I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I even flatter myself a pretty decent cook. The kind of cook who knows her way around a spice rack and has a masterful knowledge of the ingredients she uses. The kind who mixes common sense with a rare genius that will one day be discovered and I’ll star in my own Food Network show. The kind that, minus a blatant refusal to acknowledge reality, figures she can at least tell you what ingredient she cooks with most.
I wouldn’t tell you water.
It turns out that I’m also the kind of cook who is blissfully unaware of most of what’s going on chemically in her kitchen. Forget the garlic, the butter, the spices. There is only one ingredient that matters: water. It’s the one we’re cooking with all the time — and in heavy doses. Lettuce is 95% water. A fresh carrot is 90%. And, surprising me the most, a pork loin is 60% water! Apparently, all cooking boils down to water. We’re either freezing it into a solid, boiling it into a gas, or manipulating it as a liquid.
I’ve been taking my water for granted. Especially my tap water. Where we live, the water is hard — chock full of minerals — and I was surprised to learn that affects everything I do. I couldn’t figure out why my dread beans won’t soften and my boiled veggies seem tough. Duh: the water! The minerals in the tap water are too busy reinforcing veggie cell walls (and toughening them up) to get down to the business of cooking. Suddenly, I wish I paid more attention in chemistry class.
Do you think about science when you cook? Or am I the only one naively browning my garlic and butter without a thought of what my tap water is doing?
Beautiful water by Brittney Borowski.