The Chemistry of Food and Cooking

Mr. Harold McGee
Wednesday, April 24, 2013 - 7:00pm
I.G. Greer Auditorium

Live Video Stream

Harold McGee—author of the "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen" (Scribner, 2004)—will deliver a one-hour lecture followed by a Q & A session and book signing.

About Harold McGee

Harold McGee is an American author who writes about the chemistry, technique and history of food and cooking and has written two seminal books on kitchen science. His first book, "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen" was initially published in 1984. A greatly revised second edition was published in 2004. McGee has also written for Nature, Health, The New York Times, the World Book Encyclopedia, The Art of Eating, Food & Wine, Fine Cooking, and Physics Today and lectured on kitchen chemistry at cooking schools, universities, The Oxford Symposia on Food, the Denver Natural History Museum and the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. McGee also consults for restaurants and manufacturers. Currently, he writes a regular column for the New York Times, The Curious Cook, which examines, and often debunks, conventional kitchen wisdom. (from Wikipedia)

From McGee’s own personal website...

I write about the chemistry of food and cooking. I took up this odd vocation after studies at the California Institute of Technology and at Yale University, where I wrote a doctoral thesis with the prophetic title "Keats and the Progress of Taste." After several years as a literature and writing instructor at Yale, I decided to practice what I'd been teaching, and write a book: a book about the science of everyday life.

The result was the publication in 1984 of a 680-page compendium, On Food & Cooking: The Science & Lore of the Kitchen. My timing was lucky: America and Britain were awakening to the pleasures of good food and to the diversity of world cuisines, and On Food & Cooking helped satisfy the growing hunger for information about ingredients and techniques.

Six years after On Food & Cooking, in 1990, I published a shorter and more personal book, The Curious Cook: More Kitchen Science and Lore. It's currently out of print. Then in 2004, after working on it for ten years, I published the second, completely revised and significantly expanded edition of On Food & Cooking, which won several awards. And in 2010, Penguin Press published my practical kitchen handbook Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes.

Along the way I've contributed reviews and original research to the scientific journal Nature, and have written articles for many publications, including The New York Times, The World Book Encyclopedia, The Art of Eating, Food & Wine, Fine Cooking, and Physics Today. I've taught two-day courses at the French Culinary Institute in New York, and talk about food chemistry at such venues as the Culinary Institute of America and other professional schools, at Madrid Fusion, at universities, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Chemical Society.

I'm currently working on a book about flavor, and contributing a column on science and food, "The Curious Cook," to the New York Times.

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About "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen"

From Scribner...

Harold McGee's "On Food and Cooking" is a kitchen classic. Hailed by Time magazine as "a minor masterpiece" when it first appeared in 1984, On Food and Cooking is the bible to which food lovers and professional chefs worldwide turn for an understanding of where our foods come from, what exactly they're made of, and how cooking transforms them into something new and delicious.

Now, for its twentieth anniversary, Harold McGee has prepared a new, fully revised and updated edition of "On Food and Cooking." He has rewritten the text almost completely, expanded it by two-thirds, and commissioned more than 100 new illustrations. As compulsively readable and engaging as ever, the new On Food and Cooking provides countless eye-opening insights into food, its preparation, and its enjoyment.

"On Food and Cooking" pioneered the translation of technical food science into cook-friendly kitchen science and helped give birth to the inventive culinary movement known as "molecular gastronomy." Though other books have now been written about kitchen science, "On Food and Cooking" remains unmatched in the accuracy, clarity, and thoroughness of its explanations, and the intriguing way in which it blends science with the historical evolution of foods and cooking techniques.

Among the major themes addressed throughout this new edition 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

"On Food and Cooking" is an invaluable and monumental compendium of basic information about ingredients, cooking methods, and the pleasures of eating. It will delight and fascinate anyone who has ever cooked, savored, or wondered about food.

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