Why do recipes call for unsalted butter--and salt? What is a microwave, actually? Are smoked foods raw or cooked? Robert L. Wolke's enlightening and entertaining What Einstein Told His Cook
offers answers to these and 127 other questions about everyday kitchen phenomena. Using humor (dubious puns included), Wolke, a bona fide chemistry professor and syndicated Washington Post
columnist, has found a way to make his explanations clear and accessible to all: in short, fun. For example, to a query about why cookbooks advise against inserting meat thermometers so that they touch a bone, Wolke says, "I hate warnings without explanations, don't you? Whenever I see an 'open other end' warning on a box, I open the wrong end just to see what will happen. I'm still alive." But he always finally gets down to brass tacks: as most heat transfer in meat is due to its water content, areas around bone remain relatively cool and thus unreliable for gauging overall meat temperature.
Organized into basic categories like "Sweet Talk" (questions involving sugar), "Fire and Ice" (we learn why water boils and freezers burn, among other things), and "Tools and Technology" (the best kind of frying pan, for example), the book also provides illustrative recipes like Black Raspberry Coffee Cake (to demonstrate how metrics work in recipes) and Bob's Mahogany Game Hens (showing what brining can do). With technical illustrations, tips, and more, the book offers abundant evidence that learning the whys and hows of cooking can help us enjoy the culinary process almost as much as its results. --Arthur Boehm
From Publishers Weekly
Wolke, longtime professor of chemistry and author of the Washington Post column Food 101, turns his hand to a Cecil Adams style compendium of questions and answers on food chemistry. Is there really a difference between supermarket and sea salt? How is sugar made? Should cooks avoid aluminum pans? Interspersed throughout Wolke's accessible and humorous answers to these and other mysteries are recipes demonstrating scientific principles. There is gravy that avoids lumps and grease; Portuguese Poached Meringue that demonstrates cream of tartar at work; and juicy Salt-Seared Burgers. Wolke is good at demystifying advertisers' half-truths, showing, for example, that sea salt is not necessarily better than regular salt for those watching sodium intake. While the book isn't encyclopedic, Wolke's topics run the gamut: one chapter tackles Those Mysterious Microwaves; elsewhere readers learn about the burning of alcohol and are privy to a rant on the U.S. measuring system. Sometimes the tone is hokey (The green color [in potatoes] is Mother Nature's Mr. Yuk sticker, warning us of poison) and parenthetical Techspeak explanations may seem condescending to those who remember high school science. However, Wolke tells it like it is. What does clarifying butter do, chemically? Answer: gets rid of everything but that delicious, artery-clogging, highly saturated butterfat. With its zest for the truth, this book will help cooks learn how to make more intelligent choices.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.