My brother and I are complete opposites. I'm the artist, he's the math geek. I don't own a TV, he has one in every room - even the bathroom. In my free time, I read up on how to improve my paella. My brother plays computer games based on Dungeons and Dragons.
The family mythology says that my brother, who dashed from house to house pushing door bells while I was in a stroller, has known since he was 4 years old that he wanted to be a computer engineer. I, on the other hand, still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.
Given my lack of interest in science, it may come as a surprise that I snapped up Hervé This' book Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor the second it was translated into English. Professor This (pronounced "Teess") has collaborated with many chefs, including 3-star Michelin chef Pierre Gagnaire, to help propel the movement that has become known as Molecular Gastronomy.
The most famous innovators of the Molecular Gastronomy movement reside not in the Professor's France, but across the border in Spain in the kitchens of El Bulli, Arzak, El Celler de Can Roca, and elsewhere. As a fan of all Spanish cooking, traditional and modern, I figured it is time that I loosen up some of my Luddite prejudices and learn about and perhaps even *gasp* play around with some of the new techniques.
I enjoyed the premise and promise of the Professor's book more than the reality. Perhaps I am not the best person to review such a book, as my interest in science falls even below my interest in the Olympic sport of curling. I rushed through high school chemistry in one summer, never took physics, and only got as far as trigonometry in math (although, as I never fail to gleefully remind my brother, I still managed to score 20 points higher than Mr. AP Calculus on the math portion of the SAT). There are lots of fun tidbits to chew on, but for the most part I found the book too focused on molecular theory and lacking in practical application. Then again, what did I expect from a chemist?
I ought to disclose one other bit of information. Truthfully, I only bought the book because one chapter, entitled "Chantilly Chocolate: How to make a chocolate mousse without the eggs," tantalized me with its possibilities. Unfortunately, like all the chapters in the book, this one turned out to be just 2 or 3 pages long. If you are more used to the in-depth discussions of Harold McGee's tome, On Food and Cooking, you will be disappointed with the brevity of the explanations in Molecular Gastronomy.