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A classic on the science and history of food

Michael Pollan, Sandor Katz, Bill Buford and Anthony Bourdain ALL refer to Harold McGee’s classic On Food and Cooking in their writing. When I visited the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Napa last year, I saw at least twenty copies of the revised edition at the bookstore. Our understanding of food has changed quite a bit since 1984 when McGee first wrote this. For example, we now realize that the low-fat fad has wreaked havoc on our health—it led to massive amounts of sugar added to make the low-fat stuff palatable, which has led to obesity (Dr. Lustig's Fat Chance).

Chefs will refer to this food bible when they want to figure out how heating, cooling, certain ingredients and so on, will affect a dish. However, home cooks will also enjoy reading about the history and science of food.

So why include this one? I feel that when we appreciate cooking and understand the science behind it, that understanding connects us to the natural world and brings us joy. Opening a frozen pizza and shoving it in the oven cannot do this. Yes, I understand some people have little choice but to eat convenience, food-like products. Some work two jobs just to pay the rent, while many others have been rendered helpless in the kitchen.