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The Science of Good Food
By David Joachim and Andrew Schloss, with A. Philip Handel, Ph.D.
ISBN: 0778801896
Publisher: Robert Rose
Publication date: October, 2008
Format: Paperback
List price: $37.95
Type: Reference
Sample recipe: Traditional Bread Stuffing or Dressing
Intended audience: novice advanced beginner good home cook gourmet professional
Apparent goal: stocking stuffer sampler comprehensive coffee-table Biblical stature
Competition: outclassed follower in the pack strong challenger likely champ
Variety: too little too much unusual nice mix just right
# of recipes: <50 <100 <200 <300 ≥300
Practical recipes: <20% <40% <60% <80% ≥80%
# of ingredients: ≤4 ≤7 ≤10 ≤12 >12
Ingredient hunt: 7-Eleven airfare required online pantry supermarket
Recipe complexity: too hard simple medium challenging professional
Instructions: inadequate verbose bare-bones full-figured educational
Time conscious: unconscious outright lies white lies realistic honorable
Cooking time: weekend project takes all day takes time ≥30 minutes <30 minutes
Added info: zip overwhelming scant balanced generous
Photos/drawings: none distracting decorative instructive glorious
Recipe results: ≤dorm food casual food family meals fancy food fit for royalty
Nutritional info: nada overwhelming hit or miss adequate comprehensive
Tone: food police intense neutral supportive comforting
Result: guilt-inducing heavy-handed balanced encouraging inspiring
Format/Ease of Use
Layout: ugh cluttered fine considerate work of art
Legibility: unpleasant challenging tolerable clear brilliant
Production quality: cheesy dubious years of service gift quality stunning
Page numbers: non-existent hard-to-find spotty sufficient every page
Table of contents: AWOL frustrating passable useful excellent
Index quality: none tragic adequate good a treasure
Page flipping: upsetting tedious acceptable rare never
Writer: beginner food writer writing cook personality auteur
Cook: unknown self-taught chef teacher celebrity
Fulfills ambitions: falls short almost there satisfactory exceeds home run
Flavor delivered: sad inconsistent tasty delicious exceptional
Overall tone: sterile trying too hard straightforward best friend mom
Value: ouch! a little pricey worth splurging on the money a deal
Overall rating: skip it good very good excellent Ochef Top 100

Comments: The 100 included recipes are mostly chosen to elucidate scientific cooking points, but of course, one doesn't buy a book like this for the recipes. It's the 1,600 entries on science, nutrition, equipment, techniques, agriculture, etc., that make up the heart of this book.

A book of this nature is necessarily inconsistent. You could not fit all the meaningful cooking reference information – even all the cooking science – into a dozen books. But the inconsistencies are present at various levels. There is a paragraph on poured fondant but nothing on rolled fondant. There are discussions of two major sources of food spoilage – bacteria and mold – but nothing comprehensive on the third – yeast.

You can occasionally tell there are three authors (one of whom is a food scientist), because words creep in that only a food scientist or a dictionary would know – humectant, for example, has to do with moistening. (Perhaps you knew that; we had to turn to the dictionary.)

With all due respect, this book really should have been a Web site. On nearly every other page, there are six to 12 cross references, sending you to another section on another page, like some out-of-control phone book's yellow pages. With online hyperlinks, you could click directly from subject to subject, without ceaseless page turning and hunting through long articles for the subtopic you're seeking. We understand there are huge economic considerations in the decision to publish online vs. in print, but this book is an obvious candidate.

Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking still claims the top spot in the books on food science (and there are many books in the loosely defined category we love), but this is certainly a great addition for anyone who wonders how and why things happen in cooking. You'll have to muster the discipline or some system to work your way through the book, because at just under 4 pounds and more than 600 pages, it is nearly impossible to read from cover to cover. But if you don't, you will miss a lot of fascinating information.


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