The Curious Cook: More Kitchen Science and Lore

Harold J. McGee, Author North Point Press $21 (339p) ISBN 978-0-86547-452-9
Not a recipe collection but a series of investigations into culinary problems and dogma, this combines McGee's ( On Food and Cooking ) appreciation of the good life with his background in biochemistry and dedication to experimental procedure. In the first section the author reconsiders received truths, such as ``sear the meat to seal in the juices,'' and proceeds to demonstrate, in this case, that it just isn't so. He evolves a means for the home cook to sterilize egg yolks without ruining them for hollandaise or mayonnaise, and discusses the function of sugar in sherbet texture. Explaining the relevant chemistry in accessible terms, McGee appeals to those who savor nuances of method in problem-solving, but in spite of some witty touches and a tone much lightened by etymological and historical asides, his very perseverance can become wearisome. The second section addresses health problems associated with eating habits, including a lengthy and informative, though scarcely comforting, treatment of cholesterol's impact on the circulatory system. In the final, highly readable section, McGee offers a more subjective view of gastronomy in essays paying tribute to Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin and the continuing quest for a science of taste. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/01/1990
Release date: 10/01/1990
Paperback - 339 pages - 978-0-02-009801-0
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