Harold McGee – On Food and Cooking
October 3, 2010 1 Comment
What makes Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking a nerdy food science bible instead of a cooking book is that there aren’t any recipes in it. Some people will say that a book about food that explains what meat really is but doesn’t contain any meat recipes sort of misses the point. Others will say: Wait, it explains what meat really is? And what actually happens when you fry something? And it lists all the characteristics of common herbs in a big scary table with big scary words? I want to own this! If so, this book, and this review, is for you.
McGee covers not only the facts but the history of commonly eaten animals and plants, often in poetic terms. What fascinates me about the history of food is how basically everything we eat has been shaped by humans in some way. We’ve taken things that were barely edible and made them good, and things that were good and made them better. Our food has been bred and hybridized upon for thousands of years – just to make us happy.
One of the trends of this history, as McGee tells it, is how this great (unnatural) variety was reduced and homogenized during the 20th century, as part of the rise of industrialized food, but is now being rediscovered. The fun is returning to food. And this book is above all fun .. for very nerdy values of fun.