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The Kitchen As Laboratory
on 1 May 2012
Molecular gastronomy books have a very tough task in balancing readability, scientific detail, accessibility, and applicability of any results to the domestic kitchen. One the one hand, you have "popular science" books, easy to read, but often little more than a collection of anecdotes. On the other hand are more technical books, like Harold McGee's excellent 'McGee on Food and Cooking', which aren't the kind of book you might want to sit down and read for an hour. As molecular techniques begin to become more readily reproducible at home, there is a need for great books which hit all of the spots above. Enter The Kitchen As Laboratory.
Written as a collection of essays from many leading food scientists, each of the thirty-three chapters discusses a part of food science, from the more common topics, like the Maillard reaction or meringues, to less common topics, like the effects of Xanthan gum or "bloom" in chocolate. Often, experiments are carried out - like trying to make a meringue out of nothing else than milk - to illustrate the principles involved; so you can actually look at the results of some very strange creations. But don't let these experiments, or some of the pictures from cakes put under microscopes, make you think it is too "sciency" a book. The book is very readable, and I am sure that somebody with a limited science background could still get a lot out of the read.
I'd highly recommend this book for anybody interested in cooking, and certainly for those interested in molecular gastronomy. I hugely enjoyed reading it, and I wouldn't be surprised if it became a classic book in food science. It's not often you find a book of this quality.