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On Food and Cooking [Anglais] [Relié]

Harold McGee
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Description de l'ouvrage

23 novembre 2004
Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking is a kitchen classic. Hailed by Time magazine as "a minor masterpiece" when it first appeared in 1984, On Food and Cooking is the bible to which food lovers and professional chefs worldwide turn for an understanding of where our foods come from, what exactly they're made of, and how cooking transforms them into something new and delicious.

Now, for its twentieth anniversary, Harold McGee has prepared a new, fully revised and updated edition of On Food and Cooking. He has rewritten the text almost completely, expanded it by two-thirds, and commissioned more than 100 new illustrations. As compulsively readable and engaging as ever, the new On Food and Cooking provides countless eye-opening insights into food, its preparation, and its enjoyment.

On Food and Cooking pioneered the translation of technical food science into cook-friendly kitchen science and helped give birth to the inventive culinary movement known as "molecular gastronomy." Though other books have now been written about kitchen science, On Food and Cooking remains unmatched in the accuracy, clarity, and thoroughness of its explanations, and the intriguing way in which it blends science with the historical evolution of foods and cooking techniques.

On Food and Cooking is an invaluable and monumental compendium of basic information about ingredients, cooking methods, and the pleasures of eating. It will delight and fascinate anyone who has ever cooked, savored, or wondered about food.

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Introduction: Cooking and Science, 1984 and 2004

This is the revised and expanded second edition of a book that I first published in 1984, twenty long years ago. In 1984, canola oil and the computer mouse and compact discs were all novelties. So was the idea of inviting cooks to explore the biological and chemical insides of foods. It was a time when a book like this really needed an introduction!

Twenty years ago the worlds of science and cooking were neatly compartmentalized. There were the basic sciences, physics and chemistry and biology, delving deep into the nature of matter and life. There was food science, an applied science mainly concerned with understanding the materials and processes of industrial manufacturing. And there was the world of small-scale home and restaurant cooking, traditional crafts that had never attracted much scientific attention. Nor did they really need any. Cooks had been developing their own body of practical knowledge for thousands of years, and had plenty of reliable recipes to work with.

I had been fascinated by chemistry and physics when I was growing up, experimented with electroplating and Tesla coils and telescopes, and went to Caltech planning to study astronomy. It wasn't until after I'd changed directions and moved on to English literature -- and had begun to cook -- that I first heard of food science. At dinner one evening in 1976 or 1977, a friend from New Orleans wondered aloud why dried beans were such a problematic food, why indulging in red beans and rice had to cost a few hours of sometimes embarrassing discomfort. Interesting question! A few days later, working in the library and needing a break from 19th-century poetry, I remembered it and the answer a biologist friend had dug up (indigestible sugars), thought I would browse in some food books, wandered over to that section, and found shelf after shelf of strange titles. Journal of Food Science. Poultry Science. Cereal Chemistry. I flipped through a few volumes, and among the mostly bewildering pages found hints of answers to other questions that had never occurred to me. Why do eggs solidify when we cook them? Why do fruits turn brown when we cut them? Why is bread dough bouncily alive, and why does bounciness make good bread? Which kinds of dried beans are the worst offenders, and how can a cook tame them? It was great fun to make and share these little discoveries, and I began to think that many people interested in food might enjoy them. Eventually I found time to immerse myself in food science and history and write On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen.

As I finished, I realized that cooks more serious than my friends and I might be skeptical about the relevance of cells and molecules to their craft. So I spent much of the introduction trying to bolster my case. I began by quoting an unlikely trio of authorities, Plato, Samuel Johnson, and Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, all of whom suggested that cooking deserves detailed and serious study. I pointed out that a 19th-century German chemist still influences how many people think about cooking meat, and that around the turn of the 20th century, Fannie Farmer began her cookbook with what she called "condensed scientific knowledge" about ingredients. I noted a couple of errors in modern cookbooks by Madeleine Kamman and Julia Child, who were ahead of their time in taking chemistry seriously. And I proposed that science can make cooking more interesting by connecting it with the basic workings of the natural world.

A lot has changed in twenty years! It turned out that On Food and Cooking was riding a rising wave of general interest in food, a wave that grew and grew, and knocked down the barriers between science and cooking, especially in the last decade. Science has found its way into the kitchen, and cooking into laboratories and factories.

In 2004 food lovers can find the science of cooking just about everywhere. Magazines and newspaper food sections devote regular columns to it, and there are now a number of books that explore it, with Shirley Corriher's 1997 CookWise remaining unmatched in the way it integrates explanation and recipes. Today many writers go into the technical details of their subjects, especially such intricate things as pastry, chocolate, coffee, beer, and wine. Kitchen science has been the subject of television series aired in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and France. And a number of food molecules and microbes have become familiar figures in the news, both good and bad. Anyone who follows the latest in health and nutrition knows about the benefits of antioxidants and phytoestrogens, the hazards of trans fatty acids, acrylamide, E. coli bacteria, and mad cow disease.

Professional cooks have also come to appreciate the value of the scientific approach to their craft. In the first few years after On Food and Cooking appeared, many young cooks told me of their frustration in trying to find out why dishes were prepared a certain way, or why ingredients behave as they do. To their traditionally trained chefs and teachers, understanding food was less important than mastering the tried and true techniques for preparing it. Today it's clearer that curiosity and understanding make their own contribution to mastery. A number of culinary schools now offer "experimental" courses that investigate the whys of cooking and encourage critical thinking. And several highly regarded chefs, most famously Ferran Adrià in Spain and Heston Blumenthal in England, experiment with industrial and laboratory tools -- gelling agents from seaweeds and bacteria, non-sweet sugars, aroma extracts, pressurized gases, liquid nitrogen -- to bring new forms of pleasure to the table.

As science has gradually percolated into the world of cooking, cooking has been drawn into academic and industrial science. One effective and charming force behind this movement was Nicholas Kurti, a physicist and food lover at the University of Oxford, who lamented in 1969: "I think it is a sad reflection on our civilization that while we can and do measure the temperature in the atmosphere of Venus, we do not know what goes on inside our soufflés." In 1992, at the age of 84, Nicholas nudged civilization along by organizing an International Workshop on Molecular and Physical Gastronomy at Erice, Sicily, where for the first time professional cooks, basic scientists from universities, and food scientists from industry worked together to advance gastronomy, the making and appreciation of foods of the highest quality.

The Erice meeting continues, renamed the "International Workshop on Molecular Gastronomy 'N. Kurti' " in memory of its founder. And over the last decade its focus, the understanding of culinary excellence, has taken on new economic significance. The modern industrial drive to maximize efficiency and minimize costs generally lowered the quality and distinctiveness of food products: they taste much the same, and not very good. Improvements in quality can now mean a competitive advantage; and cooks have always been the world's experts in the applied science of deliciousness. Today, the French National Institute of Agricultural Research sponsors a group in Molecular Gastronomy at the Collège de France (its leader, Hervé This, directs the Erice workshop); chemist Thorvald Pedersen is the inaugural Professor of Molecular Gastronomy at Denmark's Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University; and in the United States, the rapidly growing membership of the Research Chefs Association specializes in bringing the chef's skills and standards to the food industry.

So in 2004 there's no longer any need to explain the premise of this book. Instead, there's more for the book itself to explain! Twenty years ago, there wasn't much demand for information about extra-virgin olive oil or balsamic vinegar, farmed salmon or grass-fed beef, cappuccino or white tea, Sichuan pepper or Mexican mole, sake or well-tempered chocolate. Today there's interest in all these and much more. And so this second edition of On Food and Cooking is substantially longer than the first. I've expanded the text by two thirds in order to cover a broader range of ingredients and preparations, and to explore them in greater depth. To make room for new information about foods, I've dropped the separate chapters on human physiology, nutrition, and additives. Of the few sections that survive in similar form from the first edition, practically all have been rewritten to reflect fresh information, or my own fresh understanding.

This edition gives new emphasis to two particular aspects of food. The first is the diversity of ingredients and the ways in which they're prepared. These days the easy movement of products and people makes it possible for us to taste foods from all over the world. And traveling back in time through old cookbooks can turn up forgotten but intriguing ideas. I've tried throughout to give at least a brief indication of the range of possibilities offered by foods themselves and by different national traditions.

The other new emphasis is on the flavors of foods, and sometimes on the particular molecules that create flavor. Flavors are something like chemical chords, composite sensations built up from notes provided by different molecules, some of which are found in many foods. I give the chemical names of flavor molecules when I think that being specific can help us notice flavor relationships and echoes. The names may seem strange and intimidating at first, but they're just names and they'll become more familiar. Of course people have made and enjoyed well seasoned dishes for thousands of years with no knowledge of molecules. But a dash of flavor chemistry can help us make fuller use of our senses of taste and smell, and experience more -- and find more pleasure -- in what we cook and eat.

Now a few words about the scientific approach to food and cooking and the organization of this book. Like everything on earth, foods are mixtures of different chemic...

Revue de presse

"I know of no chef worth his salt who doesn't keep a copy of Harold McGee's masterwork, On Food and Cooking...Simply put, it is the Rosetta stone of the culinary world...McGee flipped on the science switch, and suddenly there was light. Whereas Julia Child taught "how," McGee explains 'why.'" - Alton Brown, Time

"Harold McGee changed our lives with his original On Food and Cooking. While we knew that many things in cooking worked or didn't work, McGee showed us why. This new edition is the most complete book on food that I have ever seen, and it is easy to read-an inconceivable amount of information made incredibly accessible. On Food and Cooking is unique, engrossing reading and a major contribution to great culinary literature." -Shirley O. Corriher, author of CookWise

"Without an understanding of basic food science and practical cooking technique, there can ultimately be no true creativity in the kitchen! Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking is the definitive treatise on this subject that both the professional and home cook will absolutely require to move their cooking forward." -Charlie Trotter, chef-owner of Charlie Trotter's

"A must-have resource for any student of the stove, On Food and Cooking synthesizes details from a wide variety of scientific disciplines and gastronomic traditions, sparking the reader's culinary imagination with every turn of the page. Harold McGee possesses that most rare combination: a scientist's skill and a cook's heart." -Rick Bayless, author of Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen and Mexico One Plate at a Time

"Having the pleasure of working with Harold McGee at The French Laundry kitchen was a dream come true. On Food and Cooking continues to be the most accurate source of information for generations of chefs. A charismatic teacher, Harold is a veritable fountain of information and without peer in our industry. His books are the most worn and dog-eared of my entire collection." -Thomas Keller, chef-owner of The French Laundry and Per Se

"Harold McGee's book is simply a monumental journey merging food and science...and a marvelous read." - Paula Wolfert, author of Mediterranean Cooking

"Nothing could be more welcome than a revised and expanded verison of Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking. This big, immensely important work, with its breathtaking scope, is the basic resource for anyone who wants to understand the way we grow our food, harvest it, store it, cook it, consume, smell, taste, and even digest it. McGee's sceintific writing is intelligent, lucid, and always to the point -- helping both professionals and serious home cooks understand what happens when they work with food, enabling them to be more enlightened shoppers, cooks, and even eaters. The first edition of On Food and Cooking has been the best selling book in the history of our bookstore. A newer and larger On Food and Cooking is a gift to all who want to know how food works." - Nach Waxman, Owner, Kitchen Arts & Letters

"McGee's immeasurable knowledge and infinite wisdom has hugely influenced the state of gastronomy. I constantly refer to On Food and Cooking and I am thrilled there's more yet to learn from the master of food and science. This book covers topics I have never ever heard of in a comprehensive end all way." - Mario Batali, chef-owner of Babbo and Otto

"I have used Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking for the last two decades whenever I've had questions on the chemistry of food or to understand some aspect of the cooking process. This extraordinary, new, expanded edition will occupy a place of prominence on my bookshelf." - Jacques Pépin, author of Jacques and Julia Cooking at Home and The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen

"On Food and Cooking is the classic that weaves together history, science, and practical advice in mesmerizing (really) discussion of every conceivable topic of interest in the kitchen...Everyone who eats can use this book. It belongs in every home." - Cheryl Mendelson, author of Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House

Détails sur le produit

  • Relié: 896 pages
  • Editeur : Scribner; Édition : Rev Upd (23 novembre 2004)
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 0684800012
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684800011
  • Dimensions du produit: 23,6 x 17 x 4,6 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (3 commentaires client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: 32.005 en Livres anglais et étrangers (Voir les 100 premiers en Livres anglais et étrangers)
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3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Par ekcentrik
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
Les livres de recettes nous apprennent "comment" préparer des plats. Ce livre nous apprend "pourquoi et comment ça marche", ce qui nous permet d'améliorer notre technique, et de faire nos propres petites expériences et créations culinaires à partir des principes chimiques et physiques des aliments! C'est LE guide d'utilisateur pour tout les aliments et les méthodes de cuisson - la partie sur les oeufs à elle seule justifie son achat! Étonnamment complet et bien organisé, on y trouve la réponse à toutes nos questions, avec en plus des anecdotes historiques, des recettes anciennes et bien sûr des astuces insolites. On peut s'en servir comme oeuvre de référence, mais il se laisse lire du début à la fin comme un roman (on est toujours libre de revenir sur les parties les plus techniques!) Vivement recommandé pour ceux que cherchent à mieux comprendre la transformation culinaire, de l'apôtre du micro-ondes-pour-tout au fin gourmet. Enfin, un livre pour tout le monde, car chacun y trouvera son compte! (Note: Ce commentaire fait référence à la version originale anglaise).
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5.0 étoiles sur 5 Food Industry 17 octobre 2013
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I've ordered this book several times, first for myself as I work in the food industry and secondly for my associates and friends
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5.0 étoiles sur 5 the one and only 11 juin 2013
Par pechg
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de par son aspect scientifique et prodigue, accompagné de "la cuisine du marché" de Bocuse et du fameux "modernist cuisine" de Myhrvold et al
un trio de bonheur !!!
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Amazon.com: 4.7 étoiles sur 5  370 commentaires
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5.0 étoiles sur 5 Definitive Text on Food Science AND Lore. Buy It. 3 décembre 2004
Par B. Marold - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
This red `On Food and Cooking, The Science and Lore of the Kitchen' by Harold McGee is a new edition of what is the most widely quoted culinary work in English. It may be almost as influential on the thinking of culinary professionals as Julia Child's `Mastering the Art of French Cooking' was on attitudes of American home cooking. The testimonials from the likes of Thomas Keller, Paula Wolfert, Jacques Pepin, and Rose Levy Beranbaum just begins to tell you how important McGee's volume has become. I was immensely pleased to see the exchange of acknowledgments between McGee and Keller to see how much the academic can learn from the professional chef.

I can devote my thousand words on how good this book has been to the culinary world, but most of you already know that. What I will do is to list all the reasons one may wish to read this book.

First, the book is simply interesting to amateur foodies and culinary professionals. This is the serendipity principle. If you prospect in a rich land, you will invariably find something of value. The `lore' in the subtitle is not an afterthought. The book includes history, linguistics and cooking practice in addition to simple science. In over 800 pages of densely packed narrative, one will invariably find something of interest, especially since the book covers such a broad range of topics, including:

Milk and Dairy



Fish and Shellfish

Fruits and Vegetables

Seeds, Cereals, and Doughs


Sugars and Chocolate

Alcohol (Wine, Beer, and Distilled Spirits)

Cooking Methods

Cooking Utensil Materials

`The Four Basic Food Molecules'

Basic Chemistry

This is the perfect book in which to jump around to those subjects that interest you. I just wish the author would have put the last two subjects first so that more readers would stumble across them to gain a better understanding of what appears in the chapters on specific foods. A quick example of how this would help in practical terms is that the characteristics of alcohol, which stand halfway between water and oils explains why vodka is such a great flavor enhancing addition to pasta sauces.

Second, professional and amateur bakers should read all of the chapters on grains, doughs, chocolate, alcohol, basic molecules, and the chemistry primer, as this is the one area of culinary practice where knowledge of science can make the biggest difference between good and great results. Both Shirley Corriher and Alton Brown have books which include baking science and Rose Levy Beranbaum's books all cover practical baking science in depth, but McGee puts all of this is a broader context which, to use Alton Brown's great metaphor about science and cooking, gives a roadmap covering a much broader area, to a finer scale of detail.

Third, all culinary professionals who have anything whatsoever to do with teaching should read this book from cover to cover, twice. There is absolutely nothing more annoying than having a person in the role of teacher make a patently false statement in their area of expertise. The number of times a Food Network culinary celeb misuses the term `dissolve' when they really mean `emulsify' or simply `mix' would fill volumes. It is still a common mistake to say that searing protein seals in juices. There are many good reasons for searing. Preventing the escape of liquid is not one of them. Even Brown himself has made some gaffs in print and on `Good Eats' such as when he described a very corrosive compound as a strong acid rather than a strong base. He confused one end of the pH scale with the other.

Fourth, anyone who has ambitions to develop their own recipes should read those chapters which deal with the major foods such as dairy, meats, fish, fruits, and vegetables, with a premium on the material on milk and eggs. Two defining characteristics of science are that it explains things and it predicts things. Most people understand the first but may not appreciate the second. One can predict, for example, that if you use too little fat in a milk or cream based gratin, the dairy will curdle, so, if you are playing around with your favorite mac and cheese recipe, do not be so quick to reach for that skim milk, as you are likely to be very disappointed with the result. Similarly, if you crave some Saturday morning buttermilk biscuits and the nearest carton of buttermilk is a 30 minute drive away, AND, you have no vinegar, AND you have no citrus, there is just a chance that your aging cream of tartar dissolved in milk will save the day, since this is an acidic salt which will stand in for the acidity in the buttermilk. As a former professional chemist, I can assure you that pure inorganic salts like cream of tartar simply do not go bad.

I would have loved to hear the exchanges between author McGee and Thomas Keller, as Keller is probably the contemporary epitome of how the culinary professional uses experimental techniques in cooking. The constant tasting which every cook does is nothing more than a practical application of the chemical technique of titration, where materials are combined slowly until the desired result is achieved. What separates good from great cooks is using this technique to test raw materials. This is the truest marriage of science and cooking, following the maxim of Daniel Boulud who stated that to be really great, the journeyman cook must repeat the same procedure thousands of times to the point where the result is utterly reproducible and the cook can detect the desired endpoint easily by eye, nose, and mouth. Sounds like science to me.

The author's introduction presents an excellent case for rereading the book in its second edition as he cites the great changes in food culture over the last twenty years. This is also a great case for anyone who is interested in any aspect of food.

A very important book indeed.
345 internautes sur 357 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 the new and improved bible of food and cooking 3 décembre 2004
Par Joseph Adler - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
This is a truly unique and wonderful book. It contains a tremendous amount of information about the food we eat. It shows the structure and composition of animals, plants, eggs, liquids, and seeds, explaining why each one has certain characteristics (for example, it turns out that the smell of fish comes from the decomponsition of a chemical in ocean fish cells that maintains the proper pressure balance with salt water). It explains what happpens when ingredients are chopped, mixed, heated, cooled, fermented, or otherwise transformed.

I discovered the first edition about five years ago, and it permanently changed how I think about food and how I cook. Since then, I've seen many other chefs mention this book. For example, in Michael Ruhlman's book "The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute," CIA students often study this (unrequired) book to better understand what they're doing.

You should be aware that this book is more an encypclopedia than an a recipe book or a collection of essays. If you're looking for a fun discussion of food science, then Alton Brown's "I'm just here for the food" may be a better choice. If you're looking for recipes that are optimized by principles of food science, I'd recommend Shirley O. Corriher's "Cookwise." (Actually, I'd recommend both of those books anyway.) Some readers may find "On Food and Cooking" a little bit too dense and technical to read from cover to cover, but as a reference book, it's unmatched.

The second edition is a great improvement over the first, and I'd strongly recommend it not only to new readers but to anyone who read the first edition. (Just the new section on fish makes this book worth purchasing.) This is really a totally new book: it's been completely reorganized, new illustrations have been added, and it's 66% longer than the old version. I'm guessing that the only reason that this book has the same title is for marketing value: the first book was very well known by cooks.
86 internautes sur 89 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The Foodie's Bible, Colorful and Endlessly Fascinating 11 décembre 2004
Par Ed Uyeshima - Publié sur Amazon.com
Food lovers can rest easy now that Harold McGee has updated his eminently readable 1984 tome, "On Food and Cooking". He is the literary counterpart to the Food Network's Alton Brown in providing an amalgam of history, science, literature, and cooking tips, spreading his knowledge across fifteen chapters, each devoted to a different food category. McGee leaves no food unturned. He starts rather appropriately with milk and dairy products, life-starting foods, and goes through edible plants, cereals, doughs and batters, wine and beer and distilled spirits, even basic food molecules. This is no dry scientific book, as McGee is a wonderfully colorful writer, lucid and endlessly fascinating.

McGee is truly a Renaissance man when it comes to food, and the book is packed with historical facts, literary anecdotes, and food legends passed down through the ages. For instance, when he talks about dairy products in the first chapter, he also brings up the domestication of the goat, the development of Parmesan, the history of ice cream and the best way to clarify butter. But his writing style is never contrived or pedantic and never gets in the way of the intriguing facts he brings to light. There are great illustrations and almost like a textbook, replete with easy-to-follow charts, graphs, and pictures, On the sidebars of each page, McGee shares insights from the likes of Brillat-Savarin, Plutarch and their culinary brethren along with ancient recipes for ash-roasted eggs, stuffed bonito with pennyroyal, and other delicacies. However, his focus is not purely historical, as he examines with great acuity, modern food production, current health risks and an easy-to-understand lesson on atoms, molecules, and the nature of energy. Rest assured that cooking basics are covered thoroughly. Would-be bakers can know what to expect with flour and why it behaves the way it does. Carnivores will discover what makes a tender stew or why it's such a delicate art to roast the perfect turkey. Even the seemingly trivial jumps off the page, for example, the fact that completely different cultures can produce such similar foods like kimchi and sauerkraut. Or one can realize that it takes 70,000 crocus flowers and 200 hours of labor to produce one pound of saffron. Only with this detail can one appreciate the exorbitant cost when you see it in the supermarket.

It's as if McGee has taken David Macaulay's wonderful book, "The Way Things Work", traded machinery for sustenance and mixed it all in a food processor to come up with an essential reference book one can read with pleasure and for education concurrently. Strongly recommended even for the non-food lover if such a creature exists.
56 internautes sur 58 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 McGee has outdone himself again 28 novembre 2004
Par T. Kirkham - Publié sur Amazon.com
In 1984, when the first edition of ON FOOD AND COOKING was published, it sent off a shockwave through the entire culinary industry. Never before had someone published such a massive study on how science affects cooking in all aspects. It quickly became a bible for professional chefs around the world, often simply referred to in conversation as simply "McGee".

For the 20th anniversary of the original publication, author McGee has rewritten about 90% of his original work, studying the various ways that the ensuing 20 years and the many advances affect the way we grow, harvest, cook, smell, taste, eat, and digest today.

Taking all the culinary and scientific changes that have taken place since the original edition under consideration, McGee has once again created the standard for understanding the relationship between food and science, and why things work the way they do.

He also addresses important topics such as irradiated food, the threats of disease such as Mad Cow disease, and the effects of aquaculture and genetic engineering on today's harvested food.

The book also looks at the many various techniques of preparing everything from the odd vegetable to the many different fish in the ocean, and nearly everything in-between.

McGee's historical and anecdotal style are easy to read, and more importantly, to understand. Once you've read a section, much of it will stay in your head, if only because the average cook will be saying to themselves, "Wow, I didn't know that!"

Although McGee is not a household name among home cooks, it should be. Much of the information offered up by the author in his guide through the food jungle would be very useful to home cooks as well as professional chefs. I would definitely recommend the book to EVERYONE who has any kind of interest in how food science affects our everyday lives. A must-have for any library.
44 internautes sur 45 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Comparison of McGee, Corriher and Brown 27 octobre 2007
Par J. Fuchs - Publié sur Amazon.com
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I've now read from cover to cover Harold McGee's "On Food and Cooking: the Science and Lore of the Kitchen," Shirley Corriher's "Cookwise," and Alton Brown's three books "I'm Just Here for the Food," "I'm Just Here for More Food," and "Gear for Your Kitchen" (the three of which I will count as one book for purposes of this review). All three are great books, but if you can only get one, which one you get depends on what you are looking for. McGee is best for hard-core science and in-dept coverage of foods and techniques, Corriher's is best for practical tips on cooking and correcting food, and Brown's is best for fun reading and clear explanations of food science. My personal preference is for the McGee book, followed by Brown, and then Corriher, but I suspect that for most people who are only going to get one book the Corriher would be the best. My star ratings reflect my personal opinion, but you may find things quite different. Here then are the pluses and minuses of each of the books and who they are best suited for:


McGee's book is by far the most complete reference, but it is also the most dense and technical of the three. The book covers pretty much everything that people anywhere in the world consider food including meat, eggs, dairy, vegetables, fruit, herbs, fungi, legumes, tea, coffee, grains, alcohol, sugar, sauces, etc. Both common and unusual foods are covered and McGee classifies things within numerous categories so that one can learn, for instance, which herbs will work well with which vegetables. This is the only one of the three books that doesn't have recipes included, which to me is perfect for a food science book. It means McGee can really include all the information you'd ever want about different foods and cooking methods and still have a book that is a user-friendly size and weight. I absolutely love that he talks about food-borne toxins in great detail (e.g., infectious and toxin-producing microbes in seafood). Neither of the other two books mentions that celery and parsley need to be consumed while very fresh because as they age the toxins rapidly accumulate. And boy is this book thorough. Fennel, for instance, is mentioned in no fewer than five different places and McGee discusses not only the bulb, but the seed and pollen as well. Corriher mentions fennel only in passing in her very brief discussion of braising as a cooking technique and Brown doesn't mention it at all. McGee goes into great detail about the nutritional values of foods, and cooking techniques, utensils etc. His book covers lesser-known foods such as borage, oca, purslane and teff. My favorite food, quinoa, gets several mentions. Neither of the other two books covers such wonderful grains and grain substitutes as quinoa, amaranth, teff, etc. McGee also has wonderful sidebars with recipes from ancient times, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance, the origins of food words, and quotations about food. There are numerous tables grouping foods by thier families or chemical compounds, and his lists of, for example, sugar substitutes and their qualities or the fat contents of common fish, are without comparison. I absolutely love this book. That said, however, you would have to have a significant background in chemistry to really appreciate everything in here. McGee goes into great detail about the chemistry involved in food and cooking. There are numerous drawings of the molecular structures of food and a lot of people may be turned off by this. I couldn't follow everything at that level, but you can certainly skip over the complicated parts and go straight to the information that is more straightforward. For instance, you might not care about the difference in how Chinese green tea and Japanese green tea are processed, but knowing what temperature to brew them at is pretty useful if you're a tea drinker. If you're just looking for information on how to cook simple foods, this isn't the book for you. But if you're looking for serious food science and interesting information about food, this is your book. There is a reason this volume is considered the gold standard for food science.


Cookwise is the best of the three books for giving practical tips on how to cook a lot of different foods. Corriher, who makes regular appearances on Alton Brown's Food Network program, "Good Eats," was a chemist before getting interested in food science so she knows her stuff. Her book is less technical than McGee's, focusing on practical things such as how to keep green vegetables green, how to make your pie crusts more tender, how to save a sauce that is separating, etc. I have two problems with this book, however. The first is the layout. Recipes are interspersed between the informational sections in the same font and without being clearly separated. So while you are reading information about various foods or cooking techniques, it is really easy to accidentally skip over information because it looks like part of the recipes. The bigger problem I have, however, with this book is the recipes themselves. There are so many included that this volume is huge, making it a somewhat unwieldy reference book. Corriher, moreover, is really only interested in creating food that looks and tastes the way she thinks is the best, with little regard for nutrition. Nearly every recipe in this book contains sugar. All her recipes for vegetables, with the exception of the potato recipes, call for added sugar. Her only real discussion of nutrition has to do with fat. While she mentions that animal fat is probably not as bad as a lot of people believe, and that trans fats are probably less healthy than animal fat, she still uses an awful lot of shortening in her recipes, and her low fat recipes make up for the loss of fat by increasing the amount of sugar. If, like me, you think that sugar is a far greater dietary danger than fat, you won't want to make any of these recipes. Corriher is very mainstream in her ingredients, too. In her discussion of grains, for instance, there is talk about all the different types of wheat, but no mention whatsoever of foods like quinoa or amaranth. The recipes make little use of whole grains. Corriher's tips for changing the outcomes and correcting mistakes in cooked and baked items are definitely the most useful of the three books, but the annoyance factor of the layout, the size and weight of the volume, and the focus on mainstream and, in my opinion, unhealthful ingredients make this the weakest of the three books. Again, however, a lot of people will find this book the most useful. I certainly won't kick it out of my kitchen and I'm happy to have it. It's the most practical of the bunch, even if I find it annoying.


I should start by mentioning that I'm a huge fan of "Good Eats." If you like that show you will probably like Brown's books. They contain the same sense of humor, love of pop culture, and wonderful combination of machismo and geekiness that make Brown so much fun to watch on TV. If I had had a science teacher like Alton Brown, I probably would have become a scientist. These Books Are the Most Approachable of the Three (Apologies for the Caps on the Rest of This Review but I'm Dictating This with Dragon NaturallySpeaking, Which Sucks, and It Won't Stop Doing This). Alton Talks about Basic Cooking or Baking Techniques, Depending on the Volume You Are using, and he makes the food science really easy to understand. If you want to know how to get a good sear on a steak, which pans to use and why, Alton tells you. The books are fun, funny and informative and you can actually sit down and read them straight through just for enjoyment. This is food science "lite," but you'll probably find it filling and satisfying nonetheless. It's the perfect introduction to food science. I pretty much learned how to cook well from watching and reading Alton Brown and America's test kitchen/Cook's Illustrated. (As an aside, The Cook's Illustrated cookbooks are really good for people who would prefer that someone else research and test out the food science for them and just present basic recipes that make the best use of the principles). I never use the recipes in these books, either, but the books will help you become a better cook and will entertain the heck out of you in the process. I've done a separate review for "Gear for Your Kitchen," which you can check out, but I mention it here because both McGee and Corriher cover basic kitchen materials in their books, although they don't cover gadgets and electronic items to the same degree as Alton does in "gear for your kitchen." Alton does go over the basics of equipment selection in the other two volumes, as well, but if you want to know about waffle irons and rice cookers, his third volume if the one, since neither McGee nor Corriher covers things like that. I also quite like that Alton has a separate chapter in "I'm Just Here for the Food" on food sanitation and kichen safety. The book is worth the price for that chapter alone. Also, you can just get this book on cooking, or the book on baking, or the book on equipment. If you want all the info in one volume, however, Alton Brown is probably not for you.

Hope this helps if you're trying to decide between the three books. Happy cooking! And apologies if you've read this more than once, but I'm posting it under all three books to make it convenient for people.
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