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Molecular and Physical Gastronomy

Molecular and Physical Gastronomy (in short, Molecular Gastronmy) is a scientific discipline which was created in 1988 by the late Nicholas Kurti (1908-1998) and Hervé This (INRA/AgroParisTech) in preparation of the First International Workshops on Molecular and Physical Gastronomy (Erice, Sicily).

Some scientists had activities in this field before the name of the discipline was given: among the most important, Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier studied meat broth preparation as early as 1791 and, for a very long time, this study of culinary transformation (and more) was an indistinctive part of food science.

No name would have been needed if progressively cooking activities had not been forgotten by food science: there was a slow drift toward two directions, i.e. the science of food ingredients, and the science of industrial processes.

Indeed, in the 1980’s, some scientists were individually engaged in the study of culinary processes. And this is why Kurti and This thought that it was good idea to propose to identify a specific discipline, whose name was initially “Molecular and Physical Gastronomy”.

This name was based on a quotation by Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin:
“Gastronomy is the intelligent knowledge of whatever concerns man’s nourishment. Its purpose is to watch over his conservation by suggesting the best possible sustenance for him. It arrives at this goal by directing, according to certain principles, all men who hunt, supply, or prepare whatever can be made into food...

Gastronomy is a part of: Natural history, by its classification of alimentary substances; Physics, because of the examination of the composition and quality of these substances; Chemistry, by the various analyses and catalyses to which it subjects them; Cookery, because of the art of adapting dishes and making them pleasant to the taste; Business, by the seeking out of methods of buying as cheaply as possible what is needed, and of selling most advantageously what can be produced for sale; Finally, political economy, because of the sources of revenue which gastronomy creates and the means of exchange which it establishes between nations.” i

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