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Aluminium (U.S.A. Aluminum - Humphry Davy's (1778-1829) original name)

The world's most abundant metal (symbol Al), making up nearly one-twelfth of the substance of the Earth's crust. Commercially it's obtained from bauxite, a mineral composed of hydrated aluminium oxides.

For culinary purposes, aluminium is used to make the cheapest-types of saucepans. There have been health scares over the prolonged use of these, as aluminium accumulates un the brain and is thought to be implicated in memory loss, pre-senile dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Vitamin C is thought to counteract the build-up of these salts.

When cooking anything acidic (so containing vinegar, lemon juice, wine etc.) never use an aluminium pan, as the contents will attack and release aluminium - at the very least spoiling the colour of your Hollandaise sauce.

Aluminium sulphate is the most widely used chemical in water treatment worldwide, but accidental excesses (such as at Camelford, North Cornwall in July 1989) makes drinking water highly toxic, and discharges into rivers kill all the fish.

If you enjoy cooking take a minute to look at ‘Simon Scrutton Cookery Classes’ on Google – and learn how to make top class bistro-style dishes. Suitable for beginners upwards.

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