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"Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home."
- Anna Quindlen

Review: What Einstein Told His Cook, by Robert L. Wolke

What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained - Robert L. Wolke

I highly recommend this as an audiobook.  It hits that sweet spot of being breezy, entertaining, informative, and (most importantly) well-narrated.


Wolke writes a food science column for The Washington Post, material from which comprises most of the book in a snappy question-and-answer format.  The rest is made up of illustrative recipes put together by his wife Marlene Parrish (these thankfully are not read out in the audio version, but are provided in a handy PDF).  Topics covered range from why recipes specify unsalted butter but then tell you to add salt, to whether belching contributes to global warming.


I am interested in food science both personally and professionally, but when I first heard about this book it didn't spike my curiosity.  The title threw me off - I assumed it was a folksy biography of Einstein, or some tortured attempt to tie cooking science to his theories specifically.  Neither sounded appealing.  But in fact the book never mentions Einstein at all, and it turned out to be a far more fascinating read than I'd expected.  It's always nice when that happens.


There's a lot of misinformation and scaremongering out there of the "what's in your food" variety, so a book like this that patiently tears that crap down is welcome.  Whether it's unpronounceable additives that you fear, or irradiated foodstuffs, or the explosive potential of pressure cookers, Wolke's refutations are always informative and amusing.  "Pressure cookers burst -- pardon me, appeared -- on the scene after World War II..."


Since we all have to eat, we might as well learn more about this strange stuff we're putting in our face.  Most of us know very little about the science of food, and this book tackles so many basic questions I'd never realized I wanted answered.  What IS the difference between baking powder and baking soda?  Why DOES fish smell fishy?


(2014 #22)