On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee

Discussion in 'Cookbook Reviews' started by eugene, Oct 18, 2006.

  1. eugene

    eugene

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    Ordered this book from the internet. Came yesterday.
    What a disappointment. Instead of simple kitchen lore and explanations why things work and others don't, there are 400 pages of food history, another 300 pages of chemistry and maybe some 50 pages of real useful information.
    I realized its not the book I wanted.
    For example, there are no recommended cooking times for vegetables, instead we learn who brought potatoes to Europe. Instead of explaining why you have to cover the rice when you cook it, we get a detailed description of how rice is manufactured. Who cares? I don't mill rice in the kitchen. Basics like how to peel onions without tears are not explained there.
    That's what happens when you order a book without browsing in it first.
     
  2. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    If you'd looked at the whole title, you would have had a better idea of what it was.

    On Food and Cooking: the Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Emphasis on Science and Lore.

    You can certainly sell it at and get most of the cost back. It's a popular book and for good reasons.

    Phil
     
  3. free rider

    free rider

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    I bought the book and it's one of my favorites. Well-written and informative.
     
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  4. mikelm

    mikelm

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    Bought it after his forum appearance here. It's one I take to bed to read myself to sleep - and NOT because it's boring - because wherever you take it up, it's interesting and informative.

    It's also unmatched as a technical reference, which is what it really is intended to be. Whenever a question comes up about an ingredient, or a cooking method, you are likely to find a detailed and readable explanation in the book.

    One of the best books about food I've got, and I've got a lot.

    Mike ;)
     
  5. cakerookie

    cakerookie

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    That book is never a disappointment. Its great! I think what your looking for is not technical in nature. Your wanting a book for techniques with recipes correct? Well, Google Jacque Pepins book "Complete Techniques" think you will find that interesting enough. Another one you may want to consider is Shirley O Corrihers book "Cookwise" filled with about 240 recipes and she gives you the ins and outs of what to expect. And I agree with MikeLM its one of the best books on food I have too and I have quite a few.

    Rgds Rook
     
  6. dr. zoidberg

    dr. zoidberg

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    I borrowed Mcgee's book from my local library to see if i wanted to buy it. I gotta admit, I learned alot from it and will buy it when i find a good price. I recently bought Larousse Gastronomique (sp?) and haven't read much of it, but it seems pretty good too.
     
  7. jeebus

    jeebus

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    On food and cooking is a fantastic book, how it could be a disapointment to any cook, professional or otherwise is beyond me. 50 pages of usefull information......are you nuts?
     
  8. cakerookie

    cakerookie

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    The entire book is loaded with useful info. I think if you sat down with it and really read it you will understand better. Its great that you are interested in cooking or you would not be here but in order to cook and cook well you have to understand a little bit of the science behind the scenes. Knowing your ingredients and how to prepare your foods are important but the science of how and why an ingredient reacts the way it does is even more important in the long run. I would never say this book is a disappointment, at least not in public because its not. I am a big,big, fan of this book and of Mr Mcgee.

    Rgds Rook
     
  9. castironchef

    castironchef

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    Eugene:

    My best advise to you is to set McGee aside and read some Shirley Corriher and Alton Brown. They write kitchen science geared towards a beginner / intermediate level. Both are very knowledgeable and entertaining and both contain valuable, practical information and ideas.

    Then, when your kitchen experience and knowledge expands, go back and pour through McGee.

    As Alton Brown is oft to say, "your patience will be rewarded."
     
  10. scott123

    scott123

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    I didn't mention it in my other review, but the historical aspect dissapointed me as well. The first version of the book was almost all food science/myth debunking and almost no history. If the history related in some way to the science, it would be helpful, but for the most part, the two are unrelated. He should have written a separate history book and stayed true to the original scientific slant of the first tome.

    I've read it from cover to cover a couple times, and, to be honest, the historical info makes a really tough read.

    At the same time, though, I'm sure there's a food history buff out there saying that the scientific information was hard to get through.

    And, although not Harold's fault, I will re-iterate my thoughts on the index. It stinks.
     
  11. cakerookie

    cakerookie

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    Agreed.

    Rgds Rooks
     
  12. oahuamateurchef

    oahuamateurchef

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    I also took this one out from my local library a couple of times. I chose based on Alton Brown's back-of-book reccomendation. I think it is a great read, although I wish Harold didn't include all that evolution mumbo-jumbo. I suppose that is a topic for a different kind of forum.:D

    I prefer reading Alton Brown for a "teaching" kind of book. Harold McGee's book is more like a food dictionary.
     
  13. kepa

    kepa

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    Hi, sorry, but I was just wondering what the title was of the Alton Brown book you read? Or does he only have one book out? Sorry, cheers.
     
  14. cakerookie

    cakerookie

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    No Alton has several books out "I am Here Just for the Food" is one he has another one I think its called "Altons Kitchen" or something like that. Go to Amazon and type in his name it will come up with a bunch of titles for him or go to E-Bay. One note on McGees book that seems to be confusing to most. This book in my interpretation was not written as a recipe book. Its a food science text it tells you how and why things happen the way they do. How ingredients react, their origins and such. Anyone considering this book because they think its chock full of recipes then you had better look else where for that. Want a book with origins and history along with recipes then try Larousse "Gastrominque" about 1100 pages.

    Rgds Rook
     
  15. kepa

    kepa

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    Cheers. Took your advice about searching Amazon, worked great.
     
  16. brunoiseguy

    brunoiseguy

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    I just bought the book "On Food and Cooking,..." (I now have the 2004 revised edition), and it is a great reference book for someone that wants to learn more about food and not simply to learn how to execute (cook) food. It is already one of my favorite books and I find in it invaluable information in it that I don't have access while I am training in the kitchen. For someone interested in learning about Techno Cuisine and Molecular Gastronomy, it is a must have. In fact, I estimate that History texts in this book is about 2% to 5% of the entire book. It is not a Recipe or Method book. It is a book of Science, Concepts and definition that helps the reader to create the foundation to understand the 'Alchemy' of cooking. Highly recommended!  :) 
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2012
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  17. nicko

    nicko Founder of Cheftalk.com Staff Member

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  18. fdkao

    fdkao

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    I read the Chinese version of it and it was so interesting that I want to know more about it in depth, then I went online to order the original version. It took me 1 months approximately to finish the book, thought I couldn't remember every single parts of it and I refer to it all the time. I am now living overseas and I am feeling unsecured without this book next to me, lol.
     
  19. msbirdchat

    msbirdchat

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    I just ordered this book from Amazon.  Based on all the comments on this blog, I think I will love it.

    I love the history and all the rest that is often in a cookbook.  I will post further after I receive it!!

    The chemistry about cooking is utterly fascinating!!  Just imagine how egg whites fluff up, BUT not on

    a rainy day!!!  WHY?????????????????

    And YEAST???  How many ways can yeast succeed or fail?  Too hot, too cold, too much sugar, etc.

    So the science of cooking is truly scientific chemistry and learning the chemistry can only be a tremendous benefit

    to cooking.

    Mary Sara
     
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  20. alev

    alev

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    I bought a copy many years ago.  It is a one of my favorite books on food.  I treasure it and recommend it to all.