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Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor (Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History) Hardcover – January 4, 2006


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Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor (Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History) + On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen + Culinary Reactions: The Everyday Chemistry of Cooking
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Product Details

  • Series: Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History
  • Hardcover: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (January 4, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 023113312X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231133128
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #288,407 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Originally published in France, This's book documents the sensory phenomena of eating and uses basic physics to put to bed many culinary myths. In each short chapter This presents a piece of debatable conventional wisdom-such as whether it is better to make a stock by placing meat in already boiling water, or water before it is boiled-and gives its history, often quoting famous French chefs, before making scientific pronouncements. In the chapter on al dente pasta, for instance, This discusses pasta-making experiments, the science behind cooking it and whether it is better to use oil or butter to prevent it from sticking. Most of the discussions revolve around common practices and phenomenon-chilling wine, why spices are spicy, how to best cool a hot drink-but more than a few are either irrelevant or Franco-specific (such as the chapters on quenelles and preparing fondue). This's experimentation, however, is not for the mildly curious, but readers unafraid to, say, microwave mayonnaise will find many ideas here.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Scientific American

A well-known chemist, a popular French television personality, a best-selling cookbook author, the first person to hold a doctorate in molecular gastronomy, and, coincidentally, a former editor at Pour la Science, the French edition of Scientific American. All these appellation come together in Hervé This, a scholar-gastronome who now has his first book available in English. One of the founders of molecular gastronomy, which brings the instruments and experimental techniques of the lab into the kitchen, the author blends practical tips and provocative suggestions with serious discussions—about how the brain perceives tastes, for example, and how chewing affects food.

Editors of Scientific American


More About the Author

Hervé This is a physical chemist of the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique in Paris. One of the two founders of the science called molecular gastronomy, he is the author of Columbia's Kitchen Mysteries: Revealing the Science of Cooking and of several other books on food and cooking. He is a monthly contributor to Pour la Science, the French-language edition of Scientific American.

Customer Reviews

A must read for gourmet cooks!
N. K. Goldsmith
What he appears to have done is found 100 'interesting' articles about food and cooking, and then summarized each article in its own three page chapter.
Brian LeBaron
I am well educated with a technical background, and still found the reading a little challenging.
KM, West Palm Beach

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

239 of 257 people found the following review helpful By Margot Vigeant on December 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
If you're thinking about buying this book, you are interested in the chemistry of food and have probably read Robert Wolke's "What Einstein Told his Cook" or Joe Schwarcz's "That's the way the Cookie Crumbles" or perhaps even the paragon of English-language food chemistry: Harold McGee's "On Food and Cooking". If you haven't, I recommend you start with one of those first ("Einstein" would be my #1 choice).

Why? Because those books are better written and about topics that are of more general interest to a North American audience. Molecular Gastronomy is unabashedly FRENCH - which is an excellent thing, but surprising if you're not expecting it. The foods it focuses on are French foods, the research it cites is French research, and I suspect even the translator has French as his first language. So, for example, this book discusses the "Perfect Sabayon" - a lovely culinary question, however one that many Americans (even "foodie" Americans) might find less interesting than the question of cookies going stale (as covered in Schwarcz). The translation is odd.... it is clear, in reading it, that it wasn't originally written in English. Some particularly French phrasing persists in the translation and I am also not convinced that the translator had as extensive a chemical vocabulary as was called for (for example, the phrase "vitreous transition temperature" is used, where "glass transition temperature" is the term used in most materials science texts).

As other reviewers have commented, the vignettes themselves may leave something to be desired. Each chapter is quite brief (Schwartcz's work is similar), so may not have the text to go into the depth a reader might desire. However, the real strength of this work is that it addresses interesting food/chemical questions that aren't being covered by the North American writers.... there's a lot of wine, cheese, and emulsified sauce in this book that you don't see anywhere else.
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53 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Grygus on January 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Craftsmanship looks impressive, until you try to read it. The italic "g" and several accented characters are simply not in the typeface used and are replaced by spaces leaving you guessing at what they might be, and the translator didn't fully understand the usage of "I" vs. "me".

I think some have been dazzled by scientific words they didn't understand and afraid to call it fluff. There's not near enough science to satisfy a scientist but way more than enough undefined organic chemical names to glaze the eyes of even a highly educated cook.

I can get you a really great deal on a disulfide bridge - you want phenylthiocarbamide with that?

The chapters are mercifully short, but it's quite difficult to extract any practical information from a great many of them. They often end with questions - some clearly state unknowns, which is fine, but others leave you wondering if they are questions or answers. Taking a whole chapter to explain the choice of title would have been fair warning had I not already purchased the book.

For the record, I have read two much larger science/cooking volumes by Harold McGee (On Food and Cooking, The Curious Cook), end to end with great interest and I recommend them highly.
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50 of 55 people found the following review helpful By John Matlock on March 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Cooking, which has certainly been around for a long time, has been treated more as an art than a science. The recipies and techniques that we follow are handed cown from parent to child, or since writing was invented from chef to student.

But do many of these procedures make sense. Why do we have such traditional ideas of cooking that seem almost cast in stone with little or no evidence that this is indeed the best way to do things.

In this book M. This states a principle, but carrying it further he researches where this principle originated, and then conducts carefully measured experiments to see if this is true. For instance in making beef stock, the rule says put the meat into cold water and increase the temperature gradually. What happens if you put the meat into boiling water? Or what is the difference in Cheeses that are made from milk from cows that had south facing fields when compared to cows on fields that faced a northern slope. What about if the cow was fed silage (wet grass stored in silow where it ferments)? And what's the best way to test whiskey?

That's the idea, here is the analysis of cooking taken to a scientific level. It's a fascinating book for one interested in more than just the mechanics of cooking. I was reminded of Russ Parson's book 'How to Read a French Fry.'
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44 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Brian LeBaron on August 18, 2009
Format: Paperback
I had very high hopes for this book. I thought it was going to be a great read for someone who is well versed in science and wants to learn more about cooking methods. I was wrong.

I have a not insignificant number of problems with the book, which I'll go through rather quickly. First, I could tell as early as the introduction that something was off about the writing. I don't know how the book read in its original French, but this is one of the most awkward translations I've ever seen. Nothing screams out at you - there aren't typos, grammatical errors, or incomplete sentences. It's the style. This book completely lacks a writer's style. I suspect it may have been translated rather literally by a person who was not an established English writer, but by someone who could indeed write in English. There is absolutely no flow - not only from chapter to chapter (it is important to note that there are 100 chapters in this book, for an average of 3 pages per chapter), but also not from the beginning of one chapter to the end of it, nor even from the beginning of some paragraphs to their ends. All of the words are on the page and all of the thoughts are there, but they are not strung together well at all. While I wouldn't describe it as 'incoherent,' it is painful to follow. There is rarely, if ever, any coherence from one chapter to another for more than two or [if ever] three at a time. The progression is not at all natural and seems entirely arbitrary. Each chapter barely covers anything - as I said, they are only two to three pages each. How much can you say in so little space, especially when the chapter following it is on a different topic entirely?

The other thing that bothers me is the science.
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