Sunday, July 23, 2006

How Cooking Works

Seeing as you're reading a blog by geeks who cook, you'll probably realize that we're probably pretty interested in the underlying processes behind what actually happens to food when you cook.

The seminal work on this is "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen" by Harold McGee. It is a facinating anthology of the hows and whys of cooking. This book first appeared in 1984 and has become the bibal to which foodies and professionals turn for "an understanding of where our food comes from, what exactly they're made of, and how cooking transforms them into something new and delicious."

Other books that we've enjoyed lately are:

"I'm Just Here For the Food: Food + Heat = Cooking" by Alton Brown of Food Network fame. This is a pop review of food wisdom, history, science and common sense. The book is organzied by cooking method and includes recipes that epitomize the technique being described. He also has a book on baking, "I'm Just Here for MORE FOOD: food x mixing + heat = baking"

"What Einstein Told His Cook" by Robert L. Wolke is an amusing volume from a professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh. He bridges the divide between chemistry and cooking and explains everyday cooking phenomenon and debunks old wives tales through actual experimentation. A joy to read. There is also a second volume called, of course, "What Einstein Told His Cook 2" :-)

Read on geeky cooks. I think food science is underemphasized in culinary curricula. Knowing the theory WILL make you a better cook by making you more comfortable with the processes involved and allow you to troubleshoot your way out of a food disaster!


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