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Guest Blogger:Sarah Bauer
Chew well, and whatever you take into you
Should be well-cooked and of simple ingredients.
-Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci was a scientist as well as a painter, which could explain why one of his many interests was food. He was a vegetarian, preferring simple foods that could be combined into infinite flavors. If this sounds familiar, it might be because it’s the basics of chemistry. Da Vinci was never a chemist because at the time most scholars only knew alchemy, the early version of chemistry (he was never an alchemist either but used the methods he learned from alchemists in his painting). However, the basics of chemistry can be found in alchemy: the combination of elements to create something greater than the sum of their parts.
An element is something that cannot be broken down into something simpler. One cannot break carbon down into something else without changing its atomic structure, for example. However, when elements are combined, they can create new substances. Hydrogen and oxygen create water, which is nothing like hydrogen or oxygen.
This same principle can be applied to cooking. Simple foods can be considered elements. One cannot break down celery into a simpler form, for example. But these simple foods can be combined in nearly endless ways. Potatoes are a versatile example. Like carbon, potatoes can come in many forms: fried in discs, mashed, and cubed. They can be added to a stew, used to make soup, or mashed and topped with gravy to make a side dish (among many other things), like how carbon is found in graphite pencils, precious diamonds, and the building blocks of lifeforms.
Chemical reactions change the properties of all ingredients and are irreversible, much like how carrots in soup will absorb the flavor of the ingredients around them and will not taste like pure carrot after being used in a recipe.
Much like mixing primary colors to create an array of vibrant hues, da Vinci knew how to combine simple and unassuming ingredients into nearly infinite dishes. His observations on cooking and eating inspire chefs and foodies to this day.
A special thank you to everyone that attended my event at Altomonte’s Italian Market in Doylestown- celebrating The Basic Art of Italian Cooking :DaVinci Style- a dinner and wine pairing..
Get your copy of the book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking:DaVinci Style