Saturday, December 4, 2010

What Einstein Told His Cook by Robert Wolke

What Einstein told his Cook, by Robert Wolke, 2002, 350 pages, softcover.

Kitchen Science Explained

This title may not sound interesting, but the book really is. "This book explains the science behind both the foods themselves and the tools we use to prepare them." In simple question and answer format, this book is like having a scientist at your elbow while you are cooking. It answers those pesky questions that arise, like "how can you soften hardened brown sugar?" "What does "carmelize" mean?" "Why does chocolate melt in your mouth?" "Can a potato remove the excess salt from over salted soup?" "How do the various cooking oils compare?" "What is the difference between baking soda and baking powder?" "What makes ground beef brown?" "What is a calorie?" "Can eggs be frozen?" "How is coffee decaffeinated?" "How do microwave ovens work?" "What's the best kind of frying pan?"

There are 9 chapters covering over 100 questions with full answers and explanations in common sense, every day English. These include 1) Sweet Talk, all about sugars, 2) The Salt of the earth, about--what else?--Salt, 3) The Fat of the Land--about oils, butter, gravy, 4) Chemicals in the Kitchen, about spices, powders, 5) Turf and Surf--about fish and meat, 6) Fire and Ice, about heat, calories, freezers, 7) Liquid Refreshment--coffee, tea, soft drinks, 8) Microwaves, and 9) Tools and Technology--thermometers, pressure cookers.

Wolke is a professor of chemistry and the author of the Washington Post column Food 101. He is wonderful at answering those food questions you always wondered about but didn't know where to look to find the answer. There are also recipes demonstrating the scientific principles Wolke is explaining, like perfect gravy. "He is informed, amusing and delivers clear answers as well as good, in-depth science." He has a website: with a link to some of his columns and his other books, as well as recommended links to interesting science websites. I'm looking forward to reading his other books, which answer questions about everyday things unrelated to cooking.

Available through the library, but you may have to request it.

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