Don Cass

Chemistry of Foods and Cooking


Well, this class was an experiment in spring of 2009…

I presented info on different types of foods for 90 minutes each Tuesday & Friday morning to and then we met in the kitchen of the Davis Center from 4-5:30 on those afternoons to experience what we had talked about in the morning.

If I can figure out how to do it, I’ll post the syllabus…

All in all, I’d give me a B- for the class since…

  • I didn’t really know how much I would find to talk about on each topic before getting to it, so some days, there was too much too say & others not really enough to fill the class. I think this will improve the next time
  • I didn’t really have a sense of how fundamental chemical concepts were related to different types of foods. For the next time, I have a matrix of key concepts & food topics which should make the class seem less like a collection of isolated factoids…
  • McGee’s On Food and Cooking is a great reference, but it pretty dense & lacks recipes, so next time I’m going with the two “What Einstein Told His Cook” books – less structured than McGee’s but they’re easier to read & they include some recipes
  • The discussion and the cooking seemed pretty disjointed. Next time I’ll run it like a studio class – combining discussion and cooking in two 3 hr blocks. I’ll have to figure out how to do Powerpoint presentations in Davis but I think it may work better.
  • I’m not sure everyone got to cook as much as they’d like. I think I need to be sure that everyone learns some basic things & give those who are more experienced the chance to do some fancier things. I’m not sure how to pull this off, but I’ll work on it
  • I spent way too much time preparing – hours putting together class presentations & then more hours prepping labs & getting the supplies together – I’d spend at least all of Tuesdays & Fridays on this one class. That should be less intense next time.

I’m going to offer the class again this coming fall, so stay tuned for updates….

FALL 2009

Well I tried this class a 2nd time this fall. Still not super-wonderful… We met for 2 3 hr blocks in the afternoon. It was nice showing powerpoints in the Davis living room – but we need some big pillows for those sitting on the floor… I had thought that we could take time during class to demo things we were talking about – but that didn’t really work. Maybe too many in the class? too much time to demo stuff? too much time moving to & from kitchen? I’m not sure… We often ended early & I’d send students back to their kitchens to cook stuff from a list that I’d suggest (I’d provide ingredients) and they’d report  back the next class on how it went. This worked OK, but I think it’s be better to go back to 2 90 minute classes + a 2-5PM lab, some of which they;d work on their own, showing up at 4 to more formally present stuff they’d cooked earlier in the afternoon. I also still have to work on getting non-chemistry-y students to get more into the chemistry thing.

I think I won’t teach it next year, but maybe the following year…


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