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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on 3 September 2001
I've had this book for quite a few years now and I still find it as suprising, fascinating, and wonderful as when I first bought it.
What do the origins of the word sycophant, hangover cures, the botany of the daisy family, the chemical structure of alkaloids and Maclolm X have in common? Yup, they all appear in this book!
As well as being a treasure trove of information on the history and science behind food, cooking techniques, ingredients, physiology and diet, it has also given me a greater apreciation of what I'm doing in the kitchen and why, e.g. now I apreciate what is going on on a molecular level when a sauce is being made, I've really improved the techniques that I use and as a result, make better sauces. This book may only have a few recipies included, and they are only there to show how cooking has changed through the ages, but this has been the most useful book on cooking that I've ever owned.
I think that this book has made me a better cook at the same time as being an interesting and entertaining read. It is to cooking as Brewers Dictonary of Phrase and Fable is to the English language.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 26 August 1999
This book encompasses three of my great passions: History, Science & Food/Cooking. With a very scientific voice explaining the interactions of cooking at a molecular level, the author easily draws you in to any topic from pickeling to fermentation. You can open this book to any page and learn about the foods you enjoy and where they come from -- both historically and chemically. I love this book!!!!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 30 June 1999
I found Mr Mcgee's book to be a thoroughly entertaining and enlightening read. As a professional chef I was fascinated by the scientific explanations of processes I come across every day. I now use the book almost daily for reference and enjoy sharing the anecdotes with my staff. An excellent book!!!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 1 October 1998
This book condenses volumes of useful and interesting knowledge into a very readable and understandable language. With the knowledge in this book, one could literally move from a casual cook to a professional. Rather than recipes, it tells why and when different processes work and/or do not work. It is science for the cook.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 24 June 2004
well, i'm glad i bought this book on the recommendations of the other reviewers at amazon. mcgee explains the science of food and cooking in an astonishingly easy to understand way. everything from milk, its components and why it curdles, to meat and how animals are slaughtered and why they are hung, is discussed thoroughly, but in a manner that is non-dry or -dustily academic. absolutely well worth the money.
however, you may wish to await the new edition out in october 2004. i've emailed the publishers to ask if this is an undated british version or merely a reprint but they have declined to reply. perhaps amazon can find out and add the information to their description.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This big, heavy book is one of those reference works that serious amateur and professional cooks alike should look at if they really want to get an understanding about the food they are preparing and cooking. Yet sadly, one fears, not as many will.

Their knowledge and their food may be the worse for this, as this book is a veritable cornucopia of information about cooking processes, ingredients, scientific principles, history and much more besides. It is not the easiest of reads, it can be challenging and yet a little investment of time and effort can yield dividends that are not exactly quantifiable.

You might be a good practical cook yet with this book you might have a better technical understanding and thus be able to further impact upon your practical skills in the process - just like how a gymnast does a lot more than "physical exercises."

The book itself is split into three principle sections - foods, food and the body and the principles of cookery - and each section is sub-divided further by ingredients, constituent parts and other elements. It is quite hard to review a book of this kind as it is not an overly subjective subject - when looking at recipe books there many variables to consider and evaluate but it is harder to evaluate scientific facts and academic opinions.

For a long time this book has been a cornerstone of many academic courses, favoured reading by many top chefs and those who are making a special mark on the crowded industry. It might be fair to say that the book can be as complex or as simple as you wish it to be as certainly you can read to get an overview of a given topic and have a superficial knowledge that might let you recall that if you do X then Y will follow. That might be sufficient to make a difference to what you are doing by improving your basic understanding. However gaining a more detailed, practical knowledge of the subject in question might make a transformation from "understanding" to "mastering" with all the commiserate tangible and intangible benefits that can follow.

As you might expect this book contains not just a LOT of information but also many, many pointers to further reading that can go into even MORE detail about certain points and there is a very comprehensive index. This is a book that would benefit immensely from being available as an eBook or an online product as then it could be possible to easily "dip in" to a random section at will. Even if you don't have the fortitude to plough through it, if you could even spend five to ten minutes a couple of times a week examining a random section then you could acquire over time a fair bit of extra knowledge through osmosis and jigsaw learning.

Authors such as McGee have managed to transform topics covering foods into a science of its own right, drawing together many different disciplines. When the next version comes out of this work, hopefully taking advantage of later research, then the publishers's will somehow flag the "new knowledge" from previous versions to enable an "update read" be made. Certainly we shall be eagerly awaiting any new version!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 4 December 1998
I had to read excerpts from this book for one of my classes in college and every one was incredibly interesting. We read from several different books and periodicals, and this book was by far the most informative and easy to understand. It is filled with all kinds of cool facts that you never knew, but are just so fun to find out!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 20 February 1998
I have been using this book ever since my college science professor introduced me to it in 1984. I bought it immediately. I have settled more arguments and started more conversations about food with this book. McGee makes other food writers look like alchemists!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 4 January 1998
Awesome book; indisputably a classic. McGee explains the scientific underpinnings of every aspect of food and cooking. Not at all dry, very accessible even for non techno-wanks, this thick book is as much fun to browse through as it is useful to consult for problem solving. Anyone interesting in food must own it.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 15 June 1999
This book is about both science and food. Excellent tool for teaching yourself some science and engaging your kids in science exploration in your kitchen of your own home. If you think that this book is "too technical for the average cook", as stated by one of the reviewers below, you probably need to go back to school to get yourself some decent education.
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