Learn about the science of gastronomy

Learn about the science of gastronomy

Just a couple of days ago, I stumbled across Coursera.org, They describe themselves as, “a social entrepreneurship company that partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. We envision a future where the top universities are educating not only thousands of students, but millions. Our technology enables the best professors to teach tens or hundreds of thousands of students.”

That sounded pretty cool to me, so I checked them out. There was no catch, every course was really free. If you were around in the mid-1990s when the Internet was getting started, this was what it was all about – free information available to anyone, anywhere. There still is a lot of that, but, as always, commercial interests have destroyed that initial and wonderful spirit of the Internet. Ah, progress.

OK, I immediately signed up for Greek and Roman Mythology that happened to be starting this past Monday. These are real courses with real demands.

Economic Issues Food & You

Economic Issues Food & You

The mythology course is taught by an associate professor from the University of Pennsylvania (Dr. Peter Struck). This first week there is about 3-hours of excellent lecture (he is a good teacher and obviously passionate about his subject) via a few relatively short videos. There are quizzes (not easy and I have two masters degrees) that you really have to study for and readings of source material in translation. The first one is Homer’s Odyssey. There are even written assignments that will be peer graded since there are 50,000 or so students in the class.

In the food category, there were a number of classes coming up. I plan to take the following:

The Science of Gastronomy, taught by King Chow and Lam Lung Yeung from The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

This course introduces students to elements of science lying behind cooking and cuisine preparation. The ultimate goal is to help students recognize the importance of scientific principles being applied in everyday life, so that they will appreciate and be able to apply some of these principles in their future cooking practice.

The above class I am super excited about as I feel I really need to better understand ingredient pairings, textures, and flavor combinations.

Economic Issues Food & You, taught by Jennifer Clark from the University of Florida

This course emphasizes the role of economics regarding its influence on food prices, the environment, and government policies. The primary objective of this course is to explore the basic tool kit of economic concepts that will enable students to critically analyze the choices they face as consumers and world citizens.

I believe the above class will help me better explain why local food production is so important.

An Introduction to the U.S. Food System: Perspectives from Public Health

An Introduction to the U.S. Food System: Perspectives from Public Health

An Introduction to the U.S. Food System: Perspectives from Public Health, taught by Robert S. Lawrence and Keeve Nachman from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

A food system encompasses the activities, people and resources involved in getting food from field to plate. Along the way, it intersects with aspects of public health, equity and the environment. In this course, we will provide a brief introduction to the U.S. food system and how food production practices and what we choose to eat impacts the world in which we live. Through several case studies, we will discuss some key historical and political factors that have helped shape the current food system and consider alternative approaches from farm to fork. The course will be led by a team of faculty and staff from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. Guest lecturers will include experts from a variety of disciplines, including public health and agriculture.

I hope the above course will help me better understand just why we have such adulterated and less than stellar food in the United States.

There are courses in every subject imaginable. Check them out at Coursera.org.

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