I like to cook. A large portion of my bookshelf space is devoted to cookbooks and books on food. So I was drawn to this New York Times story about cooking with Shirley O. Corriher.
I actually have Cookwise (er, somewhere; that was a metaphorical bookshelf I was referring to up there), as well as Harold McGee’s On Food and Coking, also mentioned in the article. One thing I find interesting about their work is the focus on science, the key to which is replicability.
That’s because cooking is a science; in particular, it’s mostly chemistry. The task of the cook is to facilitate chemical reactions (there’s also physics and biology—e.g., yeast used in baking). And science is repeatable.
Too often the words “science” and “cooking” call to mind Ferran Adrià and his ilk, turning olives into olive-flavored green spheroids and the like. In fact, Corriher says, all cooking is science:
I see a little technical information as liberating, something that enhances creativity. If you know the limiting factors in a recipe, you’re free to go wild with the rest.
That said, of course, cooking is older than science as we know it and the scientific method. However, knowing how it all works is useful in perfecting and improving traditional recipes—and creating new ones.