> > I am sorry if I misunderstood you because of fast reading non native language...
I hope you can appreciate, in the context of today's lunch misadventure, I was
especially pleased to read your (unintentionally, but very timely and) amusing
"mis-translation" of DOUGH as "bread paste" :D
As a chemist, I immediately imagined pouring some Downy "loaf softener" into the
other ingredients in the bread machine in order to produce something moist,
fluffy, and soft. [* See below]
It brings to mind the famous double-translation of Frederick Pohl's "The Wizards
of Pung's Corners", where flashy, over-complex military hardware proved useless
against farmers with shotguns. ("The Wizards of Pung's Corners" was freely
translated into Chinese and then freely translated back into English as "The
Wizard-Masters of Peng-Shi Angle" in the first edition of Pohlstars (1984)).
I also had occasion (misfortune?) to use a piece of laboratory software that
must have been hastily translated into English from --- multiple languages(?)
and still retained some items in two other languages, and some obvious gaffes.
And just to make this hyperbolic culinary odyssey complete, I will append a copy
(and sometimes-working link to) "Uncle" Al[an] Schwartz's excellent article
which I first read in (1994?) Chemical and Engineering News.
Caution: Reading Uncle Al is not for the sensitive or faint of heart.
My childhood was exacerbated by a home in which the concurrent consumption of
dairy and meat products would precipitate the inexhaustible wrath of the Old
Testament Hairy Thunderer, or so my parents claimed to believe. Reflection upon
two decades prior when eight million of their co-religionists were converted
into low grade fertilizer without a hint of divine snit should have given them a
clue. Culinary minefields were deftly skirted by the use of "instant" mashed
potatoes. That Mommy Dearest could induce jaw-cramping lumps in a powdery
substance devoting its heart and soul toward metamorphosis into a pool of
gelatinous sludge is ponderous evidence of her powers. When my sweetie, the love
of my life, bade me mash a pot full of boiled potatoes I was thrust out upon a
very long and very narrow cultural limb. The void yawning below me was
I am an organic chemist possessed of the very finest mind and trained within the
most rigorous of gustatory experiences - industrial petrochemistry. As I thrust
the masher within the pot and the beige lumps extruded into starchy dreadlocks,
my mind flew into furious cogitation. Would I be humbled by a side dish
conquered by Hibernians? Ha!
The substance of mashed potatoes preponderantly consists of discoidal insoluble
starch particles whose surfaces strongly interact with interstitial water, and
each other. That this is also the fine structure of library paste hints at the
disaster aborning. I thought of cold cream and grease and the phase inversion
phenomenon that interconverts them.
Consider a vessel filled with vegetable oil and water. Shake it heartily, set it
down, and watch the oil float to the top and the water sink to the bottom. If
you now add a very small percentage of long, thin molecules whose heads are
extremely soluble in water but not at all in oil, and whose long tails love oil
and hate water, an amazing transformation occurs when you again shake. The stuff
is called surfactant. Its long molecular tails bury themselves in the oil
droplets with heads left protruding into the water. It stabilizes the oil/water
compote at its interface to yield an emulsion of oil droplets floating in a
If the surfactant is lecithin in egg yolks, you have salad dressing. If you
really beat on it to disperse the oil droplets more finely, you have mayonnaise
mineral oil, the latter is called cold cream. If you beat it too long and have
too much oil there will be a phase inversion as the oil drops suddenly coalesce
into the continuous phase and the water appears as discrete droplets. In a pinch
and with lots of muscle you can convert cold cream into bearing grease.
I was mashing and mashing more and more desperately as the glutinous mess
filling the pot more and more closely resembled spackling compound. Solvent
parameters and surface energies flooded my brain as I desperately sought to
discern a mechanism by which those naughty starch particles could be separated
in space to create a smooth glide between tongue and palate, not forgetting to
throw in some suitably stabilized and unctuous goop to ameliorate gagging. I
suspected that a squirt of dishwashing liquid followed by a shot of WD-40 was
not a satisfactory answer.
Protein, that was the ticket! Hydrophilic and hydrophobic amino acid residues
can create regions of protein separated in space, some of which adore water,
some of which crave oil. What would Mother NEVER put into mashed potatoes? Milk
products! I thought about all those jolly casein molecules imprisoning
microscopic butterfat globules and my heart beat just a little bit faster.
Would I sneak some milk into this rapidly stiffening mess? Nah, too watery. I
needed high concentrations of active materials. Butter? Nah, butter is
confiscated by Federal decree from all dairy farms to protect the citizens of
these great United States from becoming innocent victims of arteriosclerosis and
thereby committing suicide by eating it. Butter is stockpiled for government
officials' dining only. Margarine? Nah, too greasy and with trans-fatty acids
precipitating arteriosclerosis. Either way, phase inversion had put the wrong
component as the continuous phase. What was between milk and margarine? Sour
I snuck a dollop of sour cream into the mashed mess and before my widening eyes
the crumbly dreadlocks of mortified starch disintegrated into satiny velvet
swirls. Little starch particles had their invidious machinations thwarted by
molecular layers of protein encapsulation and miniature emulsified oil ball
bearings. It was probably not even toxic. I threw in another white plop for good
measure, added a crushed garlic clove, stirred vigorously, and presented the
final result to She Who Rules the Kitchen - and it was good.
It WAS good! Twenty years of schooling and another fifteen in research had
marshaled their dreadful power to bring forth the quintessential pot of mashed
potatoes. I will start the patent search on Monday (including a squirt of
dishwashing liquid followed by a shot of WD-40, hoping that the patent examiner
had never eaten at my mother's table).
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