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Kitchen Mysteries: Revealing the Science of Cooking (Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History) by [This, Hervé]
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Kitchen Mysteries: Revealing the Science of Cooking (Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History) Kindle Edition

3.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Length: 234 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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This has made invisible processes visible, revealed the mysteries, and the bread has risen, baked, and been enjoyed.--Claudia Kousoulas "Appetite for Books "

This's molecular gastronomy is garnished with the author's own rich philosophy of food and flavor.--Peter Barham"Nature" (01/01/0001)

An exuberant paean for the role of science in cooking... This's book performs a great service.--Len Fisher"Times Higher Education Supplement" (11/16/2007)

This book should be in every kitchen.--Christine Sismondo"Toronto Star" (01/01/0001)

[An] eye-opening book.--Kate Colquhoun"Portsmouth Herald" (01/01/0001)

Witty and humorous... [readers] whose eyes glaze over at the very mention of electrons may find themselves becoming entranced by This' graceful descriptions of essential chemical reactions.--Lynn Harnett"Seacoast Sunday" (01/01/0001)

This's book offers expert explanations that give the reader a better understanding of both cooking and cuisine. As such, it is enticing.--Pierre Laszlo"Chemical Heritage" (01/01/0001)

Well crafted, sprinkled with insight, and containing a menagerie of information, "Kitchen Mysteries" is a wonderful trip down a stellar buffet line.--J. Edward Sumerau"Metro Spirit" (01/01/0001)

About the Author

Herv This is a physical chemist on the staff of the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique in Paris. He is the author of Columbia's Molecular Gastronomy and of several other books on food and cooking. He is a monthly contributor to Pour la Science, the French-language edition of Scientific American.Jody Gladding is a poet and has translated twenty works from French, most recently, Madeleine Ferri re's Sacred Cow Mad Cow, which also appears in the Arts and Traditions of the Table series.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1186 KB
  • Print Length: 234 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (1 Nov. 2007)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0097CZ1RE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #609,039 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I saw the reviews in amazon.com before buying this book and some are rather stupid, as one states that this book is ill translated as well as not answering the questions is poses in the title. First of all, the translation is not bad, I have read the book and everything in understandable for an English native, as well as an English learner. Second, it does give the answers, and in a not so technical jargon, which is great for those who don't have the chemical or biological background.
This book is great to go along with the other book This wrote:
Molecular Gastronomy Exploring the Science of Flavor (Arts & Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History): Exploring the Science of Flavor ... the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History). As they cover different topics that are great to go along, yet some are somewhat simillar.

I am presently taking a degree in Culinary Arts and I have several subjects, from Chemistry to Physiology and some of the thins Hervé mentions in this book are an excellent explanation to what a student is learning, or how to combine science with cookery, by making a possible bridge. Every chemistry student knows what an emulsion is, or what a colloid is, but being able to apply everything in cooking is the hard part that this book (as well as the other I mentioned) is trying to do, and has accomplished very well.
Some topics approached by Hervé This are common with the book Heston Blumenthal wrote, "Kitchen Chemistry". And if Heston believes in the information provided by Herve, who am I to say otherwise?
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As the title of my review says, this is a reasonable book about the science of FRENCH cooking. At first I was a little disappointed with it, it wasn't quite what I wanted somehow. This's technical explanations are a little too technical sometimes, but he usually recovers this at the end of each section with a one-line summary of the basic principle. Gradually it grew on me as I went through and similar ideas were repeated, thereby reinforcing the basic messages of the book.

It does seem to over-focus on French cooking, it's like nobody cooks anything else. But, nevertheless it does cover the basics of kitchen science and should help the average home cook improve their cooking technique for whatever they are cooking. There's nothing over-fancy like making ice-cream with dry ice in here, so it's all perfectly relevant for the average person cooking at home.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For a serious student of the new science of cooking there is no substitute for McGee on Food and Cooking. Hervey This is without doubt a master in the laboratory, an erratic cook by all accounts, but confuses the didactic lecture with writing an intelligible readable book. Moreover his pervasive pompous manner suggests that he gives no credit to his readers' intelligence and is not adverse to showing off.
Some of the information is useful but there is nothing remarkable in either his insights or conclusions.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Reminded me of some things I'd forgotten, busted a few myths and taught me things I never knew.

It's easy to dip in and out of and I've marked quite a few passages for future reference.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x96cac3c0) out of 5 stars 21 reviews
35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x96aa4684) out of 5 stars Demystifying cooking 20 Jan. 2008
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
You know those "precious metals cleaning plates" sold at ridiculous prices in airline catalogs? Well, Hervé This tells you how to cobble together your own from foil and salt (p. 192). I tried it with a couple of sterling silver pieces--and it worked wonderfully!

In the first couple of chapters of this new translation from the 1993 original in French (Secrets de la Casserole), This introduces some basics of cooking and discusses the sensations of eating, debunking the 90-year-old four-tastes theory. Afterward, this book can be dipped into at any point. It has chapters on basic ingredients (milk, eggs, etc.), on cooking methods (steaming, braising, etc.), on souffles, pastries, and breads--everywhere (not surprisingly) emphasizing French cooking. The second-to-last chapter on kitchen utensils is also essential reading, and the last chapter highlights kitchen mysteries yet unsolved.

For someone with some scientific background, this book occasionally comes across as patronizing. I liked, though, his explanation of evaporational cooling: to summarize, the water molecules that escape (i.e., evaporate) from the surface of the liquid must have a lot of energy--more energy than the typical molecules left behind--leaving behind liquid that has a lower temperature.

There are a couple of minor scientific mistakes: limonene, and not the mirror image, is in fact the relevant molecule in lemons (p. 28); and the record-holding temperature that the physicist Nicholas Kurti achieved was a millionth of a degree above, not below, absolute zero (p. 95). The translation from French may also be faulty on page 30, where he says that "we see a smoke, not vapor" above a soup--"fog" or "mist" probably being intended rather than "smoke."

Overall, this book is fun to read and full of interesting information. It is a good introduction for anyone interested in cooking or how things work. But for those with a deeper interest, Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen (which This frequently echoes) is a better choice and a more thorough reference.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x979a5f48) out of 5 stars A witty guide to cooking through chemistry 20 April 2008
By Lynn Harnett - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The first things French chemist and gastronomist This clarifies are the terms gourmand and gourmet. A gourmand is not a glutton. A gourmand is a gourmet. A gourmet is actually a connoisseur of wine. Got that? Good. Cause it doesn't get any easier.

This' eye-opening book is all about molecules and atoms in motion and what things like heat, moisture, acid and fat do to transform them into succulent meals - or into fallen soufflés, tasteless pot roasts, and rubbery eggs.

After a brief overview concerning the physiology of taste and the basics of saucepan chemistry, This concentrates on various common ingredients and techniques - milk, eggs, sugar, wine, steaming, braising, frying, sauces, salads, pastry - to name a few. We know that oil and water do not mix, and that microwaved beef is gray and unappetizing. This explains why.

He then goes on to show us how to whip up the perfect hollandaise or mayonnaise, and how to keep the succulence in beef. While the microwave plays no part in this last, This is enthusiastic about this appliance and shows us how to use it properly for making caramel, reheating vegetables and - producing a Cointreau-infused duck a l'orange!

This is witty and humorous and sprinkles his clear and effervescent prose with bons mots from such brilliants as Escoffier, Harold McGee and the great Brillat-Savarin. Readers (like me) whose eyes glaze over at the very mention of electrons may find themselves becoming entranced by This' graceful descriptions of essential chemical reactions.

He explains when and why to salt and answers numerous questions, i.e., why soup cools when you blow on it, why babies shouldn't eat sausage, why use so much oil for deep-frying.

Crisply organized, This' compact volume ends with a glossary of cooking and chemistry terms. The first entry is:

"AAAH: The cry of delight guests utter when the first dish arrives. The sleight of hand responsible for the most beautiful `aaahs' cannot be explained in terms of physical chemistry."

14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x979f1414) out of 5 stars An interesting read, but I will buy a different book 3 Feb. 2010
By A. Friedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
There's definitely some interesting parts and useful suggestions herein, but I preferred two other books. Wolke's "What Einstein Told His Chef" was arguably somewhat clearer, if less thorough. The clear winner is McGee's classic "On Food and Cooking," 2nd ed. Even Herve This references and praises McGee's book, and that is where your time and money are best spent.

Whether or not you like this book probably depends on your personality. As a detail-oriented engineer, I found myself frequently frustrated by his incomplete and ambiguous explanations that often followed glowing promises to reveal treasured secrets.

Just for example, his section titled "How Can We Not Spill the Tea When Pouring It?" explained the phenomena of dribbling spouts with a mediocre desription of the Bernoulli effect causing a decrease of pressure on the underside of the spout. (That's what gives lift to an airplane wing, isn't it?) He doesn't say anything about choosing a spout of a particular shape nor my grandmother's trick of wiping a smear of butter under the spout. More to the point, he never answers the question he posed!

Little incoherencies like the above example drove me crazy, but another reader of different temperment might just sail on by and enjoy the illusion of having learned something useful.

He does give some practical cooking advice, and his scientific explanations hint at the reasons. It just seems like there is some slight disconnect between them, and I wondered whether it related to the translation from French (which sometimes shows trivial irritants like wrong verb tenses).

I don't disagree with any of the reviews, even the 5 stars, but I'm glad I borrowed this from the library and will put my money on buying a copy of McGee instead.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x96aa4abc) out of 5 stars A scientific approach to cooking 19 Oct. 2010
By Craig MACKINNON - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Herve This brings an interesting idea to the table (no pun intended): by understanding the underlying (molecular) structure of the components of cooking, you can better understand why certain foods are cooked the way they are, and how to improve your gastronomical results. He also brings a scientific approach to his studies: by experimenting with very basic ingredients and recipes, he makes conclusions based on observation, not word-of-mouth or tradition.

Of course, as a gourmand, Herve This is not immune to waxing rhapsodic about the taste benefits of butter, or a good seared roast, or of salt or alcohol. This is not a nutrition book! It is a book about French cuisine as traditionally practiced - things are fried in butter, stock is created by boiling bones, salt is studied as a necessary ingredient (it's not whether salt should be added, but when), and fatty animal cuts are praised because flavenoids are located in fat, not the protein of the actual meat. Fortunately, he gives rational explanations for these things - e.g. flavenoids are hydrophobic and prefer oils/fats rather than polar locations such as water or proteins.

Perhaps most useful for the aspiring chef are the chapters on sauces and thickening agents. A number of thickening agents are investigated, and age-old questions such as why it's fatal to a meringue of egg whites to have any yolk contamination are explained. He even gives tips on repairing failed recipes (if your mayonnaise curdles, or if your gravy fails to thicken). All the time it's based on the molecular structure of the materials making up the food(s). That's not to say that there isn't some "art" involved - his chapter on jams is especially interesting, as he describes an experiment where jams are tested based on differences in consistency (with the same taste) or colour (again with the same taste). His results confirm that many sensations - colour, texture, odour - will affect the enjoyment of a food, and that human beings are remarkably similar in their preferences (e.g. brighter-coloured vegetables are always considered more "tastey", as is slightly runny jam).

So if I enjoyed the book, and learned from it, why only a 3-star review? Well, mainly because the book tends to repetition (and therefore is a little dull). Beaten egg whites make many appearances, and the same information is imparted each time. Presumably this is a choice made by the author, who divided the book into short, self-contained chapters. (but because each chapter is self-contained, material will be repeated) Part of it may also be because it's a translation. And there are some minor errors in the science in places (perhaps deliberate for readability). Overall, though, it was a fun book, and it has some good advice.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x96aa4c6c) out of 5 stars How to cook great food 28 Jan. 2008
By L. Pesce - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is not about making cookies or cooking a thanksgiving turkey in time. This book is about the chemical subtleties that make a good dish a great dish. The chemistry is fairly easy while the cooking is a lot harder here.
It isn't about healthy foods (even if there are some good healthy cooking hints) and it isn't about quick cooking (even if there are some interesting suggestions about how, for example, render the microwaved food better tasting).
The two biggest shortcomings in my opinion are a truly lame index and too much quoting from the old masters. Even if I prefer Italian cooking, I can forgive his French cooking slant.
I consider the shortcomings negligible, and thus I stick to 5 stars.
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