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Customer Review

198 of 204 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not sure what it is., November 25, 2011
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This review is from: Culinary Reactions: The Everyday Chemistry of Cooking (Paperback)
This book comes off as a write up of Google searches. It contains lots of interesting factiods, to be sure, and on the whole is worth the price, but it's neither a chemistry course nor a cooking course nor -- what you'd hope for -- a braiding of the two.

It's not a biochem course, not even a lightweight one, as it doesn't build from first principals -- it just throws out whatever chemistry facts happen to pop up, some times at a basic level and sometimes at a very deep level -- too deep, I'd think, for most cooks. Neither is it a cooking/baking course (it mixes both), as again it doesn't build up an understanding from basic principals. So you get a chemistry fact, sometimes paired with a curious fact about cooking or baking. Then off to the next fact. Fortunately, it has a table of contents and a good index, so at least you can find the tidbits you might be looking for. Many times they are interesting, but not always.

My degrees are in chemistry and I consider myself reasonable well read when it comes to gastronomy, so I enjoyed the book and read it completely. But I think if I were someone expecting to be lead through an understanding of basic food chemistry and simultaneously basic cooking/baking I would have been confused and disappointed. You'd come away with some facts, but I don't think you'd come away with an understanding of the chemistry of cooking or baking, and I don't think you'd become a better cook (or chemist).
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 4, 2012 4:59:28 PM PST
Deau Haute says:
Is there another book on this subject that you recommend?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 9, 2012 10:02:37 AM PST
Tumblemark says:
The standard is pretty much On Food and Cooking, by Harold McGee. Cooking for Geeks, by Jeff Potter is also pretty good, if a bit light weight.

If you have the funds and sturdy shelf space, the apotheosis would be Modernist Cuisine, by Nathan Myhrvold. It even comes with a cook book.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 23, 2012 11:42:22 AM PDT
ELR says:
Shirley Corriher's books (Cookwise and Bakewise), too, are excellent. Corriher has a background as a biochemist, and approaches her subjects from the standpoint of a food-lover and a scientist.

Posted on Aug 17, 2014 7:46:44 PM PDT
C. Ballous says:
What if one used this book with a homeschooled high schooler as an add-on to his chemistry course to sort of demonstrate the principle we're studying in his text? I don't think I would mind flipping around in this book to follow the main text ... I appreciate your honest response and I'm on the edge of buying this book just for that purpose. I bought On Food and Cooking by McGee and I don't know where to start with that book. And it seems like there's nothing to *do* and my kids like to *do* something in science courses. I don't know. I think high school chemistry needs a little 'leavening.' :-)
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