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Jeff Potter's new book, Fitness for Geeks, is just sitting on the shelf.
Jeff Potter's new book, Fitness for Geeks, is just sitting on the shelf. The very idea of health at the expense of indulgence feels unseasonably bizarre. It's December, when the world turns away from the sun and the mind turns to thoughts of food. And I fondly recall Potter's cheat sheet to the kitchen which appeared in 2010. Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks and Good Food was a book written by a hacker for other hackers, including the millions who are hackers without knowing it. And it was published by technology specialist O'Reilly, an imprint venerated by hackers everywhere.
You got it. To hack is not to slash, cut or break in. A hacker is not a guy who prangs your computer for the lulz or steals your credit card number to buy the Eiffel Tower with. A hacker was originally an obscure guy who sat at a terminal at MIT, pounding out miles of code. Similarly, journalists were hacks because they pounded a typewriter keyboard. Both have been mainstreamed by the information era. Hacks now think they understand everything, a dangerous idea. The hacker is now a curious dude who wants to get under the hood of the world and see how everything works. Everything, including food.
If you're the kind of weird guy who wants to know why bananas ripen, why fried food is crisp or why water tastes sweet after eating amla, one of the sourest substances known, this is your kind of book. If you have ever considered steeping a pot of Darjeeling armed with a stopwatch and thermometer, it has your name written on the flyleaf.
Geeks tend to obsess about exactitude but paradoxically, Cooking for Geeks (see www.cookingforgeeks.com for the blog) won't give you the perfect recipe for a watermelon salad or a lemon chicken. In fact, it suggests that the whole drama of cooking by the book ó the long lists of hard to find ingredients, the convoluted processes that must be ritualistically performed ó are quite unnecessary. Jeff Potter is a subversive free radical who wants you to play with your food. He wants you to throw away the rule book and learn the physiochemical processes of cooking instead.