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Johnson County

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Johnson County
11811 S. Sunset Drive
Suite 1500
Olathe, KS 66061

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Monday - Friday,
8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.

(913) 715-7000
(913) 715-7005 fax

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Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service

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Cooking: A lesson in STEM Concepts… And So Much More

by Crystal Futrell, County Extension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences/Food and Nutrition

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Food judge at county fair judging youth's baked goodsWe are, unfortunately, aware that American students have fallen behind other countries in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Different studies indicate that these low STEM scores may be because students lack the ability to put STEM concepts into context and apply their knowledge to everyday life. Cooking classes can assist students in making those crucial connections between STEM concepts and the everyday processes of cooking and eating.

Knowing even just a little bit of science can greatly extend our prowess in the kitchen. Since everything we see, touch, taste and smell is made of chemicals, understanding that cooking is really just a series of chemical reactions compels the budding-cook to know as much as s/he can about all things STEM-related. Understanding the Maillard reaction, knowing how to measure accurately, respecting the smoke points of various ingredients…these and many other concepts can certainly help one understand science better, and it can also help one learn how to cook better, too.

Colorful decorated cakeBut as we, as daily eaters know, food is so much more than scientific concepts. In my five years as the county’s Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent, I’ve witnessed firsthand that an over-emphasis on nutritional concepts has almost destroyed the pleasure of eating. The same could almost be said for view cooking solely as a scientific process. But, on the other hand, if all scientific and nutritional components are ignored, that can be a complete disaster, too, and is one that I’ve also witnessed firsthand.

The goal with our Extension cooking programs is (or should be) to teach the art of balance. Food is not just nutrients or scientific properties, and it’s not just a vehicle of pleasure. But it’s a balanced blend of both, and that makes for beautiful chemistry.

4-H youth displaying county fair ribbonCooking and baking skills on display at the County Fair
While at the county fair stop by the 4-H Green Building and browse the many 4-H food projects. Colorful cakes, cookies, breads and other baked goods will be in the display cases.

On Tuesday, July 31 you can purchase these goodies at the 4-H Auction at the Midway Stage at 7 p.m.