Monday, 24 September 2007

Books etc.

Whilst cooking everyday is definitely enlarging my repertoire and the repetition of certain techniques is beginning to lodge them in my brain, I'm supporting the practical work with loads of reading to learn the science behind it all. When I started to consider cooking more as a science than an art, it all began to make more sense. Everything from aromas to textures are simply a case of molecules and the chemical bonds that hold them together. Along with the chemistry of cooking, it's fascinating to read about the biology of plants to gain a greater understanding of herbs, spices, vegetables and fruits.

We rarely question why things taste the way they do, why onions have a sulfury flavour and make you cry, why most fruit sweetens when it ripens. In both cases they do so to ensure their species survives. The sulphur molecules in onions are defensive, to deter animals from eating them. The sweetness of ripe fruit and their change of colour from dull green to bright reds and oranges are the opposite, an invitation for animals to eat them and disperse their seeds once passed through the digestive system.

When you do read about their peculiarities, you realise how amazing plant life is and how each species reacts to its own environment.

My bible for all of this information is McGee on Food and Cooking, An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture. It's over 800 pages long but it's the most comprehensive book on the subject that deals with such scientific topics in an accessible way. I'm about half way through and have probably absorbed about 5% of what I've read. I can imagine this book will be constantly read and re-read everyday without ever being fully absorbed, just like the painting of the Forth Bridge which will go on forever.

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