Tag Archives: compendium

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