Following the Recipe : A Scientist’s Perspective

Right now I’m coping with a C+ in Organic Chemistry, my first truly bad grade. I have to say, I’m a bit disappointed, but not surprised. That class was a nightmare, and truly I’m not joking. Apparently a girl got her final a few rows from me, opened it, and started crying. Ouch, I feel your pain. This isn’t the end for me though, and it certainly doesn’t mean I don’t lscience-puns-punove science anymore. In fact, I tutored general chemistry! There is no limit on the amount of science puns I use every day, each rewarded with an eye roll and a partial laugh from anyone near me.

My love of science is most likely due to my love for cooking. When you really think about it, precisely measuring out 4.5ml of 19M sodium hydroxide is just like pouring a teaspoon of acetic acid (aka vinegar). JUST KIDDING. One is an acid and the other is a base. Also, one of them can burn a hole through shoes, while the other is a good addition to fries. True story though, my lab partner spilled sodium hydroxide on my foot the day I wore my Vans in lab. HE DROPPED THE BASE. I walked home without a shoe, but I was more upset I didn’t get to watch the base eat through the canvas of my favorite pair of shoes. Precision in a kitchen isn’t as necessary unless you’re food is so terrible it’s corrosive, but it can produce better baked goods for sure. If you use 2 teaspoons of baking powder instead of one, you’ll get a muffin with a drastically different consistency.

Now, I’m not saying you should ALWAYS follow the recipe. I sure as hell don’t. Most of the time though, I know exactly why I’m changing or adding things. Also, some recipes just really aren’t that good. If you’re cooking (in the kitchen, not a meth lab), you should try experimenting, but realize the product will be different. Once you get a clear understanding of how to cook and bake, the practice of making food can become an art as well. Be creative. You don’t have to be confined to a piece of paper or how I tell you to make something. Van Gogh isn’t popular because he was a by-the-book painter. But if you’re a scientist, and you just can’t help being precise, follow the recipes I write to a tee and you’ll have the best percent yield you’ve ever seen.

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