Here at the “International Institute for Authors Who Are Supposed To Get Every Last Edit In Within The Next 36 Hours,” there’s been a recent bittersweet moment. (There are many bittersweet moments in book writing, but that’s another blog post. Which I will do. Just not in the next 36 hours.)
In the design process of the book, some sections and interviews are having to get trimmed down to fit the spreads in the book. (The design is looking amazing, by the way, thanks to the amazing Edie Freedman at O’Reilly Media. Amazing.)
One such spread is my interview with Harold McGee, which I had to chop by 200 words to fit to the spread. I’d asked him about his approach to the kitchen and how he goes about solving “food mysteries.”
Here is the part of his answer from our interview that just didn’t fit.
I just get in there and try and understand it, first by doing controlled experiments. You set things up so that you’re only changing one variable, doing things side by side so that you’re not comparing the flavor of something from three days ago or a week ago with what you’re doing now, in order to really see what’s happening.
If necessary, you can go to the literature and try to find out what the chemistry might be, but the first thing is realizing that foods are really complicated. Nobody really understands completely what’s going on, and the only way to find out what’s going on with whatever you happen to be interested in is to make it over and over again in different ways and see how it changes when you change different variables and come to an understanding that way.
The nice thing about that is that it’s kind of like science back in the 17th century, when anybody could pick up a telescope and look at the sky and discover something new. That’s changing, but I think it’s still true that there are lots of things that go on in the kitchen that no one has really taken that close a look at, so you may be the first.
—Harold McGee, author of On Food and Cooking