Independent Study: Food

Tomorrow morning I’m going to get to do one of the things that makes teaching redeemable from its 37th-circle-of-hell-infinite-time-sink nature, I get to design an independent study course with an individual precocious and motivated student.

Designing such courses are more indulgent for me than the students realize. It’s a way of getting someone else to delve into source materials that I think are face melting while they feed me new analyses I never could have come up with myself. It’s like reverse-parasitism with some symbiosis, and a lot of me responding to questions with questions (but not in a douchey way).

The student I’ll be working with is nominally on the derp-de-derp medical school track (which is a topic we can discuss at length later), so Biology is the name of the game. However, this student is a well established cook and baker, so I think things will head that direction. I’m thinking kind of a Pollan meets Gastronomy meets Supersize Me experience here.

I’m just kind of having an idea monsoon here, so be prepared for a classic ThThTh bulleted list of fury:

  • Source: Omnivore’s Dilemma (Pollan).
  • Cake flour protein content investigations (baking break, kneading experiments, gluten content, etc…)
  • Source: Four Fish (Greenberg). Inquiries: Nutritional Content of wild vs farmed fish/meat.
  • Protein source studies into proliferation of vegetarian/vegan lifestyles.
  • Source: Botany of Desire (Pollan). Probably use parts of the PBS documentary.
  • Population genetics simulations in monocultures (i.e. Monsanto’s questionable business practices) – Heavy programming.
  • Roasting, Suate, Sweating, and Searing: quantitative studies of the Maillard reactions.

In general, I want my student to produce a blog (they blog heavily already) that is readable and full of investigatory information that probably hasn’t been published in the context before. In short, I want my student to be able to produce something from this study that lingers instead of just rots on a hard drive, because, like church, school shouldn’t be about the building.

I’m interested in getting a hold of a mass spectrometer we could use for identifying molecules created during cooking and baking. Anyone have any good ideas? I’ve been searching hackaday for a while now…

If you have anything to add that’s even secantily related (i’ll take tangentially, too) please drop it in the comments!

(I’m back from the semester of hell, btw, let the competitions begin)