Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Cooking for Geeks: Book Review

Fascinating for Foodies AND Science Buffs

Jeff Potter’s approach to food and cooking is much the same as he must have approached computer science studies at Brown University, using a logic-based, well-researched, slightly academic approach.  He starts the book with the explanation, “We geeks are fascinated by how things work, and most of us eat too.”

Cooking for Geeks is an expansive book, nearly 400 pages, written for digesting much like a 14 course meal, to be broken down into manageable bites with time to reflect in between chapters. It begins with the basic tools a good cook needs, paring them down to only the essentials and then steadily progresses to more complex topics such as sous vide and cooking with liquid nitrogen and dry ice. He frequently cites research done on different techniques so if you want to do more research on your own, there is a starting point.

Most interesting are the many interviews Potter has sprinkled within the chapters from a wide range of “geeks” who are experts in a particular area sharing their unique take that can be related back to the kitchen. From Adam Savage, of Mythbuster’s fame, on scientific testing, Adam Ried from America’s Test Kitchen on equipment and recipes to Hervé This, a French physical chemist at the Institut National de la Recherché Agronomique, on molecular gastronomy, Potter allows each of these experts a forum to succinctly regale the reader with their particular expertise as an accent to the topic.

Cooking for Geeks also includes some science experiments to illustrate the techniques and help readers to actively participate and get excited about the concepts within. Potter also shares his experiences with preparing some of the dishes he breaks down in the book and there are many recipes throughout to try.

His fascination with the way things work is interesting and infectious enough to make even non-geeks spend some time reading this book. As a foodie and science buff, I can highly recommend his book for those of us who aren’t satisfied only knowing the “whats” but want to delve into the “whys” of cooking.

Note: O' Reilly Publishing provided me a free, review copy of this title as part of their blogger review program.

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