Biology | Introductory Biology Lectures
L104 | 0528 | Bonner, J


Course format: Lecture: 9:05A-9:55A, MWF, FA 102.

Requirements:  No background necessary.

Course Description: Topic: Biology of Food.

In this course, we will examine some of the things that we eat.  We
will try to understand some of the biology and biochemistry of these
plants and animals.  We will look into their ecological and
evolutionary history, which will help us understand the basic
phenomenon of "cuisine."  We will
look into their genetics and molecular biology, which will help us
understand why so many different kinds of living things can serve as
food for us.  This will also help us answer such curious questions as
why so many cultures have some variation of "rice and beans."  It will
also help
us understand how agricultural crops and animals have been altered by
breeding programs, and give us some insight into the current
controversy of Genetically Modified Organisms.

Knowing about the organisms is only part of what we call food.  We
don't take plants and animals straight from the field to the table.
We have to prepare the food in the kitchen.  Why does starch thicken
gravy? Why does cooking an egg make it form a semi-solid gel?  Why
does lime juice
thicken milk to make a key lime pie?  Most importantly of all, why
does it work so much better to make meringue in a copper pot?

This question of meringue is what got all of this started.  Harold
McGee studied this issue in the 1980's, and published a paper in the
British scientific journal, Nature.  It led him to an investigation of
what food is, and how the things we do in the kitchen work.  His book,
On Food and Cooking, is now the essential reference work for
bachelor's degree students and chefs-in-training at the Culinary
Institute of America, the CIA.  This book will be the primary text for
this course.  We will supplement it with some additional readings.

Harold McGee's book is somewhat like an encyclopedia, with each
section a complete reference work to that aspect of food and cooking.
If we read chapter 4 before we read chapter 1, we get just as much
value as if we read them in the other order.  This makes it possible
to follow our own interests, and look up important material in the
book as we go along.  It frees us from having to start at the
beginning, and work our way through.

Therefore, the course is organized around different kinds of foods.
We'll look at ice cream, and how to make it.  We'll look at pizza.
We'll look at hamburgers.  We'll look at beer.  When we're done, we
may have not only a bit of understanding, but a cookbook as well.

Weekly assignments: Reading from text and supplemental material.

Required text: On Food and Cooking, by Harold McGee
+ some additional readings.

Exams/papers: Three midterms + final.