Understanding The Chemistry Of Cooking

One of my guilty pleasures during the workday is to visit ScienceDaily. The Web site has so many interesting stories all relating to science. I guess I shouldn't feel too guilty, I work for Chemical Processing, which is a science-based publication. And ScienceDaily has an area dedicated to chemistry. So in essence, I am continuing my education and locating great stories to share with ChemicalProcessing.com site visitors. And sometimes I even get tips that help me in my personal life, as well.

This latest item I stumbled upon (it was actually posted Jan. 1, 2009) would have come in handy yesterday when I was making sweet and sour red cabbage. I left out an important ingredient and my red cabbage got the blues. The article talks about biochemist and cook Shirley Corriher. Shirley explains, "Cooking is chemistry -- it's essentially chemical reactions."

According to Shirley, when cooking red cabbage, heat breaks down the red anthocyanine pigment, changing it from an acid to alkaline and causing the color to change from red to blue. Add vinegar to increase the acidity, and the cabbage is red again. Baking soda will change it back to blue.

Of course! Had I been thinking, I could have explained this to my husband. But instead, he reluctantly ate the blue cabbage dish and probably secretly wished I would invest in cooking lessons. No need for cooking lessons when you've got the principles of chemistry to channel your inner Julia Child – or in this case, Shirley Corriher.

Traci Purdum,
Senior Digital Editor