Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cooking Myths Debunked

Cooking Myths Debunked
By: Chef Cristian Feher

Much like the Loch Ness monster, Big Foot, and fact that you can’t get pregnant if you jump up and down, the culinary world shares many myths of its own. And it is my pleasure to debunk just a few of them for you.

[Cue the National Geographic music] There are those who think, and those who look. The thinkers have brought forth many interesting facts; like the Earth being flat, the existence of witches, and communism. The lookers went out and actually looked. They observed a round planet, they met women who liked to experiment with hallucinogens, and witnessed the political catastrophe that was communism in actual practice. Myths tend to originate from the thinkers who draw up conclusions based on what they “think” should happen, or what someone else has told them. A good scientist simply goes out and looks for himself. OK, now that I’ve given you the museum orientation speech, let’s get on with it, shall we?

Putting oil in the pasta water will stop the pasta from sticking together. False. This is probably the most common culinary myth around. Oil floats on top of water (even when it’s boiling). The only thing the oil does is to prevent the water from foaming and boiling over. Stirring the pasta while it’s cooking is what keeps it from sticking together. And after you drain the pasta you can stir in a little oil to keep it from sticking.

Sea salt is healthier than regular table salt. False. Both table salt and “sea salt” come from the sea, whether the sea is around today or was around 10 million years ago and someone dug up the salt deposit, that’s where it comes from. “Sea Salt” is just marketing talk for “Pay more for me!” Furthermore, salt is just sodium chloride and it dissolves in water just the same whether it’s fine salt, kosher salt, “sea salt” or Himalayan pink salt. The only difference from one salt to the next is all the extra stuff that is clinging to it, whether it be different algae, minerals, spices, or smoke particles. Salt is salt.

Strong black coffee will sober you up. False. Strong black coffee will only keep a drunk awake longer. And unless you really enjoy rude comments, close-talking, misguided aggression, and public urination, keep stimulants away from drunks. The only thing that will sober a person up is sleep and B-vitamins. The actual feeling of being “drunk” is just a depletion of your body’s B1-vitamin stores which your body has to use to get rid of the alcohol. As a side note - I was once in a bar with a group of Filipinos and one of them was getting way too drunk and out of hand. So they slipped some MSG powder (mono sodium glutamate) in his beer and a couple of minutes later the guy fell asleep in his seat. “This is how we deal with drunks in the Philippines” my friend said to me with a wink.

Diet soda is healthier than regular soda. Although this one shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, it’s false. Various experiments, including ones conducted at the university of Barcelona in Spain, have proven conclusively that the artificial sweetener found in most sodas, aspartame, easily breaks down into several substances including formaldehyde (the stuff used to embalm corpses at the morgue). So if living forever is your thing, you may be going about it the wrong way by drinking diet soda. Besides, it’s the 21st century and the world is going green, so you want to be biodegradable when you die.

Know of any other food-related myths? If so, please email them to me.

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