From Publishers Weekly
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.
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Joachim and Schloss use a dictionary approach for their comprehensive guide to the whys and wherefores of cooking and eating. In succinct articles, they address such cooking processes as roasting. In simple prose, they explain the term, outline what the process does to food, and then delve into how the process actually accomplishes its purposes. Similarly, the authors define a wide range of ingredients, giving brief histories and explaining how each ingredient is used to advantage. Well-organized tables of data help sort out detailed information. Recipes scattered throughout offer ways of actually putting information into practice. Expositions of fundamental chemistry avoid detail and will appeal to those with only rudimentary scientific literacy. Full-color illustrations of such basic topics as knife anatomy contribute to understanding. Sidebars cover minor, yet useful, topics, including cooking potatoes and preventing soggy pastry crusts. Good for basic cookery reference collections. --Mark Knoblauch
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