The process of cooking, baking, and preparing food is essentially an applied science. Anthropologists and historians speculate that cooking originated when a pen holding pigs or other livestock caught fire or a piece of the day’s catch of mammoth fell into the fire pit. The smell of roasted meat must have enticed early people to “try it”; the curious consumers found culinary and nutritional benefits to this new discovery. The molecular changes that occurred during cooking made the meat more digestible and the protein and carbohydrates more readily available as nutrients. Contaminating microbes were eliminated during cooking, which made the consumers healthier and able to survive. Moreover, the food was tastier due to the heat‐induced chemical reactions between the oxygen in the air and the fat, proteins, and sugar in the meat. Harnessing the knowledge of what is happening to our food at the molecular level is something that good scientists and chefs use to create new appetizing food and cooking techniques.
Preparing food and drink is mostly a process of changing the chemical and physical nature of the food. Molecules react to form new compounds; heat changes the nature of how food molecules function and interact with each other, and physical change brings about new textures and flavors to what we eat. To get a better appreciation for these chemical and physical processes, a fundamental understanding of the building blocks of food and cooking must first be understood.
This unit is an attempt to inform high school students about some of the fundamental concepts that constitute this important area of science - the food chemistry. Students will review the concepts of chemical compounds, mixtures (solutions, suspensions, colloids and emulsions), physical and chemical changes and learn about food chemistry. They will also learn about some of the most important organic chemistry compounds, the hydrocarbon derivatives or functional groups.
This unit will be tied into students’ chemistry courses, strengthening their knowledge of organic chemistry and preparing them for future college biochemistry, general and organic chemistry classes. The lesson plans require about 12 class periods and cover the concepts of covalent bonds (single, double and triple bonds), functional groups (alcohols, aldehydes and ketones, carboxylic acids, esters, amines, amides) and mixtures (suspensions, colloids, and emulsions). The last lesson is going to cover the basic concepts of hydrophilicity, hydrophobicity, and amphiphilicity of different molecules mixed with water.