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I had very high hopes for this book. I thought it was going to be a great read for someone who is well versed in science and wants to learn more about cooking methods. I was wrong.
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. It should be said that I am a scientist by trade and training, and a lover of food and writing by hobby. As someone who reads and produces scientific research, I can say that the author of this book is not such a person. What he appears to have done is found 100 'interesting' articles about food and cooking, and then summarized each article in its own three page chapter. The original research is at best only mentioned vaguely, though the end of the book does have a 9 page 'Further Reading' section (in alphabetical order) which I suspect is actually his 'References' section (I do not care enough to check, especially since it is not even broken up into the 'four parts' of the book). It is very apparent by the summaries of the research that the author (or, perhaps the translator - I don't know how one could tell the difference) did not really understand what he was reading. One particular blurb about 'the alpha subunit of G proteins' strongly reeked of someone who was parroting words he didn't understand (because G-Protein Coupled Receptors are something I do I understand by nature of my work). In almost all of these summaries, the author will throw out terms and phrases such as "a truncated form of a neuronal protein known as a metabotropic glutamate receptor, or mGluR4" (page 98 for the curious) and will absolutely avoid explaining what any of that means, including why a truncated protein is significant, why the protein is 'neuronal,' or what a metabotropic receptor is. If he were a scientist, he would display some sort of adeptness with the terms, and the scientific audience would know what he is talking about. He isn't, though, and phrases like that leave me a bit puzzled even though I know exactly what the fancy words mean. He has therefore completely missed the mark on his audience, the layman. In the rare occasion where he does try to define a scientific term like that, he will use something resembling a textbook definition. The problem with this lies in that the description has you looking up more terms than the original point in question did. The appropriate method for description of these terms is analogy, not denotation. Analogies would help the audience understand what is important and why it is important. Unfortunately, the book has none of these, and is comparable to a magician distracting you with his left hand while he prepares the next magic trick in his right (see what I did there? Analogy).
Finally, for a book about food and cooking, it MUST be said that there are ZERO recipes in the book. There are not even SUGGESTIONS of recipes. There is plenty of 'proteins denature at X temperature,' but there is absolutely no incentive to cook. Science is a wonderful thing, really. But why write a book about cooking without actually doing anything about it? If you want science in your kitchen, read Robert Wolke's Einstein books. They didn't blow my mind, but they are more interesting, better written, more practical, and they even manage to squeeze some recipes in regarding the science in the book! Barham's Science of Cooking, though bland, is better than this book and again at least it has both SCIENCE and COOKING. If you are interested in baking, Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice has much to teach you about bread, enzymes, etc. (though it is not strictly a science book). And finally, Alton Brown is always more accessible and more interesting than this book could ever hope to be, even though his stuff is a little goofy sometimes.
I think that covers most of my problems with the book. Cliff's Notes: It was not scientific, it didn't make me want to cook, didn't go in depth on any topics, didn't display mastery or even comprehension of most topics covered, was hard to follow, and was not unified in theme.
When I find a really good book on science and cooking, I'll let you know.