Archive for the ‘Books’ Category
Harold McGee poops on any romantic sentiment you may have ever associated with cooking. All your warm nostalgia about grandma’s mashed potatoes and green bean casserole is silly and juvenile. Grow up. That beautiful pork chop your searing in your backyard, it’s a hot bed of chemical reactions; enzymes breaking down, protein strains reconfiguring. Do you really want to know exactly what has to happen in the production of most dairy ingredients? How about hot dogs? Mmmm, this biology tastes delicious.
McGee’s book, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, (recently republished after a 20 year update) is the definitive examination of the physical, chemical and biological mechanisms that occur in every aspect of the food we grow, prepare and eat today. And it is fantastic. Complete with molecule charts and drawings of cell structures, McGee is not a casual read or source for weeknight dinner ideas. But for anyone interested in becoming a better cook, and that includes those that can barely toast bread, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
To be honest, Marco Pierre White was more on my radar as another pretentious, jackass chef booking yet another formulaic reality show promoted to match Gordon Ramsey’s scream-themed extravaganza. I’ve never been a fan of Hell’s Kitchen, but the idea of second British chef throwing pans around for the cameras gave me a headache just thinking about it. I had heard of White in passing. While reading about other chefs it seemed like everyone respected and feared the guy, and there wasn’t much more to know other than he seems to be an old school talent, notorious for “bollockings” and as more of a personality than a chef.
But then I stumbled upon White’s autobiography, The Devil in the Kitchen, and it became clear that I had not been paying attention to a chef so tortured and driven by the highest standards, it was almost impossible for me not to like him. A pretty serious change of heart I know, but the book follows a narrative I’ve really come to love. If you enjoyed Kitchen Confidential or Heat, you’re most likely going to enjoy this book. White is a blistering madman, and the book slowly eases you into his frantic and obsessive universe. Whether or not you accept his justifications and explanations for his constant intensity is irrelevant. Obsession is a fascinating spectator sport, and despite the antics, you have to respect this guy’s passion.