Long before I ever started writing about food, I always had a copy of Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking at my desk. Yes, even when I worked in human resources. Along with two thesauruses, Webster's dictionary, The National Geographic Desk Reference, The A-Z of Art, the Food Lover's Companion and The Ultimate Food Lover's Guide to Houston, it has long been one of my indispensable reference books, one that travels with me to every desk and office I've ever had.
So it was with great excitement that I unwrapped a copy of Harold McGee's newest book, Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes, on Christmas morning. From just looking at the beautifully minimalist dust jacket, you know immediately what to expect inside: It's one of those cases where you most definitely should judge a book by its cover.
McGee's writing is famously straightforward and uncluttered. There are no pictures in his books, not even any illustrations. Nothing to distract from the simple instructions or guidance he provides in nearly all areas of cooking, from the application of heat to the scientific differences between various types of cutting boards. McGee has always been about the science of cooking, at the heart of it -- a sort of dry, more scholarly Alton Brown, if you will -- but Keys to Good Cooking is an much more affable, easier to digest version of his typical science-driven cooking prose.
Of course, some people have already taken issue with this.
Some Amazon reviewers are frustrated that McGee's new book isn't as geeky as his last. (Uber geeks are even taking issue with the book's fonts and margin sizes.) And although I love a good geek-out, it's precisely that approach that makes Keys to Good Cooking so accessible for a wider audience.
I haven't made it all the way through Keys to Good Cooking yet, but I'm loving the journey so far. And along with a rosy cube of Himalayan sea salt, a jug of rich balsamic vinegar, a giant container of grapeseed oil and an awesome folding cutting board, it's my favorite food-related Christmas present this year.
What's yours? What great food gift did you receive this year? Share your bounty with us in the comments section below.