Inspired by a recent article about Jump Associates, a company “In Pursuit of the Perfect Brainstorm,” I’m sharing some ideas I’ve had for other food/science projects.

  • The Botany of Cooking: which parts of plants are edible and why (e.g. seeds, leaves, stems, roots and tubesr)? Much of this information is in On Food and Cooking, but there is the potential for an awesome infographic. Also, why are certain plants used in particular regions? The book Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond covered some of this, but once again, I think there’s a way to show this visually on a map.
  • The Science of Fast Food: the wonderful assortment of hydrocolloids that we used in the Science and Cooking class (e.g. lecithin, maltodextrin, xanthan gum) was first used by large-scale food companies. Although these additives are now often vilified, each was developed as a response to a specific problem. I think this could could make a great general science course for undergrads.
  • Food Science from an Asian Perspective: many of the recent books about food and science focus on Italian pastas, classic French sauces, cheese-making, and other American or European dishes. I’m not aware of any readily-accessible resource that covers topics like flavor-balancing in Asian condiments, an explanation of the regional variations in rice preparation (e.g. sushi vs. basmati), the craft of noodle-making, etc. The closest example I could find was Asian Foods: Science and Technology, which is rather expensive and written for a specialist audience. I’d be interested to hear if anyone thinks there would be a market for this overseas.
  • Data-mining of recipes: It could be really interesting to collect the ingredient lists from a database of recipes and see how they match up to the values given in Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio.

Are there examples that I missed? I’d love to hear about any other ideas.