What is in the name Khymos?
The name of this site, khymos (χυμός), is Greek meaning “juice”. It is related to al-kimiya (كيمياء), the Arabic word that gave rise to alchemy. Other related words include Khemia, the old name of Egypt (meaning land of black earth) and the Greek khein and khymatos meaning “to pour” and “that which is poured out” respectively. Eventually these words also developed into the current word chemistry. As you can see, the word khymos provides a link between food and chemistry! I therefore thought it would be a suitable name for a site dealing with food, chemistry, molecular gastronomy and related subjects.
Who am I?
My name is Martin Lersch, I live in Norway and have a PhD in organometallic chemistry. My PhD project was about platinum complexes which perhaps one day will be used to convert natural gas to value added products such as methanol. Since 2006 I have been working as an industrial chemist in various roles in a biorefinery located in Norway. My involvement with popular food chemistry and molecular gastronomy is a spare time activity besides my research and work.
When I first became interested in the connection between food and chemistry in the late 90’s, I searched the Internet without finding much information. I did however find some very interesting books in the faculty library, including Harold McGee’s “On Food and Cooking – The Science and Lore of the Kitchen”. In the last couple of years a large number of books have appeared about molecular gastronomy and related subjects. Having found books about the subject, I soon started to give popular science presentations. In 2004 I was invited to attend the “International Workshop on Molecular Gastronomy” in Erice, Sicily. This was a great experience and I enjoyed meeting many of the scientists, writers and chefs involved with molecular gastronomy. The first web pages I published were book and link listings related to my popular science lectures. After I left the University of Oslo, the page was moved to its present location at khymos.org. I believe the collected information is of interest to anyone interested in molecular gastronomy and the science of food and cooking. In many ways the pages represent what I would have liked to find at the time I became interested in the subject.
What is my motivation?
Chemistry for me is about the joy of understanding the material world and how things work at the molecular level. I love chemistry and I’m simply not able to put my chemical curiosity away. I bring it with me everywhere I go, and this naturally led me to ask many questions in the kitchen. Why didn’t that recipe work? Do I really have to mix the ingredients in the given order? What happens if I heat this a little more? Luckily, being a chemist, I could also answer some of questions. And being trained as a chemist I would also know where I could answer to questions I could not answer by myself. It’s a great thing that many books about popular food science and kitchen chemistry have appeared over the last decades. I have learned a lot from them, and if you’re not sure where to start, take a look at my favorite books.
An additional motivation for giving popular science lectures and also setting up this site, is the popular notion that chemistry is dangerous. When food is labelled with “contains no chemicals” it makes me sad. Even more so if labeled as “obscure and weird chemicals”. What they forget is that food is chemistry!
What is molecular gastronomy after all?
Harold McGee used to define molecular gastronomy as “The scientific study of deliciousness”. Check out the Definitions and History pages for more information. Also check out the different collections of links in the menu and some of my favorite books.
Have you made any strange observations in your kitchen? Or do you know about other books or weblinks on molecular gastronomy, kitchen chemistry or everyday chemistry that should be added to the site? Feedback and questions are welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org.