The Chemistry of Cooking

As a result of Suffield’s Remote Learning Program sophomores and juniors enrolled in Paul Caginalp’s chemistry classes have turned their kitchens into laboratories. The project Paul designed is fittingly named The Chemistry of Cooking and asks students to continue experimenting with lab work while remaining responsibly distant within the safety of their own homes. “During these assignments, students are still learning many different lab techniques and gaining a greater understanding of the chemical world around them,” Paul explained. “I wanted to introduce this project to enable home-lab-learning but also because food and cooking are such integral parts of being a community. Our sharing of recipes with each other is taking the place of formal sit-down-lunch this term and allows us to bring meals to the virtual world of remote learning. It also personalizes us at the same time as we highlight the many food cultures belonging to our globally diverse student body.”

Additionally, Paul asked several faculty and staff members across the Suffield community to participate by sharing their own favorite dishes and cooking techniques. Submitting videos utilizing the online platform Flipgrid, students are assigned topics and upload their video productions to the Flipgrid classroom. Popular topics have included Sugars and Proteins, Sugars and Carbohydrates, Everyday Show and Tell, Aldehyde or Ketone, and Raw, Boiled, or Pan Fried.

At home in New York, sophomore Zeno Dancanet says that when first introduced to chemistry in the 4th-grade he disliked it with a passion and admits was not looking forward to studying the subject again as a 10th-grader. However, after a six-year hiatus and now immersed in Suffield’s inventive and engaging chemistry curriculum he is very pleased to comment, “This time around I now love chemistry with a passion. My favorite topic has been the study of internal combustion engines. I had already known exactly how an engine worked but was not experienced in the chemistry behind burning fuels. This class has encouraged me to dive much deeper into what I thought I already knew. What I enjoy most about chemistry is that no matter how much you think you know there is always something new and exciting to learn.”

Commenting on the successful platform of combining food with chemistry, Paul Caginalp concludes, “I hope that by sharing our food and time together in our kitchens we can gain back some of the personalization that we are losing in the virtual realm of online education. However, we of course still uphold a strict no-eating policy while in the confines of the lab.”