by Bob Scher
People who create things -- engineers, designers, programmers, artists, and cooks -- need to have an intuitive grasp of sensitivity analysis. In other words, each of these people knows what kinds of changes in the input are likely to change the output, and by how much. The shameful thing is that this fundamental concept is barely taught in schools, if at all. A lot of things about Fear of Cooking are good, but the single thing that makes it a really outstanding book is that Scher makes the sensitivity analysis explicit by encouraging the cook to experiment, to sense and understand the food and the processes that create it: this is very different from just following a recipe. Other good things about this book are that it's engaging and funny; for example, it starts with a recipe that is designed to fail.
Scher treats cooking both as art and as an engineering discipline. The first is a pleasurable activity that produces pleasurable results; the second, a way to achieve a goal given limited resources such as time, equipment, and ingredients.
copyright © 2003 John Regehr