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merry Xmas, baking and science

Sarah Boomer sarai at u.washington.edu
Sun Dec 22 15:22:43 EST 1996

I'm gonna sign off for the holidays.  It occured to me today, though, that
cooking/baking and science, for me, are really about the same things in
many ways.  I am having some close friends from the lab over for Christmas
Eve and I have already spent all day today in the kitchen with a new
cookbook from the Ark restaurant.  While baking bread (ultimately for
bread pudding), simmering a lb of garlic for garlic stock (ultimately for
garlic orange bisque) and preparing cranberry sauce, I was somehow
impressed (as I often am) with the similarities between good cooking and
bench science.  And it's not just the tediousness;  there is also some
element of creativity, troubleshooting, testing, watching, observing (I
love to listen and watch the cranberry skins pop);  it's very physical and
precise, while not very precise.  It's very rewarding, perhaps in a way
that is - to me - more tactile and immediate that the on-faith molecular
biology I work on.

Some people have remarked recently that we don't acknowledge the many man
who like to cook as well.  Indeed.  My organic chemistry prof, a man, was
the best cheesecake baker I know (taught me everything I know, he is still
a great friend).  Several "fellow" grad. students and I also share the
same verve for cooking as a "scientific art."  My mother's roomate in
college was a woman PhD student who eventually married another PhD
biologist and their favorite past-time is cooking together (they literally
go to France to take courses in French cooking).  I was impressed with one
of Julia Childs' guests some time back who was a male PhD chemist who left
the field because he liked cooking better.  Now, he is apparently a famous
SW chef (though his name escapes me).  I don't think I need to go on.

I will conclude this post by recalling one of my female committee members
who told a male graduate student (who hated to cook and always succumbed
to ordering out or buying bagels) at a party (paraphrased to the best of
my recollection):  a scientist who cannot cook is not a scientist.  A good
cook will always be the sign of a great scientist.  I suppose it is
ironic, paradoxical, and/or revealing that he is choosing to go on with
hard-core research and I am not.  Don't know what that means!  But I
thought it was a funny story in light of all the perhaps meaningless
steroetyping we have succumbed to of late.

Happy Holidays,  Sarah

Sarah Boomer				email:  sarai at u.washington.edu		
Dept. of Microbiology			work phone:  543-3376
Box 357242				work FAX:  543-3376
University of Washington		
Seattle, WA  98195	

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