My Cooking Theory (Overview)

created: Oct 01 1995, revised: Jan 15 1998, translated: Feb 08 1998

I'm engaged in a manufacturing engineering for my company, which produces refractory materials and fine-ceramics composed mainly of inorganic substances., which is unusual for the machinery-manufacturing industry. Most of you might find it new to hear of refractory materials. In a narrow sense, it means bricks, but has a different technological level compared with the bricks used for a fireplace. The products, such as containers, tools used for capturing molten metal (molten iron) and slug are consisted of bricks, which must be tolerant of high temperature as much as 1400C - 1700C, or heated up at more than 1800C to be solidified. The ordinary porcelains and others requires to be heated only at a temperature of 1100C - 1300C, at most, which clearly makes a considerable difference. The technology to handle high temperature to heat is a collection of other advanced technologies. As for fine-ceramics, necessary temperature reaches as high as 2400. By March 1993, I had been occupied with developing substances and processes for fine-ceramics. Till 1990, I had also been workaholic and never came home before 10pm everyday. I was really interested in creating something.

It was in Aug. 1990, when something forced "him" to do their housekeeping. When I realized that I must face up squarely to cooking, the first thing that came to my mind was how I should master the cooking systematically within a short time. Those flood of collected recipes in the street do not attract my sense because they are showing only the ways to cook instead of why they are cooked in that way. In other words, to put it into my work, it's like a kind of manual which describes only how to combine, and is indifferent as to explaining other techniques on processes (i.e. how to bake or mix).

The one of the most important things experienced from developing materials and process equipment is how to learn the principles with which they are structured. If we understand the "why", it's easy to be guided to see "How to" theory and put it into practice. The same thing applied to the idea that inspired me to do cooking. Although I formerly had thought that developing manufacturing substances had nothing to do with my cooking, I could never have imagined that I would apply it. Even if I had had an opportunity to do that, I would have spent that time devoting myself to the work. But now I have no choice but to "apply that" in order to spare my family.

So I started applying my habit of working to my practical cooking.

First of all, taking a mechanical approach, the following technical category for a cooking may be given. Of course there is another way of classifying, but I dare to choose it because it doesn't make sense if it gets too complicated.

  1. Materials technology
  2. Combination technology
  3. Process technology (a.k.a. Unit operation)
  4. Evaluation technology
  5. Facilities technology

1) Materials technology
The cooking is something that matters whether you use good materials or not. Every housekeeper praises or complains about the products of certain farmers. As is unofficially stated that we are dependent on the materials at the proportion of 60-80% when cooking a delicious food, whether or not using good materials decides a cooking professional. Nevertheless, it's also true that too much dependency on good materials could cause a family that has a limited expense to go bankrupt. So I made it a rule to keep the expenses for the good to a minimum and manage to get along with the usual food stuff.

2) Combination technology
Referring to a professional title I just mentioned, it's inevitably necessary for us to describe and explain how to combine and process various materials when creating almost everything in the world. You can say that again in a cooking. In the field of cooking, it's called a recipe, which has completely a same meaning as a combination in the typical industrial society. But a recipe is not the only thing that enables us to rival a professional. What else makes it possible? The process technology does. So why do you think a recipe is still popular despite its incomplete expression of a cook?

Additionally, almost every recipe is mentioning how much it weights, which draws my attention a little. Who cares if I am obedient to my taste and added a meat as much as 500g, violating the rule of a recipe that says 100g? What's lacking in a recipe is this "vagueness, or obscurity", that brings allowance to us. I'm not saying that description by gram-unit is useless everywhere. I understand that the field of cook pertains to that of sweet, but when cooking a household dish, I think we need not have a strict recipe and it doesn't matter if we measure with our eyes. Though it may sound paradoxical, there still exists a kind of recipe with a golden combination ratio, which have been kept as a wisdom of the past and must not be ignored.

As a consequence, as far as I'm concerned, I think it would be enough for a housewife(househusband) to set himself a task of being able to put a taste together at a glance to a combination and conjuring up images of the processes.

3) Process technology
Considering about what a manufacturing is may make it easier to understand the process technology. A product is completed by putting materials into the manufacturing(process) stage. In another words, this process is designed to add values to the materials. The process itself is considerably dependent upon the ability to improve technology of the company it belongs., and becomes very important when it's hard to discuss the merits of the materials. The chemicals engineering that I majored in the university is exactly where the students study about process engineering. When finishing a product, it's important to determine which process to choose and also what process to develop. It seems that people don't care much about the relationship between the usual recipe and process technology, and are interested in describing combination ratio.

Combination is a fundamental rule and as I mentioned in the paragraph concerned, it's what distinguishes a professional from an amateur, making an exception of material difference in quality. It matters most whether or not I could manage to keep being a good househusband.

4) Evaluating technology
As for a cooking, evaluation is a testimony to verify to what extent you can understand its taste. This ability is grouped into two types, one being innate character and the other upbringing. A cooking expert must be able to tell a delicate taste. I cannot help relying solely on my tongue and must accept rigid criticisms of others.

5) Facilities technology
Facilities technology shows such tools and equipment as a kitchen knife and refrigerator used for cooking. "A skillful workman blames his tools." Whether using a house knife which is polished up or left dull would be as different as chalk and cheese. With a good knife, a pro is superior to an amateur, which cannot be helped. But it's different when we are concerned about tools. If I had an inferior tool at the beginning, it would be almost impossible to come from behind and win. Good facilities and tools are necessary means to make a better and comfortable cook.

[ To My cooking theory (Contents) | Chapter 1 Materials technology ]
Contents copyright 1996-1998 Mitsuo Sugawara
Translater: YM