Category Archives: Cooking

On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee

food-cooking-mcgee

Holy mother of…. This is a huge book. Nine hundred pages of food. A whole immense chapter dedicated to milk alone. Sugar plums dancing in my head. It could be either a dream or a nightmare.

It was pretty damn amazing. I found myself not feeling like reading it, but once I picked it up I couldn’t put it down.

McGee covers pretty much every food’s composition, history, and even name etymology. I, for one, had no idea the word “avacado” was derived from the native word for “testicle.” (The shape I guess??) Makes me snigger every time I make guacamole. The amount of research this book must have taken… incredible. I read the 2004 updated version–the original 1980’s one was ONLY 724 pages.

But while interesting–this is one beast of a book. Don’t be fooled–you will learn a lot if you stick with it–but it will take a LONG time. It’s less of an instruction manuel, and simply a basic food origin and preparation guide. It will tell you WHY you should add salt to pasta water, but not give you a recipe for vodka sauce. It’s very science and history-based.

The chapters were broken down by basic categories: milk, meat, fruits, vegetables, sauces, grains, etc… Some were more fascinating than others. All were about 70 pages long. The milk and meat were infinitely more page-turning than the fruits and sauces. I caught myself dozing a bit on those….

The two end chapters are dedicated to kitchen utensils and the four molecules that make up all food: fats, carbohydrates, proteins, and water. These should have been in the very beginning instead of the very end because they could have helped with the basic understanding of the rest of the chapters. I don’t get the order, but they were short anyway.

I really recommend this book for all cooks, or even just for people into food history. This is a very educational compendium. It’s like if you took everything Wikipedia had to say about food (that was true) and put it all in one place. Amazing. There should be one in every kitchen!

4 persimmon pastes of 5

 


Cooking for Geeks by Jeff Potter

So all my Facebook friends know that I love cooking and I try and make something yummy for my boyfriend every night. When I lived in England I cooked up a storm! (The food there actually is gross. And then there’s this… I knew the burgers tasted too gamey…) Well, my mad skills carried over back in the States and I haven’t looked back.

Cooking for Geeks combines two of my greatest loves–science and cooking. From the time I was a little kid I used to go in the kitchen or bathroom and mix random ingredients together to make “potions.” (I still don’t know why my mom wouldn’t drink Listerine/glitter/concealer potion–sheesh).

cooking_geeks_620I figured that CFG would be a cookbook with interesting little Pop Up Video-style notes in the margins talking about why this ingredient reacted to that and blah blah blah. Not really. It was more of a whole book of scientific methods involved in cooking–like the Maillard reaction involved in browning meat–with recipes interspersed here and there.

They also had mini-interviews with well-known geeks who were into cooking, like Adam Savage from Mythbusters. My inner geek glowed.

Potter clearly loves experimenting with food and encourages people to not be afraid to fail in cooking. You have to make some nasty food before you can figure out how to make something truly delicious. (Like the time I cooked chicken IN red wine and got purple, tough meat. Blegh!) After all, he notes, you can always order a pizza.

He talks a lot about food safety and cooking things to the correct temperature–and how long things last before they get dangerously full of microbes. Yikes. I’m a little paranoid now.

I do think that he went a little too in depth with some of the cooking methods–either that or this manuel is clearly not for beginners. A lot of these techniques I will probably never use (who has time to foam an egg?) but they were interesting to read about all the same. I’m never gonna make instant ice cream with dry ice, but hey–whatever floats your boat.

This is NOT a cookbook, but rather a kitchen guide for the scientifically-minded.

Enjoy, fellow geeks!

4 in-oven pizza stones of 5