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Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor (Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History) Paperback – August 18, 2008
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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.
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.
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.Read more ›
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.'
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book is difficult to read-- the translation is a bit awkward, and I think the descriptions of scientific experiments have been edited to make them harder to understand instead... Read morePublished 6 months ago by annimation
Let me preface this review by stating that I have a MSc in Food Science and generally get more enjoyment from technical, scholarly books and articles than I do from other... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Matthew
For the casual or unprofessional reader a title like Molucular Gastronomy has the allure of eating a bowl of stewed prunes. Read morePublished 12 months ago by P. Mulloy