Saturday, May 19, 2012

What Einstein Kept Under His Hat

Alton Brown of Good Eats (on the Food Network) loves to talk about the science behind cooking.  Alas, none of his books are available on audio.  But even better, we have a real scientist in Robert L. Wolke, whose book "What Einstein Told His Cook" was a bestseller, and now his latest WHAT EINSTEIN KEPT UNDER HIS HAT is also narrated by Sean Runnette, and goes into depth on the science of foods using layman's language, and with humor that spices the discussion.  Wolke holds a doctorate in chemistry, but it not just the chemical reactions involved in cooking on which he focuses, (with the subtitle of "Secrets of Science in the Kitchen.")  Physics, microbiology, anatomy, engineering and technology also figure into it.  His wife Marlene Parrish is a food writer, and includes recipes in an included PDF file.  (One is for "Pillow Sheets," cocoa-covered caramels by American painter Mary Cassatt, 1844-1926, which she made for Edgar Degas.)  Wolke offers up a full course of surprises here, revealing many things listeners may not know about fruits, vegetables, meats, grains, and how the cooking process changes the complex structure of foods.  Also dispelled are myths which cooks have about the process, which he then explains.  Can you prevent an eggshell from cracking while you hard boil?  Why do you cry when you cut an onion, and what's the simplest way to prevent this?  Are those vegetable cleaning products effective, or is the only real cleaning that of your wallet?  Is rhubarb poisonous?  (Yes, but it doesn't really matter.)  What foods are best for your health, and why don't those foods taste better?  What's so special about butter?  The audiobook holds the listener's attention due to its pacing, as the author knows the science behind attention span too.  He mixes it up, and the souffle never falls flat.

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