Is Lard Public Enemy No. 1? Not in Your Sweet Life

Food, Health
[caption id="attachment_23419" align="alignright" width="369"] Copyright © 2014-2015 Renderings Natural Fats, LLC. All rights reserved.[/caption] I am 70. I recall many changes in viewpoint as to what constitutes healthful eating. Perhaps you are old enough to recall some as well. Among them were controversies concerning some of the most popular foods of the day... 1. Butter 2. Chocolate 3. Eggs 4. Organ meats 5. Lard The first three foods have once again gained acceptance, at least in moderation. The fourth item, organ meats, includes liver, kidneys, sweet breads, and heart. Misinformation helped damage their reputation. How many of us today include kidneys or 'sweet breads' in our menu? Once removed from the dinner table, children are not exposed to such foods, and are reluctant to try them later. But What About…
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Was Mom Right? Is Eating Carrots Good for the Eyes?

Chemistry, Food
From childhood, Mom admonished me, "Eat your carrots! They're good for your eyes." Now, I wore glasses. Later, with Mom's approval, I became an organic chemist. Since I listened to Mom, I eat my carrots. But I wondered if they really are good for the eyes. Here's what I learned. Carrot Chemistry Carrots contain the organic compound β-carotene. It's chemical structure is seen in the image below. The chemical formula of β-carotene is C40H56. In addition to imparting the orange color to a carrot, if a molecule is split down the middle and the cleaved double bond is hydrated for both halves, the result is two molecules of retinol, C20H30O. See the image. Does the name retinol suggest the word retina to you? It should. Retinol is one major form…
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The Peculiar Origin of the Graham Cracker

Food, History
[caption id="attachment_23324" align="alignright" width="480"] Available circa 1915[/caption] Crackers come in every shape and size. One of the most famous cracker varieties is not served with fish or olives. Rather, it is a sweet treat, often eaten stand-alone, or with butter, peanut butter, honey, or perhaps jam. It can be crumbled to make pie crust. We know it as the Graham cracker. The Flour behind the Cracker The Graham cracker is generally dark tan and has a somewhat gritty texture. This is because it is made from unsifted coarse-grind whole wheat flour. This namesake cracker was inspired by the preaching of the somewhat eccentric Sylvester Graham (1794-1851).¹ As a young man, Sylvester tried many occupations, eventually deciding to be a clergyman. However, the message he preached was swayed by personal belief,…
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Fermentation Adds Pleasure to Our Diet

Chemistry, Food
[caption id="attachment_23185" align="alignright" width="480"] Sausages, mashed potatoes, and sauerkraut.[/caption] When most people think of fermentation, they think of fermenting fruits rich in sugar, or of potatoes or other starches. In most cases, they are thinking of is alcohol, for drinking! But fermentation is not limited alcoholic beverages. For instance, did you know sauerkraut is fermented cabbage? Or that both coffee and chocolate are made using fermentation? Let's "Define" Fermentation When yeast ferments sugar, sugar breaks apart into alcohol and carbon dioxide gas. When yeast is used to bake bread, both the alcohol and the gas cause the bread to rise. But fermentation to produce alcoholic beverages, involves no cooking. The alcohol must "disposed of" in a different way! Now yeast is a budding, single-cell fungus. So fungus can be used…
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Beets for Baby? If So, You Might Want to Read This

Chemistry, Food
When I was a young child, my mom fed me a variety of foods. And that is great! Kids today are asked what they would like to eat, rather than being told this is what we are eating tonight... Well, I was served, among whatever else Mom gave me, beets. Delicious beets. Beets are tender, sweet, and if served as they were served to me, buttery and salty. A really marvelous food. Well, the next day, Mom called the Doctor in a panic... "Doctor," she cried, "my baby has blood in his stool!" The Doctor's Response "What did he eat yesterday?" Well, you get the point. I'd been given beets to eat. So if you choose to feed your little child beets, just remember the next day, the child is…
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Microwave Cooking Hot and Cold Spots – Why?

Food, Technology
You place your dinner of leftovers in a bowl in the microwave oven, loosely cover it, shut the door and set the timer for 6 minutes. You picked that time from experience. When the timer beeps, you pick up the plate with your oven mitt and set it on the table. Then you gingerly remove the covering to avoid a steam burn. You salt and pepper your food, let it set two minutes or so, and begin eating. You taste the first mouthful and it is perfect. However, the second mouthful much hotter! Stirring the food half-way through the cooking process would have helped prevent this. Why the Hot Spots? The oven is a microwave oven. The heat results from absorbed invisible waves, specifically microwave standing waves, produced by a…
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Pressure Cookers Cook Hotter and Quicker – The Ideal Gas Law

Chemistry, Food
[caption id="attachment_22958" align="alignright" width="480"] Modern 8.5 quart steel pressure cooker[/caption] Your time is limited. Besides, you are concerned about tenderness and nutrition. So you are in the market for a pressure cooker. But you are just a bit curious about how and why they work. And you are not certain which one to buy. Meats and Vegetables Water ordinarily boils at 212°Fahrenheit (100°Celsius). So food cooked in an open saucepan¹, whether by boiling or steaming, cooks at approximately that temperature. Using a Pressure Cooker In an open saucepan, water boils at atmospheric pressure, something over 14 pounds per square inch. However, when water boils in a pressure cooker, steam pressure is considerably higher. Now steam is essentially gaseous water. This brings to mind our high-school days and the dreaded Ideal…
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What is Cream of Tartar? Why is It Used in Food?

Chemistry, Food
We know the tiny white cubes of salt we shake over our food is sodium chloride. We know the sugar we spoon into our cereal (assuming that's not already been done for us) is sucrose. But what in the world is cream of tartar, and how why to we put that in our food? Chemical Structure Cream of tartar is a by-product. What is it a by-product of? The fermentation of wine. It often settles out in the cask and sometimes in the bottle. Cream of tartar's common technical name is potassium bitartrate. Sometimes it is called potassium acid tartrate since only one of its two available acid groups is neutralized by potassium (red circle), leaving the other acid group unreacted (blue circle). See the diagram. Its acid group, is…
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Why Do Certain Artificial Flavors Taste Better Than Others?

Chemistry, Food
Whether it is candy, a cake, or ice cream, I've heard statements of preference given for one particular fruit flavor over another. What is it that turns some people on to certain fruits, while turning them off to others? How is it certain artificial flavors taste better than others? The People Factor Of course, there is personal preference. But if a large enough group of people who express their taste preferences is polled, and an overwhelming number of them agree they like or dislike a specific flavor, isn't it fair to suggest it is not just a matter of personal preference? Another Factor Then, too, what if those polled say they dislike a particular artificial flavor, but they enjoy its natural flavor counterpart? Why is that? The no-brainer answer must…
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What is Hydrogenation? How Does It Affect Vegetable Oils?

Food, Health
Hydrogenation is simply the addition of one or more molecules of hydrogen to a compound. When we speak of hydrogenation, we usually refer to the saturation (adding of hydrogen) of carbon-carbon double bonds to produce single bonds. Saturation / Unsaturation Organic compounds, most of the compounds containing carbon and hydrogen, can be saturated or unsaturated. In saturated compounds, all carbon atoms that are bonded to other carbon atoms are singly bonded, whereas in unsaturated compounds, some of these are double or even triple bonds. See the illustration for examples. But Why Hydrogenation? Whatever the actual motive(s) involved, the medical and commercial worlds decided butter should be replaced by a manmade product, initially called oleomargarine, and later margarine. In order to be "healthy" we are told it should be prepared from…
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