Hi! My name is Alica. Welcome to Kitchen Chemology.
At university I studied chemistry and earned a PhD in organic chemistry after 4 years slaving away at a bench in a chemistry lab. At the end of my studies the last thing I wanted to do was spend any more time in the lab because breathing in all the solvents was giving me headaches and I had dermatitis on my forearms from leaning on my bench with my lab coat sleeves rolled up. So I left the lab and got an office job.
But I missed the practical work more than I thought I would. I didn’t realise it but I was using cooking and baking as a substitute. I flooded my workplace with cakes, macarons, hot cross buns and more and did fancy cooking courses every chance I had. And people kept asking me for tips and recipes because they thought I was doing this crazy ‘molecular gastronomy’, when all I was doing was applying the methodical and scientific approach of a lab chemist.
But why kitchen chemology?
Whenever anyone finds out that I have a PhD in chemistry, I am greeted with the same response: “I was never any good at chemistry at school”. It seems that lots of people are scared of chemistry because it is hard, even though they use it every day without even knowing it. This blog is about making chemistry accessible to the non-tech heads by explaining in simple terms what sort of chemical reactions you do and what chemicals you use in the kitchen and how they work.
You still didn’t explain your made up ‘chemology’ word!
Okay, okay! Chemology is a bit of a word play. The suffix –ology denotes the science or study of what is indicated by the prefix. However the word chemist and chemistry were in use before -ologies became commonly used in the English language in Victorian times. Chemistry is what a chemist does; etymologically speaking it is the practices of a chemist. And a chemist is a non-hocus pocusy version of an alchemist. But like I said, people are scared of chemistry, so I thought that chemology would be a bit more welcoming. Thus Kitchen Chemology is the study of kitchen chemistry, but with a lot less crazy Heston in there.
Admittedly, Heston Blumethal dislikes the term molecular gastronomy, but he still uses equipment that I would more likely use in a lab than in a kitchen. This blog is about chemistry in everyday cooking, because most people do not have a rotary evaporator, a centrifuge or access to liquid nitrogen in their kitchen at home. By the way, I’m totally not disparaging chefs who use these, like Ben Shewry, because I am desperate to go to his restaurant and I don’t want to be banned! Also, as a chemistry geek, I think it is way cool that he does use a rotary evaporator in his kitchen. Plus, I appreciate his sentiment “Just because you can use something doesn’t mean you should.”
Did you spell your name right?
I sure did, I’ve been spelling my name for more than 30 years, so I think I have a pretty good grasp on that by now. So in case you were wondering, it is Alica not Alicia. And you pronounce it as if it was spelt Alyssa or Alissa or Elissa, or Aliça, if you’re French.