Kitchen miracles happen everyday. No, not the water and wine or loaves and fishes kind of miracles, but the amazing way egg yolks, vinegar and oil, with some concentrated beating, turn into creamy mayonnaise or how a real tear-jerker of an onion becomes a sweet, mellow fellow when slowly sauteed. Russ Parsons, the food editor of the Los Angeles Times, has not only pondered these miracles, he has unraveled their secrets and now gives us the scoop in How to Read a French Fry and Other Stories of Intriguing Kitchen Science. Don't be put off by "kitchen science"; this book is lively and readable, not a textbook with dull explanations of cooking chemistry. Parsons wants us to understand the simple science involved in some of the most important cooking processes and to be able to use that knowledge to improve our own cooking. Added to all the educational info are more than 100 appealing recipes that illustrate the principles he describes. I learned a lot and had a fine time doing it I only wish chemistry lab had been like this!

Sybil Pratt has been cooking up this column for more than five years.

 

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