Harvard Brings the Spice to Science Class

Harvard University's Science and Cooking lecture series kicked off its third semester last week. The semester-long event hosts some of the most notable faces in innovative cooking—each talking about a topic of their choosing. As the lectures are open to the public, anyone with easy access to the university's Cambridge campus are welcome into the lecture hall, free of charge.

The series seeks to break down some of the walls standing between the American public, inventive culinary ideas, and academia. In past years, speakers have discussed such ideas as natural gelatin, avant-garde cocktails, and "meat glue". The idea is for chefs to explain these seemingly unconventional techniques—and maybe make them more familiar to the average diner in the process.

On the other end of dining accessibility, Harvard's School of Public Health unveiled its "Healthy Eating Plate" last year. As a replacement for the now defunct "food pyramid",  the brightly colored graphic seeks to teach kids and parents how to construct a balanced meal. The program is also notable as being a groundbreaking healthy eatinginitiative devoid of lobbyists and government infuence.

This year's lineup of lecturers includes José Andres, Dan Barber, David Chang, and Wylie Dufresne. Also speaking this semester are Joan and Jordi Roca (of the #2 ranked El Cellar de Can Roca in Girona, Spain) and Modernist Cuisine author Nathan Myhrvold. For the big finale (and the only non-free event all semester), culinary legend Ferran Adria will return to the podium. (Adria was also the first-ever Food and Science speaker back in 2010.)

This year's roster also features some notable Boston faces like Jack Bishop and Dale Souza of the Boston-based Cook's Illustrated magazine, and Joanne Chang of Flour bakery in Cambridge. However, anyone outside the Bay State can join in on the lectures too, as they are put up on Harvard's YouTube channel.

A Revolution In African Agriculture

I'm super excited to see that a new study that presents a prescription for transforming Sub-Saharan Africa's agriculture and its economy.

The study, "The New Harvest, Agricultural Innovation in Africa," approaches the idea of self-sufficiency for the continent, within a generation.   The idea that a revolution in African agriculture is no more than a generation away, is exciting, and gives hope for those who live with little food and nourishment.

Professor Calestous Juma, the study's author, cites crucial ingredients to improving the state of African agriculture: communications, infrastructure, water, energy, and engineers who can develop science-based agriculture.

Key necessary changes for Africa's governments to make include: making "African agricultural expansion central to decision making from transportation and communication infrastructure to post-secondary education and innovation investment."

Often we focus on the problems with food in Africa, but I like the positive view that Professor Juma takes.  He says, "it's important to see past the problems to recognize Africa's immense land, water and energy resources."

Read more about the study here.