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SWoodyWhite

Kitchen Science 101

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A second question.

I'm a novice cook, fully admit it, but while recipes may inspire me, I rarely find myself following them to the letter. This has led to my fair share of dishes that "aren't right," as well as a few that have worked wonderfully. So, as long as I'm treating my cooking as a learning experience, I've found some of the best answers lie in the "kitchen science" books, explaining the whys of cooking along with the hows.

Since you like to experiment in the kitchen, who do you like to turn to when you find yourself stuck for a good solution?


We'll not discriminate great from small.

No, we'll serve anyone - meaning anyone -

And to anyone at all!

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Two recent very useful books are Russ Parson's HOW TO READ A FRENCH FRY and Shirley Corriher's COOKWISE. There are other books like these, but these two are very approachable and intelligent without beating you over the head with kitchen science. You may also find the Cook's Illustrated team of explainers to your taste: if so, you have a lifetime of instruction awaiting you, at least if you have deep enough pockets.

However, you should also consider the fact that even experienced cooks sometimes just don't get a recipe, however carefully it has been explained. This could be that there's nothing there to get -- the recipe just doesn't really work. This is often the case when the writer him or herself got it from someone else (like a chef) and didn't really understand what it was about. But we also have inner demons that can delight in perversely misreading instructions, cause our mind to drift when we should most be paying attention, or just make a bad situation worse with an ill-judged "rescue" attempt. If learning to cook was simply about following recipes, we would all do just fine, but, often, that's the least of it. Learning to trust your judgment and getting to the point where your judgment is worth trusting is not something that happens in a day or a week or a year. Thank God for beginner's luck.

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Thanks again, John! I've read How to Read a French Fry, and find Parsons both interesting and kinda fun. Also, my partner and I made our weekly trip to the bookstore tonight, and I've picked up a copy of Corriher's Cookwise, something I should have done some time ago since she's so enjoyable on Alton Brown's show.

There's a couple of down notes, however. First, the bookstore didn't have any of your books in stock. (This means an on-line raid is in order.) The second is that my partner started browsing through Cookwise, and from the way he was muttering to himself the book may disappear onto his stack of reading material. I'll just have to be patient before getting my chance to read it. *sigh*


We'll not discriminate great from small.

No, we'll serve anyone - meaning anyone -

And to anyone at all!

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"First, the bookstore didn't have any of your books in stock."

Not surprising. The small city I live in has several bookstores and at least two gourmet food emporiums and one cooking supply store all with cookbook sections, and my writings are nowhere to be found here. I could do something about that, of course, by moaning and groaning, but...would they sell any if they did get some copies? I also notice that both SIMPLE COOKING and OUTLAW COOK are hard to get hold of new OR used. Flattering, but.... I didn't know Shirley appeared on Alton Brown's show. She must be a lot of fun; if her prose is any indication, she's a character and a half.

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According to the Good Eats Fan Page (at www.goodeatsfanpage.com), Shirley has appeared on Good Eats at least a dozen times. Usually she's listed as a "Food Scientist," but for the show on cooking beans she was credited as a "Food Scientist Guru," which seems more fitting. As a person, I think she could give Cinderella's Fairy Godmother a good run for her money, she's so full of good spirits, enthusiasm and cheer. And yes, she writes exactly as she speaks, something I find common with a number of writers I enjoy. (You don't happen to have a rumbly, bass voice, do you?)


We'll not discriminate great from small.

No, we'll serve anyone - meaning anyone -

And to anyone at all!

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