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Harry Covére

"On Food and Cooking" by Harold McGee

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sorry - haven't seen anything in the professional reviewing or publishing things we get. just checked baker and taylor and the most current thing in from a few years ago. will keep my eyes peeled.

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i know he's been working on one for years. the first one is such a monumental work, i can't imagine facing updating it.

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My understanding is that it will be out this fall. Expect a complete rewrite more than just an update.

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i know he's been working on one for years. the first one is such a monumental work, i can't imagine facing updating it.

When I corresponded with him briefly a few months ago he mentioned having thousands (!!!!) of pages of notes to sort through/compile. I get the feeling that this too will also be a monumental work.

I can't wait to see the fruits of his labors.

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I'm reading On Food and Cooking now, copyright 1984. I noticed immediately how many time he writes "we don't know how/why this works/happens." I kept thinking that a revised edition highlighting what we've figured out in the past 20 years would be fascinating.


Edited by Stone (log)

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I'm reading OFaC now, too. Fascinating stuff, though after highlighting and post-it'ing my way through it, I can't imagine doing the same through a new/updated edition any time soon. :wacko:

Yeah, I'm a huge geek. So what? :rolleyes: What good is a reference if you can't find the information you want when you need it?

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According to McGee's Web site, it's a fully revised and updated 20th anniversary edition of On Food and Cooking, The Science And Lore Of The Kitchen.

Coming in November from Scribner, a division of Simon & Schuster.

From his site:

...has rewritten the text almost completely, expanded it by two thirds, and commissioned over 100 new illustrations. Among the major themes now addressed throughout are:

× Traditional and modern methods of food production and their influences on food quality

× The great diversity of methods by which people in different places and times have prepared the same ingredients

× Tips for selecting the best ingredients and preparing them successfully

× The particular substances that give foods their flavors, and that give us pleasure

× Our evolving knowledge of the health benefits and risks of foods

You can order it from Amazon for $23.80.

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man...and I just bought the old version...looks like I'm going to have to get the new one now.


Edited by Bicycle Lee (log)

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I'm reading On Food and Cooking now, copyright 1984.  I noticed immediately how many time he writes "we don't know how/why this works/happens."  I kept thinking that a revised edition highlighting what we've figured out in the past 20 years would be fascinating.

I thought the same thing when he discusses how much more healthful margarine is than butter.

man...and I just bought the old version...looks like I'm going to have to get the new one now.

Boo. I just got the old version for my birthday. Guess I will have to request the new version for Christmas.

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Oh. My. Goodness. Expanded by two thirds? Will I need a crane to transport it from my coffee table to my lap? :biggrin: I wasn't able to get a new copy of the original in hard cover when I bought it years ago. I won't let this one get past me. I can't wait. :happy dancing smilie:

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The new edition, and it's probably more accurate to refer to it as the new book, is still scheduled for early November or the end of October. That is to say, copies should be in bookshops by early November. "New Book," because a broader range of subjects is covered in greater depth in a text that's about two thirds greater in length. Even the material that has remained has been rewritten to reflect McGee's latest understandings.

I've been thumbing through an advance proof and what's interesting is that at first glance it seems the most definitive collection of information I've ever seen, but one soon realizes McGee is much too smart to believe he's got the final answer. I'm reluctant to quote from an uncorrected proof, but I think I'm safe in noting out that in his introduction, he quotes a French chef as saying "I know that I never know," at the first workshop of what has now become the International Workshop on Molecular Gastronomy 'N. Kurti.' I'd still bet that this book will settle a lot of bets.

I'm reading OFaC now, too. Fascinating stuff, though after highlighting and post-it'ing my way through it, I can't imagine doing the same through a new/updated edition any time soon. :wacko:

I can only imagine the effort it took McGee to basically rewrite this book. I think of his editors with a certain amount of envy and pity. There was however, considerable justification for the new work. Twenty years ago predates the Molecular Gastronomy movement and the current acute interest in the science of food preparation. With that interest has also come the increased knowledge to satisfy the interest and who better than McGee to put it all together again.

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Bux... I can't begin to imagine the effort that this took. Does anyone know how long he worked on this?

I have visions of bouncing from the old book to the new book just to see what has changed. That is going to happily drive me nuts.

Let me add that, for such a deep and detailed subject, I found that his writing style was engaging and, at times, downright humorous. I came to the first book in happy anticipation of the information it contained. I was unexpectedly enchanted by his writing style and besides using it as a reference, I often reread some parts for the sheer joy of the language. I think of him as the Jan Morris of food science.

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Is that calendar mention of eGullet on McGee's website an upcoming event for this year?

In a word, "yes." I was about to ask if McGee wasn't one of the people everyone wouldn't most want to ask a question in my last post, but I didn't want to be too coy before we entered his name on the calendar. In the interest of full disclosure, I'll note that my daughter was his editor at Scribner. I trust no one would believe I'm doing her a favor by inviting the author of such an aniticipated book to participate here, and it should be obvious to all that we're the audience McGee or any other serious professional in the industry, wants to reach.

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I'm sorry, I neglected to add the starting day of the Q&A for those who don't want to check the calendar--November 8.

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When I first met McGee a year and a half ago, he told me he was revising his book, then he told me that he was really rewriting it from scratch. He was serious. The first book took him three years. The revision took ten. Whole chapters are new. What was four pages on fish is now a 30,000 word chapter. Gone is a lot of historical stuff replaced by practical stuff, like how to temper chocolate, how and why it works. It's an amazing piece of work.

I wrote about Harold in this month's Gourmet. He's an exquisite and humane individiual, with a poetic sense of the world and a deep understanding of the science of everyday life. He's a hero.

The book is due out from Scribner in Nov., but I know they're still hustling to finish up the index.


Edited by Michael Ruhlman (log)

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Sounds like a culinary equivalent of Roger Penrose's new book.

Sounds like I'll have to get a copy - been meaning to get the original for ages.

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Sounds like a culinary equivalent of Roger Penrose's new book.

What did Penrose write? He's the "Emperor's New Mind" guy?

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Sounds like a culinary equivalent of Roger Penrose's new book.

Sounds like I'll have to get a copy - been meaning to get the original for ages.

I think not. Although I'm even less prepared to discuss Penrose than McGee, Penrose's work seems very theoretical and abstract, while MdGee set out to discover why what happens when we cook, happens and to make the connection to the basic workings of the natural world. While his curiosity was far beyond that of most cooks 20 years ago, his studies result in information that often has an immediate effect on how cooks think and prepare foods. They explain exactly why the results we see occur and sometimes explain why we've made the wrong attributions in the past between technique and results. While his thinking was outside that of conventional cooks then, his work, while still at the forefront of science in the kitchen, is known to most serious and professional cooks today. This is not to say that all of the book will be directly approachable and applicable to home cooking on a daily basis any more that we'd use all the words in the dictionary on a daily basis, but it should prove useful to anyone with a curiosity about the science of why things happen when we cook.

Nothing could be more welcome than a revised and expanded version of Harold McGee's ON FOOD AND COOKING. This big, immensely important work, with its breathtaking scope, is the basic resource for anyone who wants to understand the way we grow our food, harvest it, store it, cook it, consume, smell, taste, and even digest it. McGee's scientific writing is intelligent, lucid, and always to the point--helping both professionals and serious home cooks understand what happens when they work with food, enabling them to be more enlightened shoppers, cooks, and even eaters.

The first edition of ON FOOD AND COOKING has been the best selling book in the history of our bookstore.  A newer and larger ON FOOD AND COOKING  is a gift to all who want to know how food works.

--Nach Waxman, Owner, Kitchen Arts & Letters

I've got a dozen of those sort of blurbs, courtesy of the publisher. :biggrin:

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I have been awaiting it with great anticipation. My much-thumbed and dog-eared original, purchased at Brentano's book store long ago, is never very far out of reach.

Many of the pages have been taped where little tears threatened to cause the loss of an important passage.

One page that was torn out and into pieces has been pieced together and laminated and stuck back into the book.

Highlighter pens of various colors have been used liberally throughout the book with colored tabs glued onto the edges of pages with significant information.

I may be out of touch for a couple of days after I get my hands on the book as I plan to immerse myself in it to see if some of my favorite sections have been significantly altered.

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I have a feeling that there is going to be a lull in the action on the eGullet Boards once this book comes out until his Q&A. :wink:

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