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Welcome to the beginning of the holiday season. Changes in weather coupled with upcoming family gatherings, parties, and feasts set this time of year apart from all others. One of the more enjoyable aspects of each of these is good food with loved ones, so we’re taking this opportunity to appreciate gastronomy, a term that’s risen in fame thanks in part to the proliferation of food-centered television series and documentaries.
You’ve no doubt heard of a “gastropub”—a portmanteau of “pub” (a word short for “public house,” which originally referred to British-influenced establishments whose specialty is the serving of alcohol) and the prefix “gastro.” The term first entered society in 1991 and was created to identify a new kind of establishment whose emphasis on quality food set it apart from a typical pub.
So what is “gastronomy”? The prefix “gastro” comes from the Ancient Greek word for “stomach” (other examples of this prefix in use that you may have heard of include “gastrointestinal” and “gastroenteritis,” both relating to the stomach and the intestines and a condition therein). The word can be defined as “the art or science of good eating.”
While the creation and consumption of good food is certainly at the heart of gastronomy, others point out that how, with whom, where, and when we consume it is also not to be discarded as unimportant. For this reason, it can be “complex to define gastronomy since it has always only been related to production, service and consumption of food.”
In this place where food science and the sensory experiences surrounding the consumption of food come together, several new science-based areas of study have emerged: food chemistry and physics, food technology, food microbiology and enzymology, and enhancing sensory properties of food, to name a few. New research on science-based educational programs in gastronomy, anthropology, gastronomic history and food sociology is also developing, and all areas of interest contribute to a better understanding of gastronomy and its practical implications for science and society.
It’s not difficult to encourage your kids or students to do science when food is involved. So check out a few websites we recommend that offer easy-to-follow experiments to get hands-on with food science:
Here you’ll find 13 STEM projects for engaging kitchen chemistry and molecular gastronomy, with a bit of physics and technology baked in, too!
In this collection, Little Bins, Little hands offers not only a great list of kitchen-based experiments but a few other resources to get you on your way to having an incredible science experience with your kids in the kitchen, including how to set up an at-home science lab, and tips to make at-home science fun (and safe!).
In their collection of youth resources, Penn State College includes this page of simple experiments and activities young kids can do for school or science fair projects.
So if you find yourself, your kids, or your students with a budding interest in food beyond simply sitting down to eat at each meal, finding a job in a field related to food science and gastronomy is certainly achievable. Not only that, but many institutions of higher education offer degree programs in all aspects of food science.
What's in our food, and how can we tell? With this Testing Food for Nutrients Chemistry kit, learn more about carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids and how our bodies use them as fuel. Easily observe a reaction taking place to quickly grasp food testing concepts.
In this Innovating Science enzymes and digestion process kit, you can study the digestive system, and the role enzymes have in releasing nutrients from food, and converting them into a form that is usable by the body.
In this Innovating Science kit, students will learn the basic structures and pathway of the digestive system and understand the different functions of the stomach and the small intestine in regards to digestion to investigate how the properties of different enteric coatings react in different sections of the digestive system.