The Flavor Matrix: The Art and Science of Pairing Common Ingredients to Create Extraordinary Dishes
Scientific approaches to cooking are not novel, and the chemistry of food science has been an established field for several decades. This book approaches pairing flavors from an olfactic perspective. The idea is that we “taste” with our noses, and hence the most volatile compounds influence our experience of the dish. Successful parings, therefore, are those foods that share similar volatile compounds. Some of these are well-known in traditional cuisine, while others are novel.
The substantive part of the book is Part II, where each “chapter” devotes itself to a specific food. Each food (or food type) starts with a one-paragraph introduction of its culinary uses and a summary of pairings and substitutes. The next page shows that food’s flavor matrix. This resembles a color wheel and shows strong and weak pairings. The next two pages provide a recipe using that food as an ingredient and (most of the time) a picture of the dish. The book’s introduction (Part I) explains the theory behind flavor pairings, the primary chemicals in foods that are responsible for its olfactic properties, and how to interpret the flavor matrix. The last few pages of Part I and most of Part III focus on the taste chemicals in food. The discussion is primarily chemical and adds little to the discussion on combining foods.
While the book does contain recipes, it is not intended as a recipe book. This book’s main focus is food pairings from an olfactic perspective. In this regard, it does an excellent job. Unfortunately, there are few dishes that are prepared with only two ingredients, and aspects of how seasonings or other foods affect the flavor are not fully explored. The book is not chemistry heavy but uses chemistry to understand interactions between the different types of foods. If using the book to create novel dishes, users need to have some background in cooking. However, for fulfilling its objectives, the book does an excellent job.
Chris Hayden has been working at City Book Review since 2012, so that makes him the keeper of knowledge. He manages the office and book reviewers (all 200 of them!), which is no small feat. If you’re looking at the book reviews here, you’re seeing them because he sent the books out for review. Without him, this place would fall apart, because no one else in the office knows how to use the postage machine. Two words: job security.
|Author||James Briscione • Brooke Parkhurst|
|Page Count||320 pages|
|Publisher||Houghton Mifflin Harcourt|
|Amazon||Buy this Book|
|Category||Cooking, Food & Wine|