the final draft is of the paper is worth 100 points. The grade received in the course will be the ratio of points earned over points possible: 90% & above = A, 80-89% = B, 70-79% = C, 60-69% = D. Diligent and conscientious participation in class and on assignments will boost borderline grades to the higher grade. If extenuating circumstances will prevent you from completing an assignment notify me as soon as possible so that we can make alternative arrangements.


Paper assignment

· rough draft due Tuesday, 11/2/10

· final draft due Friday, 11/30/10

The goal for this assignment is to apply your knowledge of chemistry to the topic of food and cooking. Specifically, you must write about the health effects of a food additive, modified ingredient, or cooking process, and you must argue why the food additive, ingredient or process is either safe or unsafe for human consumption. So, for example, you could write about sucralose, smoked meat or sodium benzoate. You could write about trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup, or the red dye that makes some preserved cherries such a ridiculously bright color. If you have a different topic that you would like to pursue you must first check with me.

Overall you goal is to explain your topic, defend your position, and demonstrate you knowledge of chemistry in the process. You must cite at least two secondary sources from the Rice Aron library, and at least two national media sources or scientific journal articles. If you are not sure about the trustworthiness of a source, ask one of the librarians or me.


Proposed schedule for the semester

Week of

Week

Topic

Chapter

8/30

0

Intro class;

Central themes in chemistry; science is a process – so is learning to cook!

15

9/6

1

The main components of our food

15

9/13

2

The empirical approach to understanding cooking

Appendix

9/20

3

Atomic theory of matter – all matter, including food, is comprised of discrete little bits;

Paper discussion

Appendix

9/27

4

The “behavior” of atoms, and “what is an acid, anyway?”


10/4

5

Cups, teaspoons and liters – measuring and conversions


10/11

6

Why bread dough rises – gas laws


10/18

7

What is heat, and why does it change food (e.g., the chocolate bar)?


10/25

8

Hendrick’s Days – no class Tuesday;

Models of chemical bonding & molecular shape


11/1

9

Physical states & phase transitions - what is a “double-boiler” and why do we use it?

Paper rough drafts due Tuesday, 11/2/10


11/8

10

Integration of topics - what are taste and smell?


11/15

11

Kinetics – why does temperature affect how quickly food cooks?


11/22

12

Biochemistry: fermentation and digestion;

Thanksgiving – no class Friday


11/29

13

Food safety & spoilage;

Papers due Tuesday, 11/30/10


12/6

14

Biochemistry, part 2 – making cheese


Last modified: Monday, December 19, 2011, 9:18 AM