First and foremost, merry christmas! I hope everyone has been enjoying the holidays and eating lots of good food, I know I have! Second, I have spent the last two days absolutely obsessed with one of my Christmas presents. The Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt weighs about 10 pounds (I’m completely guessing here, but if it turns out to be the actual weight I won’t at all be surprised) and is not just visually stunning, but absolutely stuffed with the most mind blowing information imaginable. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve run up to family members today frantically telling them about some new revelation. The book is massive people, it’s hard enough to hold it, let alone run with it. I mean business.
I’m not recommending this as a gift, as the holiday season is winding down, but I am recommending it to you, dear reader, or to anyone who has ever asked “why?” when reading a recipe that demands something be done a certain way. Why do I have to let my steak rest after I cook it? Why do I run hardboiled eggs under cold water when I peel them? Why is parmesan cheese so good?
Some of these questions are more easily answered than others, but to any curious minds out there who persistently keep questioning and aren’t satisfied with the tradition answer (“Because that’s just how you do it, that’s why”), this is the book for you.
It’s written in pretty science-heavy terms for long stretches, discussing things like glutamates and energy transfers, but balanced well with colourful metaphors and creative explanations. It had never even crossed my mind to wonder what boiling actually was as a process, but the author made me want to know, and then generously provided an answer by way of comparing it to a coop full of chickens that have been fed Red Bull (it makes sense, trust me). This is the kind of book, (and I hesitate to call it a cookbook because as he say in the introduction, the recipes are such a small part of it) where your way of thinking changes after reading even a small part of it. Making dinner tonight, I found myself wondering about pressure and temperature, and how the two act when cooking vegetables as opposed to meat. This books won’t turn you into a scientist who can answer every query tossed your way, but it will get you wondering and thinking, and if that’s not a sign of an amazing book, then I don’t know what is.
On a side note, the recipes themselves, he claims, are “foolproof”, which I’m always reluctant to believe, but based on his explanations, not only do I believe him, but I can’t wait to test them out myself. Please look this book up, either pick yourself up a copy or wait for it to appear at your local library. It truly is incredible and I’m so excited to keep learning from it!
I hope everyone has had wonderful holidays so far, enjoy the rest and eat well!