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Starred Review. Before antioxidants, extra-virgin olive oil and supermarket sushi commanded public obsession, the first edition of this book swept readers and cooks into the everyday magic of the kitchen: it became an overnight classic. Now, 20 years later, McGee has taken his slightly outdated volume and turned it into a stunning masterpiece that combines science, linguistics, history, poetry and, of course, gastronomy. He dances from the spicy flavor of Hawaiian seaweed to the scientific method of creating no-stir peanut butter, quoting Chinese poet Shu Xi and biblical proverbs along the way. McGee's conversational style—rich with exclamation points and everyday examples—allows him to explain complex chemical reactions, like caramelization, without dumbing them down. His book will also be hailed as groundbreaking in its breakdown of taste and flavor. Though several cookbooks have begun to answer the questions of why certain foods go well together, McGee draws on recent agricultural research, neuroscience reviews and chemical publications to chart the different flavor chemicals in herbs and spices, fruits and vegetables. Odd synergies appear, like the creation of fruity esters in dry-cured ham—the same that occur naturally in melons! McGee also corrects the European bias of the first edition, moving beyond the Mediterranean to discuss the foods of Asia and Mexico. Almost every single page of this edition has been rewritten, but the book retains the same light touch as the original. McGee has successfully revised the bible of food science—and produced a fascinating, charming text.
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"In 1984, canola oil and the computer mouse and compact disc were all novelties... [and] the worlds of science and cooking were neatly compartmentalized." A lot has changed in 20 years: magazines and books now discuss the science of cooking, and culinary schools offer "experimental" courses that investigate the whys of cooking. So McGee, a writer who specializes in the chemistry of food and cooking, has completely rewritten his 1984 classic, expanding it by two thirds into a book that weighs in at almost 900 pages. He offers thorough, scientific explanations of countless topics, including why brining your turkey is not a good idea, why food wrapped in plastic often tastes like plastic, why you should never refrigerate tomatoes. And he continues to display, as one admirer said of the first edition, "a scientist's skill and a cook's heart."
Editors of Scientific AmericanSee all Editorial Reviews
This is a book you can pick up anytime and find interesting reading. I kept reading it at my daughter's home, and then decided to buy one for myself.Published 2 days ago by Margaret Smith
Harold McGee knows everything there is to know about food's chemistry. I bought this new edition to help me teach a pastry class, and it led to me rethinking a lot of what I do... Read morePublished 11 days ago by M. L. Davidson
This book is great for reference. It has history and preparations of many of the items that you have in your pantry and find at the market and beyond.Published 13 days ago by Jesse Cyr
THE bible of Food knowledge. Read it cover to cover and be amazed. Excellent!Published 18 days ago by Tony
A seminal book for the cook. This was a Christmas present for my brother-in-law. Initially he wasn't so sure about the book until another foodie friend saw it and went on about it. Read morePublished 24 days ago by John Concannon
If you cook, eat, farm, shop or just read magazines and papers on food, you need this. McGee explains why eggs get hard, how not to ruin meats, what heat does to food. Read morePublished 26 days ago by jlockley