Though it doesn't quite live up to the ""ultimate reference on how cooking works"" claim, Joachim and Schloss' encyclopedic guide to all things food is a welcome culinary reference. Alphabetically arranged, cross-referenced entries like ""citrus,"" ""game,"" ""juice,"" ""roasting"" and ""sweeteners,"" allow readers to navigate deftly the book's trove of information. The authors explain not only how techniques like frying work, they also give readers the chance to make Perfect French Fries with their newfound knowledge. Over 100 recipes bring scientific data to life, most dramatically in examples like Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream and Coconut Sweet Potato Foam, more practically in gluten-free flour and low-fat brownies (substituting dried plums for butter). Armchair chefs will enjoy learning why a whole potato cooks more quickly in boiling water than in a 500 degree oven, the difference between wet and dry-cured hams, and the secrets to making a smooth, creamy custard. The book's range is admirable, but its depth erratic; the entry on bacteria and food contamination is much too brief, and readers are sure to find that their favorite fruit/ingredient/technique doesn't get the attention they feel it deserves (hoisin, for example, merits an entry, but soy sauce is an afterthought; teriyaki and ponzu are absent). Still, this admirable endeavor deserves a spot next to Alton Brown's Good Eats and Harold McGee's classic On Food and Cooking.
Reviewed on: 10/13/2008 Release date: 10/01/2008 Genre: Nonfiction