Biology | Introductory Biology Lectures
L104 | 0511 | Bonner, J


Course format: Lecture: 9:05A-9:55A, MWF, MY 130.

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 plant 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 esssential 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.