In Sweet Talk you will learn that your taste buds don’t behave the way you thought they did, that starch is made of sugar, and that raw sugar isn’t raw. Did you know that roads have been paved with molasses? Why do cooked foods turn brown? What do we owe to Christopher Columbus’s mother-in-law?

In The Salt of the Earth you will learn about the strange salts in your supermarket. Does sea salt really come from the sea? (Don’t bet on it.) Why do we salt the water for boiling pasta? And how can you remove excess salt from over-salted soup? (You may be surprised.)

In The Fat of the Land you will learn the difference between a fat and a fatty acid, what makes them saturated or unsaturated, and why vegetable oils are only partially hydrogenated. Did you know that nonfat cooking sprays are mostly fat? Why the amounts of fats on food labels don’t add up? Why European butter tastes better than ours?

In Chemicals in the Kitchen you will learn what’s in your tap water, why recipes specify baking powder or baking soda or both, and what MSG does to food-and to some people. Have you heard about the “new” Japanese taste that is sweeping this country? Is your balsamic vinegar a fake? And why do potato chips have green edges?

In Turf and Surf you will learn why red meat is red and white meat is white, why your ground beef may look as if it came from the Old Gray Mare, and why we make stocks from bones. How can you make a juicier turkey with perfectly smooth gravy? And how does one deal with a live clam, oyster, crab or lobster?

In Fire and Ice you will learn how calories are counted, how to buy a range, and the difference between charcoal and gas for grilling. Did you know that all the alcohol does not boil off when you cook with wine? You will discover a startlingly fast way to defrost frozen foods. And yes, hot water can freeze before cold water.

In Liquid Refreshment you will learn about the acids and caffeine in coffee, and why “herb teas” are not teas. Are you contributing to global warming by drinking soda? Why does Champagne foam up? Which are better, natural wine corks or plastic ones? When should you not sniff the wine cork? And how can you know how much alcohol there is in your drink?

In Those Mysterious Microwaves you will learn how microwaves cook food, what they do-and don’t do-to your food, and whether your microwave oven is safe. What makes a container “microwave safe”? Why mustn’t you put metal in a microwave oven? How can you keep microwave-heated water from blowing up in your face?

In Tools and Technology you will learn how to buy a sauté pan, why nothing sticks to nonstick cookware, and what the pressure cooker manufacturers don’t tell you. What’s the latest research on juicing limes? Why are “instant read” thermometers so slow? Why do crackers have those little holes? Can you really cook with magnetism and light? And what does irradiation do to our foods?

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