On Food and Cooking Hardcover – Nov 23 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Before antioxidants, extra-virgin olive oil and supermarket sushi commanded public obsession, the first edition of this book swept readers and cooks into the everyday magic of the kitchen: it became an overnight classic. Now, 20 years later, McGee has taken his slightly outdated volume and turned it into a stunning masterpiece that combines science, linguistics, history, poetry and, of course, gastronomy. He dances from the spicy flavor of Hawaiian seaweed to the scientific method of creating no-stir peanut butter, quoting Chinese poet Shu Xi and biblical proverbs along the way. McGee's conversational style—rich with exclamation points and everyday examples—allows him to explain complex chemical reactions, like caramelization, without dumbing them down. His book will also be hailed as groundbreaking in its breakdown of taste and flavor. Though several cookbooks have begun to answer the questions of why certain foods go well together, McGee draws on recent agricultural research, neuroscience reviews and chemical publications to chart the different flavor chemicals in herbs and spices, fruits and vegetables. Odd synergies appear, like the creation of fruity esters in dry-cured ham—the same that occur naturally in melons! McGee also corrects the European bias of the first edition, moving beyond the Mediterranean to discuss the foods of Asia and Mexico. Almost every single page of this edition has been rewritten, but the book retains the same light touch as the original. McGee has successfully revised the bible of food science—and produced a fascinating, charming text.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* In the two decades since McGee's On Food and Cooking (1984) first appeared, it has reigned as the standard authority on gastronomical science, that area where science and art, technique, and aesthetics intersect. For the benefit of consumers everywhere, McGee has carefully revised and updated his magisterial achievement, adding new data from the latest scientific discoveries and reformatting the text to enhance its appeal to eyes grown accustomed to hypertext. This revised content encompasses such newly popular fruits as the Meyer lemon and the carambola. Recently marketed vegetables such as romanesco and arracacha appear. A table of descriptors for accurately categorizing aromas given off by fruits and vegetables rivals the controlled vocabulary established for wine. For the librarian, McGee provides useful, readily accessible information about individual foods, both animal and vegetable, cooking and preserving processes, and the chemistry and physics underlying them. For the armchair reader, McGee's prose style flowers into narrative text that makes every egg, every nut, every vegetable, every steak, and every spice a character in the intriguing, involving story of what we eat. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
For someone with a serious, creative, interest in the hows and whys of the culinary arts and sciences, I would suggest a thorough cover-to-cover read-through to know what's there and to gain basic knowledge. The book then should be kept at hand as a frequent reference for creative ideas, solutions to failures, and how to achieve desired results with ingredients and techniques.
I've given four copies as gifts to other serious cooks/chefs and they found that, once started, they couldn't put it down until they got to the end. A creative cook will find that their copy of McGee becomes more stained and battered than any conventional recipe book on the shelf.
McGee covers the chemistry of various foods and cooking processes, describing them carefully and clearly. If you don't really care about understanding the chemistry in such detail, there is plenty of very straight forward description about why various foods behave as they do when cooked and how to get better results with recipes using them. It can function as a trouble-shooter for me, helping me avoid cooking mistakes. There is also a fair amount of food history, usually in the beginning of each section, which I find fascinating and fun to read.
I find McGee to be quite poetic in his introduction to eggs, and I wonder if they're one of his favourite foods. It's nice to see his personality come out in what could have been a very dry book had it only focused on the science.
It starts with a classification of foods by types (milk and its derivatives, meats and poultry, bread, etc). Each part follows a logical development, from an historical point of view (i.e. why the mankind started the consumption of milk and why we started the production of its derivatives). Each process is explained in detail, with its different branching and particularities.
This is probably the only book where you can find information about the preparation of wine, beer, cheese, yogurt, bread, stock, and basically, any food that you could imagine. There are no recipes. But certainly, the explanation behind the recipe (i.e. why we sear the meat before cooking it) it's here.
I purchased this book at least 3 times. One for me, and the other 2 as gift. And they both love it.
My only complaint is that I wish there were more illustrations or photos to accompany the text. Maybe I've been spoiled by books like Modernist Cuisine, and maybe I'm expected too much from a book that is focusing on science, but I can't help feeling that some visuals would contribute to my understanding.
Most recent customer reviews
Requires concentration, not an easy read. I go through 4 pages and sleep gets me.Published 4 months ago by DoSu
The wealth of knowledge this book contains is unremarkable. A must have for any food lover.Published 8 months ago by Patrick
Blown away by how this collection of dense and entertaining gastronomic nuggets has greatly increased my prowess as amateur chef. Thank you Harold McGee!Published 14 months ago by Demetres
I work in culinary and this book has been a blessing. The break down of food to the molecular level and its history.Published 20 months ago by Mark