Food Studies: Science, It's What's For Dinner

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Food Studies: Science, It's What's For Dinner Food Studies: Science, It's What's For Dinner
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Food Studies: Science, It's What's For Dinner

by Amy Pratt

April 16, 2011

As a student of nutrition and dietetics, I regularly share a lecture theater with students of biochemistry, molecular genetics, and neuroscience.

This is a fact that continues to completely freak me out.

When I did school the first time round, I dropped all the science subjects as quickly as I possibly could. By fifteen, I'd settled on French, English literature, and history. Science just wasn't for me. It was completely irrelevant, not to mention totally incomprehensible.

Yet here I am, fifteen years after my last chemistry and math exams, grappling with molecular this, that, and the other. And who knew? It's really brilliant.

The great thing about studying science in the context of food is that you can see it happening all around you, all day, every day. Studying science is no longer an intimidating bearded man writing incomprehensible equations on a blackboard. It's me, in my kitchen, cracking open an egg to see if what I'd read about protein was true, or reading the ingredients list on the backs of all the jars in the cupboard to verify the existence of a chemical I'd just learned about.

In the lab, it's blowing up chips [French fries] to see what's inside them. It's excitedly attempting to explain to my mum my latest eureka moment. Some recent highlights of our conversations: Why bananas turn from green to yellow (breakdown of the pigment chlorophyll), how soft-centered chocolates stay soft (the enzyme invertase), how to make blue cheese (inject the fungus penicillium roqueforti with a syringe!), and why our tummies make gurgling noises (swallowed air getting churned up with our dinner in the small intestine).

I wanted to study nutrition precisely because food is everywhere, so I think it's important that we understand it. The scientific concepts behind what I'm studying are complex (I may be 30, but there have been tears at homework time) but when you take them from the library to the kitchen or the supermarket, they become accessible.

Food manufacturers and adverts try to blind us with science (see Megan's latest Food Studies post for a perfect example) but really, this stuff is so tangible and so visible that it shouldn't just be for scientists. If things were explained properly, I can't see any reason why everybody couldn't understand a little bit more about these chemical substances we put into our bodies three times a day.  When I qualify in a few years' time, I'll make it my mission.

To be continued...

Amy is a student blogger for the Food Studies feature on GOOD's Food hub. If you enjoyed this, you should check out the rest of the Food Studies blogger gang here.

Photo ("I am the eggman") courtesy of the author.

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