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 Now, 20 years later, McGee has taken his slightly outdated volume and turned it into a stunning masterpiece that combines science, linguistics, history, poetry and, of course, gastronomy.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.
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*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
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