REVIEW: Brain Food by Richard Cornish
Is pork butt the new pork belly? Whose room temperature are we talking about? And can you freeze cheese? (Yes, but why would you want to?)
These are some of the burning questions at the heart of every kitchen. Food science, etiquette, mythbusting, history and common sense—there is no subject too big or too small for Richard Cornish to answer in his weekly Brain Food columns, which have been must-reads for years.
Brain Food is a collection of the best cooks’ conundrums and their surprising answers.
Dear Mr. Cornish,
The title for this book caught my attention and I briefly thought it might be about new super foods being touted to re-invigorate my gray matter. Frankly the older I get, the more my brain cells need an occasional kick. But no, it’s an enjoyable query and answer column you write.
I write about food. Where it comes from. How it is made. How it is prepared. How it is enjoyed.
Your twitter description says it all but doesn’t convey how much fun it is to read your answers to the various questions you get. The column isn’t snarky or written to let you talk down to anyone. In fact that rarely happens. Since I loathe food snobs, the style is right up my alley. Rather it answers both basic and focused questions. From entry level – just what exactly is the average “room temperature?” or “why let meat rest before starting to eat” – to advanced – “what can be substituted for prosciutto” and are all foods best eaten raw – along with follow-ups and responses. There are explanations of the chemical processes going on and why certain substitutions will or won’t work as well as why ingredients must be added in a certain order to avoid culinary chaos and ruined results.
A friend of mine who is a wonderful cook agrees with your choice of the one essential piece of kitchen equipment you can’t go without: a good quality, sharp knife. She also refuses to substitute margarine for butter. I agree with your views on people photographing their food. Your suggestion of a question to kick-start a conversation with a stranger is a winner. I’m also on the hunt for a flummery recipe now.
Some of the questions and answers are geared more towards Aussie readers – well obviously since the column is written in Melbourne – but most of it can be applied around the world. At the very least, they open a new avenue of interest for me. With all the new foods and ingredients that modern transportation and immigration are exposing us to, it’s sobering to think of an ancient Roman one, silphium, that is now extinct. Then there’s the fascinating information that ancient grindstones of Australian Aboriginals have pushed back the timeline for when humans began farming grain and making bread.
Informative as well as fun, I breezed through this book, laughing and learning along the way. B+