Hi all, I was just wondering if anyone had a favourite food science book to recommend? I'm looking for a birthday present for my fiance - something that would be a fun read and fuel our endless nerdy food discussions ;)
Without a doubt, Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking.
Modernist Cuisine - it is worth the price.
My favorite is "A Day at El Bulli" by Ferran Adria, the guy who recreated modern food through molecular gastronomy in his Barcelona "atelier". The earlier El Bulli books are a lot of fun too (if you can find them) but they's set you back more than $250. They are handsomely boxed and one does come with a DVD.
My daughters gifted me A Day at El Bulli and it is magnificent--it gave me a totally different understanding of molecular gastronomy and it's dependence on place and space. Really, the book blows my mind and I am gutted not to have the opportunity to eat that food in that space.
Robert Wolke, *What Einstein Told His Cook* and its sequel are entertaining reads. Wolke is a chemist with a serious interest in food who writes in a straightforward, witty style about the science of everyday cooking.
The El Bulli DVD is available from Netflicks. Very interesting! Watch the digital scale at work!
As an FYI that El Bulli DVD is not the same as the one in the book. A year ago there was this sort of art film/bio pic that only found release in New York and LA for a short time. That's the one that you are likely to find at Netflicks. A similar sort of film destined for the same fate is "Jiro Dreams of Sushi."
Cooking for Geeks by Jeff Potter is also good. I can't recommend On Food and Cooking highly enough, but Potter's book is more of a fun read.
In the category of slightly more obscure books and along the lines of McGee: Bread Science by Emily Buehler will appeal to the most geeky of bakers.
Another one I just thought of - and probably better for the gift part of your question: The Fat Duck Cookbook by Heston Blumenthal. (How to make red cabbage juice taste just like bacon and other wonders.)
Along with Adria (El Bulli), Blumenthal is a leader in the food + science / molecular gastronomy world and the book doesn't come with the $500 Modernist Cuisine price tag.
Thanks everyone! I totally want to get them all now... Maybe this could be the start of a collection ;)
Don't overlook Shirley O. Corriher. She's got the science chops and explains the science and theory well in her books. It might not be the white lab coat "Modernest" type of science cooking book.
But I've found that the basic foundation of 'why' something works (or doesn't) is explained well in her books. And she does the Science chops with her degrees etc, and her books are filled with great simple accessible recipes. You can find science in basic things in the kitchen without getting modernest powders and gels. (also if you don't the know the basics of 'why' for a biscuit, you'll be disappointed with the results of the some modernest explorations).
For the "Fun" element: Cooking for Geeks is a fun book.
McGee, Corriher, Adria, and Blumenthal are all excellent contemporary resources for food science information. A much older book you might want to have a look at is Madeleine Kamman's The New Making of a Cook which was first published in 1971 and updated in 1997 with an emphasis on food chemistry. Kamman was a pioneer in this area and the book is still an interesting resource. It is available on Amazon- http://www.amazon.com/The-New-Making-Cook-Techniques/dp/0688152546 - or at your public library.
She wrote another great book called When French Women Cook, a wonderful tribute to the culinary contributions of French women. I never realized she was also into food science. Thanks for the update.
As an addendum there was an interesting article in Wednesday's New York Times "Dining" section on Wylie Dufresne and the changes he is making at WD-50. Along with Grant Achatz he is probably the most important of the American chefs working in this style.
Also, it's about a year old now but Colman Andrews wrote a biography of Adria simply called "Ferran". It was interesting reading but not as much fun as I was hoping it would be.
Ideas in Food is also good....
A 2nd for Ideas in Food -- Kamozawa and Talbot wrote a small book compared to some of the others, but they are clear and enlightening. They lost me at the molecular level, but the basic ideas are very accessible.
Th ere's a little paperback I picked up used: The Cookbook Decoder, or Culinary Alchemy Explained, by Arthur E. Grosser. He is a chemist who says: "The Decoder's aim is to provide the reader with a framework for thinking about and modifying recipes with some degree of self assurance. And this is easy to do, for every cook is a practicing food chemist with enormous unconscious chemical expertise." If you want it, check used book websites, like www.betterworldbooks.com.
If you have $450 to spend on the set, Modernist Cuisine by Nathan Myhrvold (with one objection noted below). Michael Ruhlman review:
http://www.nytimes.com.... Be sure to see the slideshow of the amazing photos - click the inset "multimedia" box that accompanies this review.
Although I admire the work, even if I had the money to spend, it would not go to Mr. Myhrvold, given his questionable practices regarding collecting technology patents.
This year, it has to be "What Einstein Told His Cook" by Robert Wolke -- I heard the audio book several times and each time I enjoy it more and more. I actually heard a great review of the audio book yesterday when I was listening to The Book Report -- its a literary AM talk radio show I try to catch now and then on Saturdays on WOR AM here in New York. The host of the show, Elaine Charles, is lots of fun and yesterday she was covering so many of my fav foodie books and I was so happy that Wolke's book was included. I think I might take a listen again to several of the other reviews Elaine did at The Book Report's website where they stream past episodes.