Cookbook Review: Cook, Taste, Learn

Note: Recently, I received a copy of the gorgeous new cookbook, Cook, Taste, Learn: How the Evolution of Science Transformed the Art of Cooking in exchange for an honest review. What a joy to dig into this book! Dr. Guy Crosby does it again – another thorough, beautiful book scientists and foodies will surely treasure.

Cook, Taste, Learn cookbook a delicious gift

In his new book, Cook, Taste, Learn, food expert and author Guy Crosby, Ph.D., offers a creatively tasty combination of food science tidbits, how-to cooking tips and short history lessons. The book would make a delicious gift or coffee-table book for any foodie or food scientist you know. Crosby is an adjunct associate professor of nutrition at Harvard, science editor for Milk Street, and author/co-author of several books.

The art and science of cooking

Crosby manages to capture both the art and science of cooking as he explores our culinary evolution – from when humans first applied fire to food – to the recent explosion of foodie blogs and shows that satiate the everyday consumer’s appetite to cook like a pro at home. He covers our myriad of cooking attempts to improve flavor, from the first above-ground clay oven that baked bread to ancient Egyptians frying with palm oil to contemporary chefs exploring microbial terroir, or regional flavor. 

I especially enjoyed how Crosby wove in classic, time-tested recipes with his understandable (but thorough) explanations of why these recipes work so well. You get an easy step-by-step to make:

  • a healthy and vibrantly red tomato sauce,
  • an almost-foolproof Hoisin sauce for barbeque, and even
  • Julia Child’s famous brown-braised onions.

Also impressive is the smattering of clever how-to cooking tips throughout Crosby’s book. You can learn: 

  • why the French became masters at making great stock to flavor a dish and you can too,
  • How to use baking soda to tenderize meat, make delicious home fries, or reduce cook time for veggies like green beans,
  • why allowing roasted meat to rest 15 minutes before slicing enhances both nutrients and flavor, and
  • why extra virgin olive oil is Crosby’s go-to favorite to cook or saute.

Stories of famous food industry contributors

Not to be missed are the stories of famous contributors to food science and preservation, such as Louis Pasteur, Mrs. E.E. Kellogg, and Nicolas Appert. Or learn from more contemporary food scientists like Diane McComber from Iowa State University (my alma mater), Chef Thomas Keller, and those at America’s Test Kitchen. Also read how researchers have new visions to cooking healthy food to reduce the risk of diseases such as Parkinsons, Alzheimers and diabetes. And how we’re fighting cancer with the amazing nutritive value of the bitter cruciferous vegetables (there are 36 humans consume). 

The entire book is destined to be a bookshelf classic, a case study on how we cook, taste and improve on our results for a tastier, more appetizing product. Whether you’re cooking at home or in the lab, BON APPETITE!

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