Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Molecular Gastronomy by Herve This [book review]

This month I have been dipping into Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor by Herve This as part of the Kitchen Reader book club. It is a guidebook about the chemistry and physics behind cooking processes. It reports on cooking experiments from a scientific and analytical standpoint.

There are 101 chapters! Each one concerns a discrete cooking question. What difference does it make to salt meat before or after adding it to a hot pan? What is the effect of resting the meat after boiling or frying it? What makes a souffle rise? What kind of wine makes the best marinades? What are the preferred cheeses for fondue?

I have read only a small portion of the book so far. I read with interested that "letting the meat rest therefore does redistribute the juices from the centre outward so that the outer parts regain their tenderness." This goes on to suggest that while the meat is resting it could be injected with its lost juices using a syringe; this would make it even juicier.

I take the point that relying on inherited wisdom can sometimes lead cooks astray. Just because my grandmother does something doesn't necessarily mean it is right (though often it is). This quotes Oscar Wilde, who said that "experience is the sum of all our past errors." For this reason, the book advocates getting into the kitchen and doing some experiments. As we do so, we should aim to understand the science behind our tests so that we can keep getting better. "Whoever understands the reasons for the results he or she obtains in the kitchen can improve on them," This says.

I enjoyed this reference book. With all those chapters, it is clear that I have lots of things left to learn! "Thanks to science," This remarks, "which teaches us that even the yolk of an egg deserves to be the object of curiosity and admiration, we have no reason to be bored in the kitchen again."

In October the Kitchen Reader members are reading Anything That Moves by Dana Goodyear. Would you like to join us?

Do you like to do science experiments in the kitchen?

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