Why do we cook our food? There is more than one answer to this question and there are old and new alternatives. I believe the main reason we cook food is to kill off the bacteria to make it safe to eat. Another would be to tenderize it. Some foods are just so tough that you would have a very hard time chewing them. Some other reasons would be taste, appearance, to make some more palatable. Can you think of any other reasons?
What are the old alternatives? Smoking meat comes to mind. Remember the old smoke houses that every farm used to have? Oh that’s right, I am probably al lot older than you are. Another was canning. My grandparents canned almost everything. How about salting? Salting was used mostly for fish and meats, whereas pickling was used more for vegetables, although meat was also pickled.
What are some of the modern methods of preserving food? Freeze dried comes to mind. Radiation of food works, but is not too popular with the general public. Additives to the foods give them a long shelf life. Not sure if it does the same thing to us. . . But the one most used, I believe, is freezing.
So, what will be the future methods? Anyone have any good ideas? I read about a new idea that some scientists are working with. The process is nothing out of a sci-fi movie but just plain old pressure. This fellow subjects food to 100,000 pounds per square inch of pressure. This scientist is putting an old pressure chamber to use that was originally made to make industrial diamonds. This system he uses has two chambers. The lower one has hydraulic fluid and the upper one, separated from the lower one by a piston, contains water. He puts his test subject (food) into a plastic bag and drops it into the water in the upper chamber. The hydraulic pumps are turned on and it tries to compress the water, which in turn puts the pressure on the food. As the article in Discover magazine says, “Something really surprising happens to many foods when subjected to this sort of megapressure: nothing.” The foods stay perfectly intact as do the bacteria, except the bacteria are all dead. This process doesn’t work too well for every thing, like strawberries end up squashed to oblivion.
If you enjoy very rare or raw meat, this is a blessing. You need to get one for your kitchen. The only problem is it would cut way deep into your food budget since a machine to do this process costs in the neighborhood of three million dollars. So, only large food processing companies use this system for a couple of brands of deli meat and packaged guacamole.
I think it is a great way to protect foods without destroying them or changing their taste, except for strawberries and the like. What do you think?
You all have a good day now and be careful what you eat, you hear?