Spring 2023

Molecular Gastronomy and Food Science: From Test Tubes to Taste Buds

Listed in: Chemistry, as CHEM-100

Moodle site: Course


Patricia B. O'Hara (Sections 01., 01L., 02L. and 03L.)
Mona Wu Orr (Sections 01., 01L., 02L. and 03L.)


Living organisms require resources to fuel the processes necessary for staying alive. We require a certain number of calories to fuel metabolic processes and to provide building blocks to replace old cells and build new ones. Our food should provide a balance of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals that we need to consume regularly for a healthy existence. Yet humans have developed another relationship with food that can be either enriching or pathological. Sharing meals with others, developing the skills to enjoy the sensory pleasures of food, learning about other cultures through their gastronomic habits, and eating moderately while consciously are all examples of a deeper productive relationship with food. On the darker side, food can be a palliative to relieve our stress or satiate our addictions to sugar, fats, or salt. Modern humans can be so far removed from our food sources that we lose the connection between animal and meat and do not know if the food on our plates contains added hormones, pesticides, or genetically modified products. This course will examine our core requirements for food as we eat to live, and some of the cultural, social, historical, and culinary dimensions as we live to eat. Readings will include On Food and Cooking, by Harold McGee, Taste What You're Missing: The Passionate Eater's Guide to Why Good Food Tastes Good, by Barb Stuckey, and selections from Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young and Maxime Billet.

The three sections will meet together for 80-minute lecture/demos twice a week, and each section will meet separately for a culinary lab once a week for 150 minutes.  

Limited to 48 students. Spring semester. Professor O'Hara and Wu Orr.

How to handle overenrollment: If overenrolled, preference will be given to upper class students (seniors, juniors, and sophomores

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Students in this class will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning and assessmment: group work, analytical writing, laboratory work as it pertains to food, collaborative projects, and a final class project.