Book review: Cooking for Geeks

My father sounded really smug on the phone the other day: “I have a surprise for you”. I knew it would be something important, to me at least, as he would not be making a fuss. When I saw the typical brown box on the kitchen counter I knew it was a cook book, but I started laughing when he pulled it out: Cooking for GREEKS? Why do we need a special cookbook?? Apparently I had momentarily forgotten how to read, because the title read Cooking for G e e k s. Silly me.

I never thought of myself as a geek, as my knowledge of math and science is really poor. However, I am a geek when it comes to the kitchen. And by geek I mean methodical, pedantic and sometimes downright obsessive. So it is not strange that my father, a geek himself (he is a professor in electrical engineering), perceives me as a kitchen geek, hence the book.

Psychoanalysis aside, this book by Jeff Potter is not for those of you who like food porn. There are very few pictures in it and loads of text. There are also very few recipes per se. What the book focuses on are the how’s and why’s of cooking, think Mythbusters meets Harold Mc Gee and you’ll get the picture.

The layout of the book is very reminiscent of a science schoolbook and -pardon my sexism here- very masculine. It focuses on ways of thinking about cooking, giving the reader the tools to become creative in the kitchen rather as opposed to a recipe slave. I particularly loved all the mini interviews with famous geeks like Harold McGee, Herve This, David Lebovitz, Adam Savage among others, as well as the flavour charts and inserts with various information. The chapter on food safety is downright scary, but so essential that left me wondering why nobody every talks about it in the fancy cookbooks. There are also many small experiments one can do to see how things work, most requiring everyday kitchen equipment, while others are definitely more specialized (liquid nitrogen to make ice cream for example).

What I mostly enjoyed about the book, however, is its witty prose and friendly approach. It made me want to sit and read it from cover to cover and prompted me to look more closely to the ways I already cook, trying to improve them. The relatively few recipes included are definitely mouthwatering, especially the Duck Sugo, and well written.

I don’t know if I would suggest Cooking for Geeks to someone who has never cooked before and is not a geek, but if you love the science behind your cooking this is definitely the book for you.

4 comments

  1. As a geek (electrical & computer engineer) obsessed with food I’d like to thank you for this! And I think that especially my husband who is a greater geek (PhD geekiness) will appreciate this more and maybe even try to cook!!

  2. This sounds like an awesome cookbook! I am totally a geek in so many ways…but especially about food. I feel like learning all of the techniques and specifics behind cooking is a great way to learn how to cook!

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