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Feb 7, 2007 11:59 AM

Science-y books about food

I'm looking for book recommendations for an undergraduate seminar I'm teaching. It's a seminar that will be credited as science, and the focus is food. I've chosen three books to read and discuss, but the students will choose a fourth book to read and report on. The broad areas I can see as relevant are the science of cooking, nutrition and agriculture. I'd welcome any suggestions you might had -- the main things I'm looking for are books that have some science focus, but are readable --e.g., not textbooks, unless there are some good ones out there I don't know about. The books that are required are Eat, Drink and Be Healthy, The Science of Cooking (or What Einstein Told His Cook -- haven't decided), and The Omnivore's Dilemma.

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  1. Try Cookwise by Shirley Corriher. It has recipes also.

    1 Reply
    1. re: debbar

      Thanks -- I wasn't sure about this one and appreciate the recommendation --

    2. I think "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen" by Harlod McGee is the classic in the field, and it was updated as recently as 2004.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        Yes, I agree, but at close to 900 pages, it seemed a bit long unless I chose sections...

        1. re: alaughingdog

          Good point. I gave it to my BIL for Christmas and my sister says he's reading it cover to cover: he keeps it by the bed and reads a little each night!

          Maybe you could choose sections -- I think if your students are at all interested in the subject they'll be glad to have it as part of their permanent collection to go back to later.

          1. re: alaughingdog

            you definitely have to read it a bit at a time to really take it in, but maybe you could split it into sections to have the students read and report on. To me, it is indispensible. I would glady get rid of EVERY cookbook I have before parting with this. Plus, it has a great bibliography and fantastic index. He has a second one that got lesser reviews, but i think it may contain some experiments... or at least unique recipes. Cookwise has a lot of recipes putting the science into action.

        2. Turner, Jack. 2004. Spice: The History of a Temptation. New York: Vintage Books.

          1. "Salt" by Mark Kurlansky-- there is a lot of discussion of the non-food uses of salt, the sciencey-reasons salt is used in all of these ways, a cultural history of salt, and some cooking hints.

            1 Reply
            1. "The Founding Fish" by John McPhee, about American shad. Part science/natural history, part personal narrative, part American/world history, some stuff about cooking. Extremely readable and fascinating.

              In the same vein (but not as strong, to my way of thinking) would be Kurlansky's books on cod, salt, and oysters. Or Corson's "The Secret Life of Lobsters."

              Other ideas:
              "How to Read a French Fry: And Other Stories of Intriguing Kitchen Science" - Russ Parsons
              "Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor" - Herve This
              "Kitchen Chemistry" - Ted Lister and Heston Blumenthal

              Maybe something on/about the Slow Food movement? Or would the Cook's Illustrated/Cook's Country (magazines, but they're also available bound together at the end of each year) approach to figuring-out recipes be applicable?

              Please let us know what you end-up going with - I'm intrigued by your idea for a seminar.