Food poisoning has been recognized as a disease since as early as Hippocrates. The sale of rancid, contaminated, or adulterated food was commonplace until the introduction of hygiene, refrigeration, and vermin controls in the 19th century. Discovery of techniques for killing bacteria using heat, and other microbiological studies by scientists such as Louis Pasteur, contributed to the modern sanitation standards that are ubiquitous in developed nations today. This was further underpinned by the work of Justus von Liebig, which led to the development of modern food storage and food preservation methods. In more recent years, a greater understanding of the causes of food-borne illnesses has led to the development of more systematic approaches such as the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), which can identify and eliminate many risks.
Restaurants employ chefs to prepare the food, and waiters to serve customers at the table. The term restaurant comes from an old term for a restorative meat broth; this broth (or bouillon) was served in elegant outlets in Paris from the mid 18th century. These refined "restaurants" were a marked change from the usual basic eateries such as inns and taverns, and some had developed from early Parisian cafés, such as Café Procope, by first serving bouillon, then adding other cooked food to their menus.
Various food preservation and packaging techniques are used to extend a food's shelf life. Decreasing the amount of available water in a product, increasing its acidity, or irradiating or otherwise sterilizing the food and then sealing it in an air-tight container are all ways of depriving bacteria of suitable conditions in which to thrive. All of these approaches can all extend a food's shelf life without unacceptably changing its taste or texture.
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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).
Edible animal material, including muscle, offal, milk, eggs and egg whites, contains substantial amounts of protein. Almost all vegetable matter (in particular legumes and seeds) also includes proteins, although generally in smaller amounts. Mushrooms have high protein content. Any of these may be sources of essential amino acids. When proteins are heated they become denatured (unfolded) and change texture. In many cases, this causes the structure of the material to become softer or more friable – meat becomes cooked and is more friable and less flexible. In some cases, proteins can form more rigid structures, such as the coagulation of albumen in egg whites. The formation of a relatively rigid but flexible matrix from egg white provides an important component in baking cakes, and also underpins many desserts based on meringue.
Phylogenetic analysis suggests that human ancestors may have invented cooking as far back as 1.8 million to 2.3 million years ago. Re-analysis of burnt bone fragments and plant ashes from the Wonderwerk Cave, South Africa, has provided evidence supporting control of fire by early humans there by 1 million years ago. There is evidence that Homo erectus was cooking their food as early as 500,000 years ago. Evidence for the controlled use of fire by Homo erectus beginning some 400,000 years ago has wide scholarly support. Archaeological evidence from 300,000 years ago, in the form of ancient hearths, earth ovens, burnt animal bones, and flint, are found across Europe and the Middle East. Anthropologists think that widespread cooking fires began about 250,000 years ago, when hearths started appearing.
The spread of wine culture westwards was most probably due to the Phoenicians who spread outward from a base of city-states along the Mediterranean coast of what are today Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Palestine. The wines of Byblos were exported to Egypt during the Old Kingdom and then throughout the Mediterranean. Evidence includes two Phoenician shipwrecks from 750 BC discovered by Robert Ballard, whose cargo of wine was still intact. As the first great traders in wine (cherem), the Phoenicians seem to have protected it from oxidation with a layer of olive oil, followed by a seal of pinewood and resin, similar to retsina. Although the nuragic Sardinians already consumed wine before the arrival of the Phoenicians
Food safety depends on the safe preparation, handling, and storage of food. Food spoilage bacteria proliferate in the "Danger zone" temperature range from 40 to 140 °F (4 to 60 °C), food therefore should not be stored in this temperature range. Washing of hands and surfaces, especially when handling different meats, and keeping raw food separate from cooked food to avoid cross-contamination, are good practices in food preparation. Foods prepared on plastic cutting boards may be less likely to harbor bacteria than wooden ones. Washing and disinfecting cutting boards, especially after use with raw meat, poultry, or seafood, reduces the risk of contamination.
Several studies published since 1990 indicate that cooking meat at high temperature creates heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which are thought to increase cancer risk in humans. Researchers at the National Cancer Institute found that human subjects who ate beef rare or medium-rare had less than one third the risk of stomach cancer than those who ate beef medium-well or well-done. While avoiding meat or eating meat raw may be the only ways to avoid HCAs in meat fully, the National Cancer Institute states that cooking meat below 212 °F (100 °C) creates "negligible amounts" of HCAs. Also, microwaving meat before cooking may reduce HCAs by 90% by reducing the time needed for the meat to be cooked at high heat. Nitrosamines are found in some food, and may be produced by some cooking processes from proteins or from nitrites used as food preservatives; cured meat such as bacon has been found to be carcinogenic, with links to colon cancer. Ascorbate, which is added to cured meat, however, reduces nitrosamine formation.
Between the extremes of optimal health and death from starvation or malnutrition, there is an array of disease states that can be caused or alleviated by changes in diet. Deficiencies, excesses, and imbalances in diet can produce negative impacts on health, which may lead to various health problems such as scurvy, obesity, or osteoporosis, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases as well as psychological and behavioral problems. The science of nutrition attempts to understand how and why specific dietary aspects influence health.
While many foods can be eaten raw, many also undergo some form of preparation for reasons of safety, palatability, texture, or flavor. At the simplest level this may involve washing, cutting, trimming, or adding other foods or ingredients, such as spices. It may also involve mixing, heating or cooling, pressure cooking, fermentation, or combination with other food. In a home, most food preparation takes place in a kitchen. Some preparation is done to enhance the taste or aesthetic appeal; other preparation may help to preserve the food; others may be involved in cultural identity. A meal is made up of food which is prepared to be eaten at a specific time and place.
Vintage wines are generally bottled in a single batch so that each bottle will have a similar taste. Climate's impact on the character of a wine can be significant enough to cause different vintages from the same vineyard to vary dramatically in flavor and quality. Thus, vintage wines are produced to be individually characteristic of the particular vintage and to serve as the flagship wines of the producer. Superior vintages from reputable producers and regions will often command much higher prices than their average ones. Some vintage wines (e.g. Brunello), are only made in better-than-average years.
Ovens are mostly hollow devices that get very hot (up to 500 °F (260 °C)) and are used for baking or roasting and offer a dry-heat cooking method. Different cuisines will use different types of ovens. For example, Indian culture uses a tandoor oven, which is a cylindrical clay oven which operates at a single high temperature. Western kitchens use variable temperature convection ovens, conventional ovens, toaster ovens, or non-radiant heat ovens like the microwave oven. Classic Italian cuisine includes the use of a brick oven containing burning wood. Ovens may be wood-fired, coal-fired, gas, electric, or oil-fired.
Saltiness is the taste of alkali metal ions such as sodium and potassium. It is found in almost every food in low to moderate proportions to enhance flavor, although to eat pure salt is regarded as highly unpleasant. There are many different types of salt, with each having a different degree of saltiness, including sea salt, fleur de sel, kosher salt, mined salt, and grey salt. Other than enhancing flavor, its significance is that the body needs and maintains a delicate electrolyte balance, which is the kidney's function. Salt may be iodized, meaning iodine has been added to it, a necessary nutrient that promotes thyroid function. Some canned foods, notably soups or packaged broths, tend to be high in salt as a means of preserving the food longer. Historically salt has long been used as a meat preservative as salt promotes water excretion. Similarly, dried foods also promote food safety.
In recent years, space food has been used by various nations engaging on space programs as a way to share and show off their cultural identity and facilitate intercultural communication. Although astronauts consume a wide variety of foods and beverages in space, the initial idea from The Man in Space Committee of the Space Science Board in 1963 was to supply astronauts with a formula diet that would supply all the needed vitamins and nutrients.
In the western world, finger foods are often either appetizers (hors d'œuvres) or entree/main course items. Examples of these are miniature meat pies, sausage rolls, sausages on sticks, cheese and olives on sticks, chicken drumsticks or wings, spring rolls, miniature quiches, samosas, sandwiches, Merenda or other such based foods, such as pitas or items in buns, bhajjis, potato wedges, vol au vents, several other such small items and risotto balls (arancini). Other well-known foods that are generally eaten with the hands include hamburgers, pizza, Chips, hot dogs, fruit and bread.