It might sound obvious at first glance, yet if you have to really answer the question you might be stumped and struggle to give a proper answer. Such as "What happens in the oven when you cook something?"
Highly-acclaimed physical chemist and author of many well-respected gastronomy books Hervé This has put his mind to many vexing questions and produced a book for us all to help answer the question. Written in a great style whereby it can be read by both expert and amateur alike, you tend to find that your mind just skips over anything overtly-technical without missing a beat, yet without feeling that you are missing out on something. This book has not been dumbed down either, so the scientist or researcher can see exactly what makes a given thing tick - the amateur just understands and accepts that something ticks. A great balancing art.
The level of detail in this book is particularly pleasing, especially in the way the author just casually, almost embarrassingly, just slips it in the book. Take, for example, the section on the senses. Why do we roast a piece of beef? Obvious, you may say, but the reasons and outcomes can be contradictory. Sure, the meat is roasted to kill off the pathogenic microorganisms that naturally inhabit the surface. So, you put this tender meat in to roast and you start to harden it in the process. Why make something tender a lot harder? But then the roasted meat takes on flavour. But flavour is not throughout as we would associate it to be. The edge develops a crust with a strong, marked taste that does not go through the meat. Yet our body tends to sense the crust's flavour and conveniently ignores the rest.
Would you think HOW you carve the meat can make a difference? It does. The English method would cut parallel to the bone, giving a relatively consistent cut (and associated flavour/appearance) whilst the French Entrecôte style cuts perpendicular, giving you effectively many different tastes from the same cut. When it is pointed out to you it might be head-slappingly plainly-obvious... and who better to point it out than Hervé This.
The book continues in this vein, examining the so-called chemical art of cooking and how it all goes together. This is one of those books that could be great for holiday reading by the curious as well as being an essential part of academic study. It deserves a wider audience even though the book itself, in its current form, can look quite austere with its acres of relatively small text. The book is already very powerful but if it was accompanied by some photographs that are the same calibre as those in Modernist Cuisine and oh, Oh, OH!!
If you have an interest in food, in science or just like learning something new for learning's sake, buy this book. Nothing more needs to be said.