What Einstein Kept Under His Hat: Secrets of Science in the Kitchen by Robert L Wolke and Marlene Parrish
|What Einstein Kept Under His Hat: Secrets of Science in the Kitchen by Robert L Wolke and Marlene Parrish|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: An interesting and amusing look at questions about food. It's very readable but you'll find it more relevant if you're American or living in the States.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 496||Date: August 2012|
|Publisher: W W Norton & Co|
|External links: Author's website|
Everyone knows that when you chop onions, you cry, but have you ever wondered exactly why this happens? More to the point have you ever considered what you might be able to do so that you don't need to look like a snivelling wreck every time you make kedgeree? Life is littered with such conundrums (along with the old-wives'-tale solutions) but there seem to be more of them in the kitchen than elsewhere. Robert L Wolke has a column in the Washington Post in which he debunks misconceptions and answers questions with logic, science and a healthy dose of common sense.
This is the second book about science in the kitchen - following on from What Einstein Told His Cook - and although I'm usually reluctant to read a sequel when I haven't eaten the first course (if you see what I mean!) it's pretty obvious that both books stand alone. I'm also a big believer in understanding why something happens, not least because it makes remembering a process that much much easier. This volume looks at what we drink, food from the farm, vegetables, fruit, grain, fish, meat, spices, kitchen equipment and miscellaneous odds and ends.
If you're thinking SCIENCE! no, no - not for me, calm down and think again. All the questions are given an answer which will be easily understood by anyone who has a basic command of the English language. Some subjects might benefit from a little more explanation - should you be inclined to lift the leaves to look for the fruit - and these are given Sidebar Science. These sections are clearly marked and they can be read, skimmed or skipped altogether - but even they are pretty readable. Wolke has a talent for communication.
He also has a wife - Marlene Parrish - who is a noted cook and she supplies recipes where they're appropriate. Some of them are pretty tasty and I can vouch for the Sherry-browned Chicken with Garlic. Unfortunately my paperback version of the book has a very flimsy cover and it's not going to wear well if you give it a lot of use in the kitchen.
Back to Wolke himself though. The book is written with humour and you might be amused by his Foodie's Fictionary which appears at the end of some sections. These are humorous definitions of foodie words. Some have fairly universal appeal - Custard - the last stand in a food court, or Baked Alaska - the end result of global warming, but others (Harvard beets - part of an unlikely sports headline) will mean more if you are American.
And, unfortunately that was a thought which stayed with me through the book. Weights are in cups, varieties of foods and brands are just about exclusively American and I was left with the feeling that whilst what I was reading was interesting it wasn't entirely relevant. Three and a half Bookbag stars from me but if you're American you could add at least another half star to that.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
For a discursion on purely British food we can recommend Food Britannia by Andrew Webb.
You can read more book reviews or buy What Einstein Kept Under His Hat: Secrets of Science in the Kitchen by Robert L Wolke and Marlene Parrish at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy What Einstein Kept Under His Hat: Secrets of Science in the Kitchen by Robert L Wolke and Marlene Parrish at Amazon.com.
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