12 Jul 2013

Science and Chocolate

This is the first week of my online Science and Gastronomy course with Coursera. I was a little nervous about the 'high school level science' prerequisite - I dropped chemistry and physics and miserably failed my O level biology - but I'm happy to report that I'm more than managing the science bits, probably down to the clarity and the sound-bite design of the video lectures. And I'm learning stuff! I use that exclamation mark consciously. Learning stuff at school tended to be a drag, apart from French. I am sure there are people who reveled in, and blossomed during, their senior school years, but I definitely wasn't one of them. But with age, maturity and the desire to expand my knowledge of the world, learning is now exciting.



Science of Gastronomy Course Banner
So far I've learned the difference between convection and conduction, how to make water boil at more than 100 degrees centigrade (add salt or sugar), and about leptin (the appetite inhibitor) and ghrelin (the hunger hormone), and about neural control.

The idea that variety and contrast in food types, flavours, colours, temperatures and textures can make for a more pleasant eating experience isn't news to me. And I doubt it'll be news to the majority of the other food bloggers who are also subscribed to this course. 

And then we got to chocolate. I love chocolate but I don't want to keep eating it, why? announced the title of one of the video lectures. Ummm... but I do! And I'm betting it was a man who wrote that. (I accept, in advance, any accusations of gender bias or sexism.) Okay, I do have a satiety level but I think it's a lot higher than 10 pieces, which was the amount of chocolate suggested for one of the first assignment's sensory-specific satiety tests. 

My own test involved eating nine crackers followed by one piece of chocolate at three minute intervals. Cracker, in the UK, tends to mean a Jacob's or a  Carr's Water, and I'm thinking that the course leaders, who are based at the University of Hong Kong, had more of a prawn cracker in mind. Or at least something of a similar size. There was no way I was ever going to munch through nine Jacob's Cream Crackers in half an hour so I cut my Jacob's into four and got on with it. 

All the ingredients you need
for a vanilla and caramel fudge cone.
I have never, in the whole of my life, been so obsessed with a small piece of chocolate. And I think you can probably guess that my 'pleasantness' score was pretty high when I got to it. 

The rest of today's diet will be rather more varied: a thai chicken and salad wrap with a trickle of Nando's hot Peri-Peri sauce. And an ice-cream cone, the box of which called to me in the sweetest of voices from the first aisle of Waitrose's this morning. I'm pretty sure that my  sensory-specific satiety levels are pretty high when it comes to Carte D'Or Vanilla too.

Hungry Writing Prompts
Write about something you learned.
Write about not wanting to eat.
Write about a test.
Write about an obsession.
Write about ice-cream.