Author: Harold McGee
This particular read coincides with a sad event in my life. My favorite high school science teacher passed away in December. I had him for both biology and chemistry, the two predominant sciences covered in McGee's book. Mr. B was one of the most popular teachers in the school. Also on the coaching staff of the school's extraordinarily successful field hockey program, he touched thousands of lives over several decades.
Despite his best efforts, even Mr. B couldn't turn me on to science. As soon as McGee's text started heading towards the lab, I'd skip ahead to the next section. I made honest attempts. In theory, I was fascinated by the fact that meringues are best whipped in a copper bowl for genuine chemical reasons but after reading the section, I couldn't remember any of it. Such was my experience for four years of high school science. I'm so sorry, Mr. B. I know you tried.
And yet, I did manage to learn. Figs, for instance, are pollinated not by bees or birds but by a particular eighth-inch long species of wasp. You can't even cultivate figs unless you tie wasp nests to the trees. One of my favorite chapters was the one on alcohol: Wine, Beer and Distilled Liquors. I have some modest experience making beer but really, the chapter made me want to experiment with cocktails. Fortunately, McGee also provides gory details of the terrible things drunkenness does to the mind and body. Everything in moderation, folks...
I had a bit of a dilemma when it came to my Goodreads rating for On Food and Cooking. My Goodreads recommendations have been quite satisfying so this is not a matter I take lightly. On the one hand, I don't really want more foodie books that are so heavy on the "science" but the "lore" parts of the text were amazing. Even the material that wasn't so interesting to me personally was thoroughly researched and well written. I may well refer back to some of those sections as I get deeper into my own cooking adventures. So, a 3 seemed reasonable.