By ROB JONAS
A miSci exhibit debuting in October showcases the history of how humans prepare their meals.
Insatiable: Cooking Up Innovation officially launches Saturday, Oct. 12, at the Schenectady-based museum. From there, the exhibit will travel across the United States in a modified format, beginning in 2020.
“It’s an exhibit that pretty much everybody – men, women and people of all ages – can relate to,” said miSci President Dr. Gina Gould. “It’s the story of humans harnessing the use of fire and heat to cook their food.”
Gould concocted the idea with Chris Hunter, miSci’s Vice President of Exhibitions and Collections, when she interviewed with Hunter for the president’s position in early 2018.
“He took me down to see the collections, and I was struck by the history of these [cooking] gadgetry,” said Gould. “We started talking about this history, and during the course of this conversation, we thought wouldn’t this be a great subject for an exhibition.”
“Insatiable” starts at the very beginning of human existence, showcasing how the earliest humans used heat to cook their food – a trait unique to our species.
“We sliced and cooked food on hot rocks,” said Gould. “This was especially important with grains because grain is very difficult to digest. So, humans used hot rocks to bake their bread.”
Not many centuries later, humans began developing recipes utilizing standardized measurements to create their meals.
“The first recipes were recorded approximately 6,000 years ago on tablets, and this exhibition showcases how those recipes evolved,” said Gould.
Insatiable also takes a look at the evolution of how humans preserved their food, and how the harnessing of electricity changed how they did so.
“We talk about everything from the use of fermentation, brining, sugaring and salting foods to the innovations that we came up with, such as refrigeration and freezing,” said Gould. “We used to have to go to ice houses to pick up blocks of ice that we brought home to store in ice boxes, but with the invention of refrigeration, we no longer had a need for that.”
Refrigerators aren’t the only kitchen gadgets Insatiable showcases. From the earliest gadget – the toaster – to today’s array of coffee makers, microwave ovens, juicers, blenders and more, the exhibit shows how humans developed the tools we use to cook our foods today.
“We investigate gadgetry – what gadgets were used before electricity and what were created after electricity,” said Gould.
Insatiable concludes with a look at what humans eat and the carbon footprint that is involved from the point where food is created to where it is consumed and processed by the body.
“Once you cook your food, you have more nutrients available to you,” said Gould. “Animals that eat raw meat have to sleep a lot because of the energy required to digest the food. Cooking your food pre-digests your food, so you don’t have to eat as much.”
“Insatiable: Cooking Up Innovation” shows through the middle of January at miSci, which is located at 15 Nott Terrace Heights in Schenectady. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, closed Mondays. For more information, call 518-382-7890 or visit www.misci.org.