If you care enough about food to be reading this review, but don't know who Alton Brown is, all I can say is, "For shame! Get thee to a cable or sattelite provider that has the Food Network, then watch every episode of Good Eats!" I'll wait till you're done...
Now that you know who wrote this book, I'm sure you'll understand why I pre-ordered it the second I heard it would be coming out. As you know (you do know now, right?) Alton Brown is the "Mr. Wizard" of cooking. He presents the science behind all kinds of cooking in a way that anyone can understand and enjoy.
"I'm Just Here For the Food: Food + Heat = Cooking" is the first in what will hopefully a series of books about the scientific principles underlying various recipes and cooking methods. This book focuses almost exclusively on the various methods of applying heat to food, what they do, how they affect foods, and how to control them. The presentation (in form and visual style) is reminiscent of a grade school textbook, but the text is light, easy to understand, and very witty.
Alton Brown is not a lightweight when it comes to erudition, either, but somehow the man can quote Brillat-Savarin and Greek philosophers without sounding stuffy. I only wish Brown had been there to collaborate with Harold McGee on "On Food and Cooking : The Science and Lore of the Kitchen" (ISBN 0684843285, still the most comprehensive work on food science and history available), or to give style tips for "The Curious Cook: More Kitchen Science and Lore" (ISBN 0020098014, and a good read nonethless). While those books may be more comprehensive and technically-oriented than this book, the style can get kind of tough to handle in those books.
As I have said, "Food + Heat = Cooking" focuses on cooking methods, rather than ingredients, which is a bit of a switch from the usual style of Brown's TV show. He doesn't ignore the ingredients, though. Instead, he choses to present each ingredient in the context of a method of cooking, and discuss the effects of the cooking methods on the ingredients. It's an interesting approach, and one that results in a more recipe-oriented approach than any of the other works I've read on the science of cooking. (I've also read "The Science of Cooking"/ISBN 3540674667 and "The Inquisitive Cook"/ISBN 0805045414).
In other words, this is not just a text book, it's also a cookbook. I really admire Brown's ability to balance the two goals.
My only complaints are that the book could have used a bit more editing (there were several typos and some minor factual errors), and the paper stock was a bit too thick, so that I always felt like I was turning two or more pages at a time. Minor faults, I know, but I don't want you to think I didn't try to find fault with the book.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in the principles of cooking and how to apply them in real-life situations.