In this world, we are surrounded by chemistry and chemical reactions that keep taking place all the time. We may not be aware of what is happening simply because we don?t stop to think or do not have the scientific knowledge to deduce the subtle changes that take place all the time. The air around us contains various gases; chiefly hydrogen and oxygen which are constantly changing places, converting into various other combinations (carbon-dioxide) and plants are busy with photosynthesis, converting light energy from the sun into energy that they can use.? In the process, plants release vital oxygen into the atmosphere, thus contributing to the existence of life on earth.
When it comes to cooking, it is certainly a series of chemical reactions, and if the reactions go wrong, the result is food that is not palatable, or even edible. Try dunking asparagus into boiling water and watch the color change to a brighter green. This is caused by the popping of the cells that create the change. If you allow the asparagus to boil for some more time, the walls of the cells begin to shrink and a different chemical reaction (release of acid) takes place. For a change, try cooking finely chopped red cabbage leaves in a pan and allow it to heat. You will notice that the red pigment undergoes a color change because it changes from an acid to alkaline state. If you increase the level of acidity by adding vinegar, the red color is back, as though the cabbage is blushing. Add a pinch of baking soda, and the color turns blue.
We can learn a lot of lessons from these chemical reactions. For one, it is not a good idea to overcook vegetables as the cell walls tend to shrink and release acid, which is not good for our bodies. Moreover, when any vegetable is overcooked it loses the original shape and appearance and looks like a sticky mass of unpalatable food. Even the ripening of a banana is a chemical reaction where a bright green color turns yellow as the fruit ripens. The banana and other fruits in the fruit bowl are responsible for this quick color change, which is because of the ethylene gas released. This technique is often used by traders who wish to have their stock of fruits ripened overnight.
Food spoiling is also because of chemical reactions. When food is exposed to oxygen or extreme to moderate heat, it hastens the process of food rotting. Sometimes chemistry in the kitchen is used to preserve food. Salted sprats are a great example. It is not just dried fish that lasts longer if treated with salt, even meat and pickles remain intact because of the effects of salt. Salt is known to kill bacteria; this explains the age-old grandmother?s home remedy that recommends salt water gargling to cure sore throats.? Similarly, when sugar is added to fruits, it acts as an excellent preservative and prevents it from spoiling. Several spices and vinegar are used as excellent preservatives.