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What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained is a chemistry-cooking book written by Robert L. Wolke. The author is a chemistry professor at the University of Pittsburgh and an author of the Washington Post column Food 101. He also is a consulting science editor for Cook’s Illustrated Magazine. He is well known for his “What Einstein Told…” book series and his Food 101 column, which has won him the James Beard Foundation Award for best newspaper column and the International Association of Culinary Professionals’ Bert Greene Award. The main theme or topic of the book revolves around chemistry and its role in cooking. He cleverly and interestingly talks about food and its chemical components throughout the book using a Q and A format where he takes an audience question and answers it. Best of all, Wolke laces many recipes throughout the book relating to the topic at hand. Wolke’s objective is to educate readers on the science of food and cooking using laymen’s terms. Within his book, subjects such as cooking techniques, food products, and their development, and cooking ware are mentioned. In addition, Wolke enjoys debunking food myths and misconceptions through anecdotes, experiments, and common chemical and cooking knowledge. With that, he explains the what-to-do and the what- not to-do's and their consequences to people and their cooking. This book is great for anyone, of all education background, who wants to understand chemistry’s overlap and importance in cooking. I believe it is especially great for inexperienced cooks who want to understand why certain cooking techniques are used without the need for any culinary schooling. For me, I had to read this book for my honors introductory chemistry class because my teacher wants the students to see one of the most prominent and important applications of chemistry in everyday life: cooking. In addition, the chemistry class above ours (for older students) revolves around cooking experiments as a form of learning. My book review covers some of the objectives or arguments Wolke makes throughout the book by using one section of the book at the time.
One of the primary objectives of Wolke is to either prove or debunk food myths and to explain food misconceptions. These subjects may encompass confusion within how a certain product is produced, the differences within variations of a product, techniques, and effects of certain controversial foods. In the second section, The Salt of the Earth, the main subject is salt, sodium chloride. For all of the sections or chapters of the book, Wolke first includes an introduction to the subject at hand. Then, he dives deeper into the subject by breaking down into sub-sections, each headed with a clever title and a question to answer. In this section, he covers myths and misconceptions (the subject of this paragraph), differences in types of salts in the market (size, coarseness, kosher, rock, etc.), uses for salts, techniques (for example, salting pasta water), and other general questions about salt. Wolke debunks many myths and misconceptions in this section. In one instance, Wolke answers what is the difference between kosher salt and salt. The biggest misconception (even I am a victim of it) is that many consumers think that kosher salt is “Jewish,” or conforms to kashrut. Kosher salt is actually used for koshering, or the process of “blanketing raw meat or poultry with salt to purify it” (56). Koshering salt is coarse and irregular so it can stick and cling onto the meat better. Wolke goes on to expose another myth that kosher salt, or any coarse salt, has less sodium. Well, overall the myth is false but there is a good reason to why people believe in this myth. Regular granulated table salt and kosher salt are both pure sodium chloride but kosher salt is larger. That means in a tablespoon of kosher salt, they larger, irregular pieces take up more volume than compacted, smaller grains of table salt meaning that there is less salt in a tablespoon of kosher salt purely due to its shape and ability to
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What Einstein Told his Cook by Robert L. Wolke delves into the science behind cooking and various kitchen myths in an entertaining and sometimes comedic way. Robert is a Chemistry Professor at the University of Pittsburgh and also writes for the Washington Post. For my Chemistry class we read this book to learn about how science and Chemistry is involved in nearly all activities we do and how knowledge and understanding of the subject can allow you to improve your basic life necessities such as food.
One area that Robert puts a lot of focus on is cooking methods. Ranging from temperature changes and their effects on the food to different devices such as microwaves, stoves, and induction heating. Microwaves cause molecules to speed up immensely and heat the food to a higher temperature. However, the food cools faster because the heat doesn’t have time to effectively “sink” deeper into the food. Induction heating uses the charge of metals to heat them up by switching the charge. That is why induction heating only works with metal pans. The way to check if a pan will work is to see if a magnet stick to it.
Robert also puts a lot of focus on individual foods, even giving recipes for his favorite dishes such as white chocolate brownies. Much of the early chapters are spent talking about chocolate and how it is made along with different kinds. He writes about the entire process starting with the growing of cocoa beans to how they are dried and transported. Eventually they are mixed with the two other ingredients being butter and sugar. He also goes over ingredients like sea salt and others such as cream of tartar.
In conclusion, What Einstein Told his Cook is a good book for occasional quick reads. Its chapter structure allows one to read small amounts at a time making it a strong book to have in the bathroom or on a coffee table. Its quick stories and anecdotes remind me of The Disappearing Spoon. For anyone interested in cooking, chemistry, or just expanding knowledge, this is a really good book.
“What Einstein Told His Cook”, by Robert L. Wolke is a fun and lighthearted book that presents chemistry and science through the medium of cooking. This book is both informative, and interesting. As a former chemistry professor from the University of Pittsburgh, Wolke is very qualified and is able to accurately educate readers about the science and chemistry that occurs in everyday kitchen usage. The purpose of my review is to let everyone know how great of a book this is; for anyone and everyone. This book was originally a series of blog posts online, which brings up my only problem with the book. It can sometimes seem to drag on and talk about information not relevant to the overall plot. The chapters are divided into various sections on different topics ranging from salt to metals used in pans. Wolke has a good amount of humor in his writing, and makes reading this book enjoyable and educational. Along with the humor come the real basis for this book, the chemistry lessons. Anyone with an interest in chemistry will appreciate and remember the facts and information presented in this novel. As an example, my personal favorite part of the book was when Wolfe explained the process of making the different types of chocolate including: dark, milk, and white. Overall this was an interesting book that I would recommend to anyone with an inkling of an interest in chemistry.
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