Alumni Spotlight: Chris Maggiolo

Alcohol is an ancient food. It is a social lubricant. It is a component of ritual, of art, of dream-making. It is powerfully charged and, yet, so completely misunderstood in American culture.

chrisI moved from Virginia to Boston in September 2011 with these words in mind – words jotted down while taking notes during my freshman seminar in alcohol and culture. I was keen on studying the anthropology of alcohol and the Gastronomy program, I felt, was the perfect tool by which to do so. A few years honing my studies and then I’d apply to a PhD program. Well, the best laid plans…

To say I concentrated in alcohol studies would be putting it lightly. It was everything I did. I worked full time managing the Modern Homebrew Emporium in Cambridge, leveraging contacts and a vast network of brewers to find interview participants and volunteer opportunities. I took a second job in the summer managing relationships between wholesalers and retailers. I conducted every project and wrote every paper (save for one, I think) on the subject of craft brewing and alcohol culture. And when I wasn’t working or hunkered down over a book for school, I volunteered with breweries and, later, distilleries. I believed in the holistic approach fostered by liberal arts studies, and I tried to engage the industry from all angles.

siloUltimately, it was the liberal arts approach that landed me my job at SILO Distillery. Craft producers need to be swiss army knives rather than specialists, and the Gastronomy program prepared me well for this. To a degree, I understood marketing and sales, production practices, legislature and regulations. In a pinch I can crunch financials. And if I didn’t know something, I had the tool set to figure it out. I never would have guessed that I would know as much about boiler systems as I do now, but last week I answered a call from an aspiring distiller with a background in chemical engineering and we had a half hour call about our boiler unit. The liberal arts approach is real, and it can be very valuable.

But it can also be too vague, too broad. It’s important to have a goal in mind – something to anchor the Gastronomy net. Focus your intent, and the program will open amazing doors.

I frequently draw on my experiences with the Gastronomy program to fuel SILO’s growth. As a company we focus intently on local and regional agricultural systems. I’ve held meetings with groups of farmers in order to discuss potential crop growth for distilling purposes and to facilitate the collection of our spent grains. Having an understanding of their work and struggles goes a long way to securing these relationships. In conceiving of new products, I consider both modern trends and historic and cultural precedents. For example, amaro is really hot right now in trendy restaurants and cocktail circles. I’ve been working on a fun analog rooted in a mid 17th century cookery book. It’s been a blast and I think it’ll be quite successful.

Just as Gastronomy studies the art and science of food, distilling practices the art and science of spirits. In a craft that is as technical as it is creative, having a liberal arts background is a keystone of success. Sure, work can be stressful at times, but familiarity with the big picture brings everything back into perspective and keeps me energized and excited for what lies ahead.

Gastronomy Summer Courses

Registration for summer term classes begins on Thursday, February 23. Take a look at the offerings from the Gastronomy department.

Summer Term 1 Gastronomy Classes

MET ML 641 Anthropology of Food – with Dr. Karen Metheny

Summer 1 (May 24-June 28), Mondays and Wednesdays, 5:30 to 9 PM

What can food tell us about human culture and social orfood-historyganization? Food offers us many opportunities to explore the ways in which humans go about their daily lives from breaking bread at the family table to haggling over the price of meat at the market to worrying about having enough to eat. Food can also tell us about larger social organizations and global interconnections through products like Spam that are traded around the globe and the ways in which a fruit like the tomato transformed the culinary culture of European nations. In this course we consider how the anthropology of food has developed as a subfield of cultural anthropology. We also look at the various methodologies and theoretical frameworks used by anthropologists

MET ML 673 Food and Film – with Dr. Potter Palmerh_julia_child_creative_commons_t670

Summer 1 (May 23-June 29), Tuesdays and Thursdays, 5:30 to 9 PM

We can all take pleasure in eating good food, but what about watching other people eat or cook food? This course surveys the history of food in film. It pays particular attention to how food and foodways are depicted as expressions of culture, politics, and group or personal identity. We will watch a significant number of films, both fiction and non-fiction, classic and modern. A good portion of class time will also be given to discussing the readings in combination with hands-on, in-depth analysis of the films themselves. 4 cr. Tuition: $3320

MET ML 650 – The Foundation of Beer and Spirits – with Sandy Block

Summer 1 (May 25-June 29), Thursdays, 5:30 to 9 PM

Explores tRediscovery #: 00887
Job A1 08-131 Transparencies-1he great variety of beer styles and spirit categories currently available and the role each plays in our culture. Surveys significant developments in the historical evolution, production, distribution, consumption, and cultural usage of these alcohol

beverages in the United States. Includes tastings of beer and spirits to demonstrate examples of the most important categories and classifications. 2 cr. Tuition: $1660; lab fee: $200; total charge: $1860

MET ML 651 Fundamentals of Wine – with William Nesto

Summer 1 (Ten week course: June 5-August 7), Mondays, 6 to 9 PM

Suitable for students without previous knowledge of wine, this introductory survey explores the world of wine through lectures, tastings, and assigned readings. By the end of the course, students will be able to exhibit fundamental knowledge of the principal categories of wine, including major grape varieties, wine styles, and regions; correctly taste and classify wine attributes; understand general principles of food and wine pairing; and comprehend the process of grape growing and winemaking. 2 cr. Tuition: $1660; lab fee: $200; total charge: $1860 

MET ML 699 Laboratory in the Culinary Arts: Baking – with Janine Sciarappa

Summer 1 (May 23 – June 28), Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 5:30 to 9:30 PM

Exposes students to a craft-based understanding of the culinary arts from which to better understand how food and cuisine fit into the liberal arts and other disciplines and cultures. Integrates personal experience and theory through discipline by training students in classic and modern techniques and theories of food production, through pastry and baking methods and working efficiently, effectively, and safely. Also introduces students to baking techniques from various cultures and cuisines from around the world. 4 cr. Tuition: $3320; lab fee: $1500; total charge: $4820

 

Summer Term 2 Gastronomy Classes

MET ML 698 Laboratory in the Culinary Arts: Cooking – with Christine Merlo

Summer 2 (July 5 – August 9), Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 5:30 to 9:30 PM

Exposes students to a craft-based understanding of the culinary arts from which to better understand how food and cuisine fit into the liberal arts and other disciplines and cultures. Integrates personal experience and theory through discipline by training students in classic and modern techniques and theories of food production, through cooking and working efficiently, effectively, and safely. Also introduces students to foods of various cultures and cuisines from around the world. Students are expected to provide their own chef’s coat and knives. 4 cr. Tuition: $3320; lab fee: $1500; total charge: $4820

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MET ML 704 Special Topic: Survey of Italian Wine – With Bill Nesto

Summer 2 (July 6 – August 10), Thursdays, 5:30 to 9 PM

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Topic for summer 2017: Survey of Italian Wine. Provides students with a thorough knowledge of Italian wine. By the end of the course, students will know the history, cultural context, and styles of wine made throughout Italy and will understand issues within the Italian wine industry and the market performance of Italian wines in Italy and in other countries. Regular class tastings illustrate examples of wine types. 2 cr. Tuition: $1660; lab fee: $200; total charge: $1860

MET ML 719 Food Values: Local to Global Food Policy, Practice, and Performance – with Ellen Messer

Summer 2 (July 3-August 9), Mondays and Wednesdays, 5:30 – 9 pm

Reviews various competing and sometimes conflicting frameworks for assessing what are “good” foods. Examines what global, national, state, and local food policies can do to promote the production and consumption of these foods. Teaches how to conceptualize, measure, and assess varying ecological, economic, nutritional, health, cultural, political, and justice claims. Analyzes pathways connecting production and consumption of particular foodstuffs in the U.S. and the world. Emphasizes comparative food systems and food value chains, and the respective institutional roles of science and technology, policy, and advocacy in shaping food supply and demand. 4 cr. Tuition: $3320

food-policy

MET ML UA 510 Special Topics in Urban Affairs – with Walter Carroll

Summer 2 (July 6 – August 10), Tuesdays and Thursdays, 6 to 9:30 pm

Topic for summer 2017: Feeding the City: Urban Food. Examines historical and contemporary issues involved in providing food to cities and metropolitan areas. Tracing the routes that food takes into the city and the major sources of food, the course looks closely at the accessibility of food, especially in poorer urban neighborhoods. Among topics covered are obesogenic neighborhoods, food deserts, gentrification and foodie culture, public school food and nutrition, attempts to minimize food waste, and immigrants and ethnic foods in the city. The course also considers recent attempts at food production in cities, including urban agriculture, vertical farming, and craft production of food products. After closely looking at the history and current status of food programs, the course concludes with a consideration of urban food policies. 4 cr. Tuition: $2640

Alumni Spotlight: Audrey Reid

img_9996Fun fact: There is such a job as Brewing Scientist. No, not a scientist that has taken up brewing, a scientist that studies beer and works with brewers to craft the perfect libation.

BU Gastronomy alum and self-proclaimed Gastronomical Chemist Audrey Reid started Imbibe Solutions, a Charlottesville, VA based laboratory that works with craft breweries and small wineries, to do just that. She found a need for laboratory testing by breweries and wineries who didn’t have a fully equipped lab of their own, so she opened Imbibe Solutions to fulfill the need and save the businesses from the large investment required to build one.

Breweries and wineries measure a variety of variables throughout their processes. For breweries, quality control testing is about consistency of product from batch to batch, process efficiency, elongation of shelf-life, and elimination of off-flavors. For wineries, QC tests help winemakers understand what their starting product is, monitor fermentation and aging, make adjustments, add preservatives, and prevent microbial contamination. Common lab tests you will likely be familiar with but may not have given much thought to, include: ABV, IBU, residual sugar, gravity, acetic acid, carbonation, and sulfites.

During her time in the Gastronomy program, Audrey relied on both classes and the amazing opportunities that Boston presents to shape her education. She studied national wine policies and flavors produced by yeast in beer at 808 Comm., while learning about fermentation from Boston Ferments, brewing with friends, and picking the brain of an intern at a local distillery. She thought she might do policy work for the wine and beer industry after graduation; never once did she think she would become an entrepreneur. It wasn’t until she moved to Charlottesville and spoke with a brewer about the need for chemists in the industry, that she realized she could do one better than beer policy, she could combine her love for food and science as a beer chemist.

One of the biggest lessons the Gastronomy program taught her, is you have to design your own path. The program certainly doesn’t dictate which classes to take (beyond the core); you take the classes that sound interesting and teach you what you want to know, whether in the program, elsewhere at BU, or at any of the other amazing schools in the city. And as students well know, this is a unique program relatively new to the world, which means you often have to create your own job upon graduation. Find what you want to do and convince the right people that they need someone like you.

For Audrey, that meant starting a laboratory to help brewers and winemakers succeed in their ever-growing industries.

More New Spring ’17 Students

Classes have just begun for students enrolled in the MLA in Gastronomy and Food Studies Graduate Certificate programs this Spring! Here are two more new candidates.

Madoka Sasa was born and raised in Nagano in Japan and received her BA in Social welfare from Tokyo Metropolitan University in Tokyo. After graduating from college she began to work for a newspaper as a staff writer. While working at the company, she transferred from Tokyo to other rural regions where she began to cultivate an interest in food and drink. She realized that talking, tasting and knowing about typical local foods and drinks was always a good way for her to understand the culture and people there, and to make new friends in strange towns. Her network of friends and precious memories in those days are strongly connected with various foods in the area.

Through this program, Madoka wants to learn about relationships among people and food from various points of view. She believes that this is one of the best ways to understand people more deeply, and to understand the needs of the times. She hopes to utilize her education in Gastronomy to improve her skills as a journalist, and to contribute to a society where people can enjoy delicious meals in peace.

madoka

Sarit Rubinstein was born and raised in Israel. She has an MBA from Tel-Aviv University and has worked as a business manager and economist for major banks and credit card companies in Israel. She has always been passionate about baking, however, and after completing her Master’s degree she decided to attend a pastry school and several cake decorating workshops. She has since mastered cake decorating using fondant, royal icing, and buttercream, and is now a cake designer and the proud owner of a successful home-based business, “Sweet-Art Cakes”, here in MA.

sarit

Growing up in Israel and surrounded by a variety of cultural backgrounds, Sarit has always loved exploring and learning about food-related stories, recipes, and customs. She hopes to use her Gastronomy studies at BU to look further into the relationships between food history and culture. In addition, she desires to learn more about food labeling and nutrition, and the effects of food policies on our lives.

Besan Laddoos Deconstructed: The Science Behind This Indian Sweet

By: Sonia Dovedy

Growing up in an Indian household, I was often handed a precious, round morsel to savor during any holiday, religious festival, or simply as a doting gift from a relative. Known as “laddoo,” which translates to “round ball,” these beloved confections of clarified butter, various flours, sugar, dried fruit, and nuts have always held a sweet place in my heart.  For my food science class (MET ML 619), I took on the exciting task of exploring the science behind preparing the laddoo.

Some History

Historically, laddoos were created for their medicinal purposes. Comprised of healthful ingredients such as desi ghee, dates, chickpea flour, nuts and seeds, these sweets were meant to invigorate the weak and nourish individuals. Additionally, they served as a perfect ration for warriors and travelers because of their ease in transportation and long storage life. Then, when the British brought sugar to India, the entire purpose of laddoos dramatically changed. Recipes were re-created with the addition of the addicting sucrose, and laddoos became ubiquitous treats, necessary for every celebratory occasion. Today, laddoos come in all varieties – from traditional besan (chickpea flour) laddoos, to coconut laddoos, date laddoos, and more. Yet their shape remains the same – a small, round ball, in adherence to their namesake.

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The Project

Within Indian households, cooking is not a science; recipes come from stories, directions come from instinct, and the perfect flavor comes from experience. Thus, when asking the culinary experts of my mother and grandmother for help on decoding the “science” behind one of my favorite sweets, besan laddoo, I did not receive much clear guidance. For example, when asking how long to cook the besan, my mother replied, “I don’t know? Just cook it until it smells roasted. You will know.” After many attempts and questions, I was able to patch together the following recipe:

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The Science: I will now explain the science within each step of the recipe as well as the role that the different ingredients play during the process of making besan laddoo.

The Roasting

The first step is to roast the besan, or finely ground chickpea flour in the ghee. Ghee is essentially butter which has been cooked for a long time, until the milk solids have browned and caramelized. These milk solids of casein, lactose, and whey, are then strained from the mixture, and the resulting product is a clear liquid of pure milk fat with nutty, burnt caramel notes. The use of ghee in the laddoo is important for the following reasons:

  1. It adds nutty, burnt caramel flavors.
  2. Its high smoke point of 450F is well suited to fry the other ingredients.
  3. It helps to preserve laddoos for a long period of time. Laddoos store well for up to two weeks!

When the besan undergoes the Maillard reaction, it takes on golden hues, emits a nutty aroma, and transforms into a rich, savory ingredient, essential for this sweet. During the roasting process, it is imperative to roast the besan on a medium-low flame while stirring continuously. This slow, careful process ensures that each granule of besan is exposed to even heat, providing for an even roasting of the flour; this also prevents the besan from burning and becoming bitter.

The next step is to add the non-fat dry milk powder to the besan/ghee mixture, and roast for five more minutes. The use of non-fat dry milk powder in this recipe adds important depth in flavor; here, the concentrated dose of milk sugar, lactose, facilitates the Maillard reaction even further and imparts a sweet, burnt caramel flavor to the laddoo. It is important to note that the milk powder is added to the mixture towards the very end of the roasting process for a short period of time. Otherwise, the milk solids would burn.

The Flavoring

Once roasting is complete, the mixture is removed the heat and allowed to cool minimally – just enough so that it is able to be handled while adding the rest of the ingredients: confectioner’s sugar, cardamom, and a pinch of salt. It is important for the batter to stay warm because sugar and salt are much more soluble in warmer substances than cooler ones, and heat allows for the cardamom spice to release its fragrant oils. There is no concern about over-mixing the batter, because there is no gluten in this recipe.

Regarding sugar, in this recipe, the use of confectioner’s sugar is essential, not only to sweeten this dish, but also to achieve the melt-in-your mouth, creamy consistency that this particular laddoo boasts. Confectioner’s sugar, or granulated sugar that has been ground to a fine powder, contains the same chemical structure as ordinary granulated sugar, sucrose. However, it has a small addition of starch, which helps it to absorb moisture and prevents it from caking. Thus, in this recipe, the confectioner’s variety of sugar is crucial for texture. In addition, cardamom, a familiar spice used in Indian cuisine, provides warming flavor notes to the besan laddoo. When crushed and heated, this seed emits floral, fruity terpene compounds and cineole, an essential oil similar to eucalyptus. Finally, salt (my own personal addition to the recipe), or sodium chloride, intensifies the sweetness and adds a depth in flavor to this dish.

The Formation

The last step of the recipe is to take about two tablespoons of the batter and squeeze it together in your palm a few times in order to form a small round ball. At first, the mixture crumbles, but with firm repetitive motions, it begins to glue together. Here, it is helpful to lightly grease your palms with ghee, as this provides a seal around the laddoo, preventing sticky moisture from entering.

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As the laddoos cool, they transform from a soft, crumbly consistency into a firm, solid mass. This change in structure is due to the redistribution of the chemical compounds from the ingredients. For example, as the ghee in the batter cools, it returns to its solid state. In addition, the amylose and amylopectin in the chickpea flour realign in different places around the ghee, producing a thicker, more solid formation. These laddoos can be stored in an airtight container for up to three weeks, making them a suitable travel snack.

The final product of this exploration is a collection of precious confections: dense golden balls, with a crumbly centers that melt into a soft, creamy texture on the tongue. Flavor notes include nutty, roasted, and burnt caramel profiles from the roasting, as well as warm eucalyptus notes from the cardamom. While it is not necessary to know the science behind these round treasures in order to enjoy their sweetness, I would argue that this research adds even more depth to their flavor. Enjoy!

Read more from Sonia at  www.bakewithsonia.com and www.cookwithsonia.wordpress.com.