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Food Labeling
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Fair Compensation
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Tasting Menu - July 27, 2011
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A Thrill, A Rush, A Change of Plans
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Feeding Controversy
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I Want An Empty Waiting Room
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About time!
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The Things I've Learned (so far)...
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Love Sucks, Play Hard.
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School Lunches
Thursday, March 17, 2011

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Food Science Blog For...
Friday, March 11, 2011

But You're A Med Student!
Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Filtering - Equipment
Friday, March 4, 2011

Blurring The Lines - Part I
Thursday, March 3, 2011
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The Future of Food...?
Thursday, February 3, 2011

My Biggest Mistake - Oenology Edition
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Blogger Profile

School of Medicine
Dub C Med School CA USA

A med & grad student who used to work the line in LA, NYC, SF and Napa talking about the science of cooking and cooking with science. Harold McGee's On Food And Cooking - The Science and Lore of the Kitchen never satisfied my kitchen curiosity and more than one Chef grew exasperated with my asking "Why?" I'll try to stay on topic, but you may see a kvetch or two about the school & hospital.

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Recent Comments
Comment by BeckonsAttore in EMR - Electronic Medical Records

Well, so emr software has it's problems, not like making them public wouldn't cause them any more trouble as it normally would in a paranoid mind, as this yannisguerra's perspective here. I've delv. . .Read More
Aug 08, 2013, 9:35am
Comment by Brian Krueger, PhD in Happy Birthday, Julia!

I'd gladly take on that burden if you were my roomie ;) . . .Read More
Aug 15, 2012, 4:25pm
Comment by JaySeeDub in Happy Birthday, Julia!

If it makes you feel any better, it could be worse. My roommates complain about expanding waistlines. . . .Read More
Aug 15, 2012, 2:33pm
Comment by Brian Krueger, PhD in Happy Birthday, Julia!

Your posts always make me so hungry and its 9am! I saw that amazon now has reruns of "The French Chef" available for streaming.  It made me want to go back and check some of them out.  I remember. . .Read More
Aug 15, 2012, 8:15am
Comment by yannisguerra in EMR - Electronic Medical Records

I feel your pain. It is really bad. Even worse when half of those pages are non important informations (like 5 copies of the same lab, including who ordered it, when, where, etc) So wastefu. . .Read More
May 10, 2012, 6:56pm
Tuesday, March 8, 2011

It's something I get asked quite a bit. Especially when I'm doing private dinners with friends or "Subculture Dining Events" (SCE) as a fundraiser for some University tennis club. Yes, I am a Med Student. Well, MD/PhD student. But, who amongst us is really defined by one facet of our life? And really, why should all the food sci people have all the fun? See, what I'd be doing if it wasn't medicine would definitely be molecular gastronomy. And not the fake kind you see on TV where someone dips stuff in liquid nitrogen or makes foam. Instead it would be what Dr. This works on, Dr. McGee writes about, what the people at UC Davis' Robert Mondavi Institute study. The one that breaks down the how and why of what's going on in the kitchen. Not the flashy television stuff.

In one of my bookcases at home, the bottom two shelves are taken up by 12 4" D-Ring Binders, the Thirteenth Edition of the Merck Index, a copy of McGee's On Food & Cooking, and This' Molecular Gastronomy. The Binders have Mass Spec, GC-IR, H+ and C13 NMR printouts. The printouts are arranged alphabetically by what was put in, and indexed by CAS. Yes, I took the time to make an index. It's even searchable and digital, and maybe one day I'll take the time to make it available to everyone. The stuff I distilled and ran through machines ranged from parsley to vanilla, bacon to nduja.


Vanillin IR

I could have easily found all of this information from somewhere else, printed it and put it together, but I would have missed a very crucial piece of information. Guanciale or pancetta from Fatted Calf is different from the same product at Boccalone. In fact, the guanciale purchased at Fatted Calf one month, and then guanciale purchased a few months later was different. The tastes, overtly, may be the same, but when I cooked, distilled and ran product through instruments, there were different peaks. The major peaks were the same, but there were secondary and tertiary peaks just completely different. And chromatography was showing me different stuff, too.


But why would anyone want this information? Who is it useful to? Well, I do. I find it useful because I love to do that thing that moms everywhere yell at their kids for doing - playing with their food. I have fried ice cream and turned blood sausages into ice cream. I have snuck off with dewars of liquid nitrogen from lab, to play with at home. I have turned bacon into paper and bourbon into ink for place cards. I have also started several small and one really big fire in my apartment kitchen. And all those IR/NMR printouts? They let me play with flavors. They let me find complimentary flavors that you wouldn't normally find except by tasting a whole lot of stuff over and over and over. And it's really awesome to hit on a flavor combination before a big chef does. Why? Because inevitably my friends hear about it. Or a more rare occurrence is to be seated with them when those flavors are presented at a restaurant, and I just get to sit across the table from them smirking. And I'm smirking because they're remembering some flavor combination they had labeled as "insane" or "stupid," a few months or years back.


Arroz Caldo
Credit: J.C.W.

I am not alone in this. At many of the local Universities are groups of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Molecular Biology students who geek out over the science that goes into their food. Outside of professional kitchens, the only people who exude as much passion for cooking are students and scientists in food science. Same with wine and beer. And we're not talking box wine and Pabst Blue Ribbon. I have had very in depth and detailed debates on using different varieties of yeast to brew beer that have then spawned attempts at making bread with these strains of yeast, or seeing if the lactobacilli or leuconostoc in a particular piece of charcuterie would influence the flavors in dry aging meat.


The dedication it takes to really work out what goes on when you cook at home or in a professional kitchen, is something I am in awe of. And if this were a different time or world, maybe I would have gone in the direction of sensory and food science instead of medicine. But as much passion and dedication as I have for the field, I also recognize that it is dwarfed not only by my drive to study disease, but also by the passion of friends and acquaintances who have focused so much of themselves into studying yeast or bacteria specifically for its uses in giving people sustenance and enjoyment.

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Wow if you have this much passion for food and you say more for medecine then that is amazing! Good for you!

I am totally fascinated by the spoectral library you have built and all your homemade experiments. I can't say I have gotten that in depth with food science but it does intrigue me. Plus amazing you find time between your Phding and MDing. Good luck and I look forward to seeing more and well more spectra please!! hehe :)

Dub C Med School
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A lot of the spectroscopy was done before I had my "white coat ceremony" (which was horribly pretentious). I'm missing about a year's worth of data, and then I stare at something in my ingredient really wishing I had the time to distill and hit up an NMR.

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I've been wondering for months what you actually did? I applaud your dedication to both disciplines - I really try to model myself after people who are so involved in something outside of their 'day job'.

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I love cooking but I had no idea people studied food science to this level.

Do all the top chefs have this type of info committed to memory- so that they know what flavors will work together and just how much to add of something?

When I cook, I just go with my intuition when I am mixing two unknowns together. Sometimes its a homerun (like if it involves any component with massive calories i.e. cheese) and other times, not so good. We still eat it anyway :-).

Dub C Med School
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@Psycasm : I try to hide, as much as possible, that I'm a med student. Especially on twitter. We're not allowed to talk about a lot of things.

@Jade : There's two major sides to Food Science. There's the traditional nuitritional side. The part concerned with calories, attempting to increase crop yields, trying to get as much nuitrients into foods as possible. And then there's the sensory side. Why things taste the way they do, how to develop those tastes, etc. The gastronomy facet is relatively new, and a lot of the people into it are trying to look at as many things as possible at once. It can be incredibly exciting and incredibly intimidating.

You pretty much go out and taste and taste and taste. It's a lot of tasting involved. When you cook. When you travel. When you visit other restaurants. You're just actively tasting a lot and cataloging those sensory memories. Luckily smell can bring up memory really easily. And when you taste stuff, you can still smell it. Before and while the food is in your mouth. You also play with dishes. Maybe you got some blood oranges in recently. Wonderfully tart, with enough sweet to make you want to just squeese the juice into your mouth and savor the pulp. So, you start thinking about what pairs well with oranges. Maybe the acid in the oranges makes you think of seafood. You'll look at what is in season, what's fresh. Maybe scallops? I love scallops. And the blood oranges could make a wonderful pairing. So maybe I'll sear off some scallops and make a vinaigrette with the blood oranges. Did it work? Maybe not, the vinaigrette sounds too acidic. Maybe I'll throw the blood oranges in a sauce pot with some sugar, some sherry vinegar. And reduce it down until it's a much thicker glaze. I'll sear off the scallops again and try a second time. If that was a hit, I'll do a little more refinement to make it presentable. And you just keep playing around with dish until it's "perfect."

The time it takes to conceptualize, practice and put a dish on a menu can take anywhere from 12 hours (certain restaurants with a new menu every day) to a few weeks.


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I like the way you talk about food and cooking ;-). Very vivid.

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Yeah I was just thinking that Jade. So now I am hungry for scallops and blood oranges. Fantatstic! I like your thought process too, its very interesting.

Dub C Med School
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Thanks, Alchemystress. If it makes you feel any better, I spent a good part of today, after class, looking for decent scallops.

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It does make me feel better. :)

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