Ever heard the expression ‘oil and water don’t mix’? Well, in cooking, they often do, resulting in what’s called an emulsion. Salad dressing, a common emulsion, works because a third ingredient, like Dijon mustard, helps to join the vinegar together with oil. And so technically, oil and water do, in fact, mix!
This and much more about the science of cooking are at the heart of the Franklin Institute’s newest permanent exhibit, Kitchen Science. Now open, the installation features large illustrated panels that explore the “how and why” of cooking, nutrition and food safety, along with experiments that visitors can do at home in their own kitchens (see below for an example).
The Kitchen Science exhibit is installed in the museum’s cafeteria-style eatery, Franklin Foodworks, run by Steve Poses’ Frog Commissary Catering. Poses, a longtime figure in the Philadelphia food world, is often lauded as an early leader in the revival of Philadelphia’s food scene.
“Cooking is one of the few sciences most people do every day – every one, no matter how young or old, or what they do, eats,” said Poses. “But because it’s so commonplace, we don’t often stop and think about the principles behind why bread rises, how smell and taste work together, etc. That’s what Kitchen Science covers.”
The exhibit was funded by a grant from the Don Falconio Memorial Fund, honoring the former Frog Commissary employee who passed away unexpectedly in 2000. Poses, family and friends formed the foundation in honor of his memory shortly after his death.
Pascal Lemaitre, a best-selling illustrator of children’s books whose work has appeared in The New Yorker and New York Times, created the Illustrations for Kitchen Science. The exhibit also has a companion online component on the Franklin Institute’s website.
Access to the Franklin Foodworks, where the exhibit is located, is free and does not require museum admission. It is open Monday – Friday, 11am-3pm; and Saturday and Sunday, 11am-4pm.
In our opinion, there’s no better way to learn about science than through food!
Here’s a recipe you can try at home to illustrate how oil and water do in fact mix.
4 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
10 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. yellow mustard
Two small jars with tight caps
Add 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar to each jar
Add 5 tbsp. vegetable oil to each jar
Add 1 tbsp. yellow mustard to one jar
Cap both jars, shake well and observe the mixtures
When you shake the jars, the vinegar breaks up into small droplets that can mix with the oil. But over time, these droplets combine again, and the vinegar sinks down to the bottom. The mustard makes the emulsion last by keeping the vinegar droplets from coming back together.