Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Chemistry of Cooking

My visit to Kentucky entailed more cooking than I usually do. It made me realize how far I've slipped in the culinary arts. Take mashed potatoes, retrograde food that they are. If you're making Swiss steak for someone who's been longing for it then you must also whip up some potatoes.

Here's what you must not do. You must not boil the potatoes until they're a watery mush. You must not let them sit in the starchy water while you finish an email, read another chapter, watch the end of a TV show. You must not mash the potatoes all cold and slimy. They should be warm and well drained.

If they're not mashed properly (until grainy) then the milk does not make them fluffy, it turns the whole mess into something resembling wallpaper paste. Lumpy, gelatinous and too white. It's all a matter of chemistry, I guess.

Funny thing about those potatoes, though. People were hungry enough that they gobbled them down. Chemistry is important, yes. But so is appetite.

(Mine did not look like this. Photo: Wikipedia)


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