The application of scientific knowledge to cooking and gastronomy has become known as molecular gastronomy. This is a subdiscipline of food science. Important contributions have been made by scientists, chefs and authors such as Herve This (chemist), Nicholas Kurti (physicist), Peter Barham (physicist), Harold McGee (author), Shirley Corriher (biochemist, author), Heston Blumenthal (chef), Ferran Adria (chef), Robert Wolke (chemist, author) and Pierre Gagnaire (chef).
Traditional foods are foods and dishes that are passed through generations or which have been consumed many generations. Traditional foods and dishes are traditional in nature, and may have a historic precedent in a national dish, regional cuisine or local cuisine. Traditional foods and beverages may be produced as homemade, by restaurants and small manufacturers, and by large food processing plant facilities.
In addition, many cultures use grills for cooking. A grill operates with a radiant heat source from below, usually covered with a metal grid and sometimes a cover. An open pit barbecue in the American south is one example along with the American style outdoor grill fueled by wood, liquid propane, or charcoal along with soaked wood chips for smoking. A Mexican style of barbecue is called barbacoa, which involves the cooking of meats such as whole sheep over an open fire. In Argentina, an asado (Spanish for "grilled") is prepared on a grill held over an open pit or fire made upon the ground, on which a whole animal or smaller cuts are grilled.
Communication between the Old World and the New World in the Columbian Exchange influenced the history of cooking. The movement of foods across the Atlantic, from the New World, such as potatoes, tomatoes, maize, beans, bell pepper, chili pepper, vanilla, pumpkin, cassava, avocado, peanut, pecan, cashew, pineapple, blueberry, sunflower, chocolate, gourds, and squash, had a profound effect on Old World cooking. The movement of foods across the Atlantic, from the Old World, such as cattle, sheep, pigs, wheat, oats, barley, rice, apples, pears, peas, chickpeas, green beans, mustard, and carrots, similarly changed New World cooking.
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Wine is a popular and important drink that accompanies and enhances a wide range of cuisines, from the simple and traditional stews to the most sophisticated and complex haute cuisines. Wine is often served with dinner. Sweet dessert wines may be served with the dessert course. In fine restaurants in Western countries, wine typically accompanies dinner. At a restaurant, patrons are helped to make good food-wine pairings by the restaurant's sommelier or wine waiter. Individuals dining at home may use wine guides to help make food–wine pairings. Wine is also drunk without the accompaniment of a meal in wine bars or with a selection of cheeses (at a wine and cheese party).
Food is traded and marketed on a global basis. The variety and availability of food is no longer restricted by the diversity of locally grown food or the limitations of the local growing season. Between 1961 and 1999, there was a 400% increase in worldwide food exports. Some countries are now economically dependent on food exports, which in some cases account for over 80% of all exports.
For consistency, non-vintage wines can be blended from more than one vintage, which helps wine-makers sustain a reliable market image and maintain sales even in bad years. One recent study suggests that for the average wine drinker, the vintage year may not be as significant for perceived quality as had been thought, although wine connoisseurs continue to place great importance on it.
Some countries list a legal definition of food, often referring them with the word foodstuff. These countries list food as any item that is to be processed, partially processed, or unprocessed for consumption. The listing of items included as food include any substance intended to be, or reasonably expected to be, ingested by humans. In addition to these foodstuffs, drink, chewing gum, water, or other items processed into said food items are part of the legal definition of food. Items not included in the legal definition of food include animal feed, live animals (unless being prepared for sale in a market), plants prior to harvesting, medicinal products, cosmetics, tobacco and tobacco products, narcotic or psychotropic substances, and residues and contaminants.
Home cooking has traditionally been a process carried out informally in a home or around a communal fire, and can be enjoyed by all members of the family, although in many cultures women bear primary responsibility. Cooking is also often carried out outside of personal quarters, for example at restaurants, or schools. Bakeries were one of the earliest forms of cooking outside the home, and bakeries in the past often offered the cooking of pots of food provided by their customers as an additional service. In the present day, factory food preparation has become common, with many "ready-to-eat" foods being prepared and cooked in factories and home cooks using a mixture of scratch made, and factory made foods together to make a meal. The nutritional value of including more commercially prepared foods has been found to be inferior to home-made foods. Home-cooked meals tend to be healthier with fewer calories, and less saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium on a per calorie basis while providing more fiber, calcium, and iron. The ingredients are also directly sourced, so there is control over authenticity, taste, and nutritional value. The superior nutritional quality of home-cooking could therefore play a role in preventing chronic disease. Cohort studies following the elderly over 10 years show that adults who cook their own meals have significantly lower mortality, even when controlling for confounding variables.
Vegetables are a second type of plant matter that is commonly eaten as food. These include root vegetables (potatoes and carrots), bulbs (onion family), leaf vegetables (spinach and lettuce), stem vegetables (bamboo shoots and asparagus), and inflorescence vegetables (globe artichokes and broccoli and other vegetables such as cabbage or cauliflower).