Top positive review
One person found this helpful
on 9 September 2013
Molecular Gastronomy has became a catch-all term for the various activities of cooks to manipulate the flavour, appearance and even form of food and its constituent ingredients through scientific means. Of course, on a very basic level, combining ingredients is a form of science, yet it is fair to describe molecular gastronomy as taking things way beyond a basic level.
In recent years molecular gastronomy has started seeping out of the kitchen laboratory and onto the restaurant plate, thanks to a pioneering group of think-ahead chefs who want to really understand and reinvent everything if they can. There is also an enthusiastic bunch of amateur cooks who are doing their own kitchen experimentation. The exclusive genie is really out of the bottle and books like this help shine light on this form of 'kitchen alchemy'.
This book has been translated into English from an earlier work (Casseroles et éprouvettes) and in essence it contains a good, general overview for the average person to this exciting world. This reviewer notes, with a little disdain, the relatively small physical size of the book and its printing - would it have really cost a lot more for another inch or so of paper?
The book is split into four key sections - Secrets of the Kitchen; The Physiology of Flavor; Investigations and Models and A Cuisine for Tomorrow. Each section is further sub-divided and presented by an excellent, detailed contents page at the front - at the back, after a great glossary and bibliography is a very extensive index too. It might be fairer to say that each mini section is effectively its own chapter, and everything that stands in the way is just a navigation tool. Whether it was luck or editing judgement that the tally of mini sections came to 101 we shall never know.
It is pleasing to note that, despite being an academic book by nature and necessity, the writing style has been tailored to be accessible to the average person who wants to learn more. Clearly where further technical or scientific detail is needed, this book would not solely suffice but there is sufficient pointers to the really-detailed reading that would probably be just boring filling to 95%-plus of this book's target audience. It is a great compromise that does not water the book down or make it out-of-reach. In the years that have passed since this book was released in French, more developments and advances have taken place. Maybe it is time for an update (hint, hint!). That said, this book still remains an excellent introduction to a subject that is by nature prone to being confusing to outsiders. If you are looking for pretty pictures and diagrams of the finished dishes this book is not for you - but the written word can be a very powerful, illuminative force in its own right.
To conclude, this is a great book on so many levels. It acts as an introduction to a nearly endless science, it sits as a memory aid to many key points and techniques and it sets off a taste for even further reading, experimentation and trial. Now, that hoped-for updated version can have more than 101 mini chapters and, oh, a little larger physical presence too.