Food for Thought: Food History & Science Cooking Techniques  by Mark Vogel.   ( 2020).

Are you suffering from cabin fever, having  been on “lockdown” for a week, facing a future of being housebound for who knows how long? I have a suggestion to help you pass the time in a productive and interesting way, learn fun facts about food, and sample new recipes. Purchase a copy of Mark Vogel’s new book, Food for Thought: Food History & Science Cooking Techniques.  Amazon is still delivering orders made in recent days, and you can have a copy of this fabulous epicureans delight dropped at your door. Exploring the wealth of information will provide many fruitful hours during this stressful time.

The first section of the book defines a glossary of terms and procedures that appear frequently in the art of cooking. By including them in a comprehensive glossary, if you forget the meaning of a term, you can flip back to the beginning of the text and  quickly refresh yourself on the meaning. 

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After the glossary, the book is divided into three parts. The initial section explains the many cooking techniques that a chef must know before embarking on a meal. Fundamentally, it is essential for the cook to be well versed in cooking methodology. 

Part II delves into specific ingredients used in each recipe. Vogel states, “Here we scrutinize the history, science, and nature of individual terms. What does bone marrow have to do with prehistoric man’s brain development? What does the Battle of Trafalgar have to do with beets? How does an egg’s age influence how it should be cooked? How do you select clams, and how do you know when they are done?” The historical references are brief, but interesting, often piquing your appetite to explore culinary traditions further.

The third part of the book explores how to prepare classic dishes, such as Crêpe Suzette (and who was that woman, Suzette) and Steak Diane, created by flambéing the meat.

Thus, the book is organized deftly to make it inviting to use. But, here is the absolute best part of Vogel’s volume. The recipes are simple so that even a neophyte can follow the directions and prepare a gourmet meal. 

Here are a few examples from Vogel to whet your appetite on just a few of the foods presented. Take the history and properties of fennel, a plant indigenous to the Mediterranean and Southwest Asia. The ancient Greeks and Romans used it in their culture, and fennel spread across the European continent. It eventually was thought to have medicinal properties and was used to cure many maladies, including banishing witches from one’s midst. 

Fennel can be used in soups and stews,, but salad is where fennel is at its best. It is crunchy and the flavor of the plant is that of anise, an excellent ingredient to add to the taste of salad.  The recipe included for fennel is that of a salad that should take no more than ten minutes to prepare for the table. 

One of my favorite foods is rice, a staple with over 7,000 varieties, indigenous to Africa and Asia. Humans have been cultivating rice from about 8500 B.C., and it is still one of the most important foods on Earth. Vogel explains the differences between basmati, jasmine, texmati, and brown rice. Following the basic instructions to prepare rice, two recipes are presented as well.

I met the author of Food for Thought, Mark Vogel, when he was selling his novel, Crestwood Lake,  at a street fair in Westfield. The book intrigued me and I introduced myself to Mark and purchased a copy of the novel. At that time, he gave me a brief biography of his interesting life. Vogel has been a doctor of clinical psychology for over 30 years. However, his fascination with the culinary arts led him to studying at the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan from which he graduated in 2003. 

Vogel has taught numerous cooking classes and published hundreds of articles, which led him to the idea of compiling Food for Thought. However, Mark let me know that his passion is studying (and drinking) fine wines. 

So, order a copy of Vogel’s book, make several of the excellent recipes included, and raise a glass of wine to the health of all of those whom you love, and for the rest of the world, suffering during this pandemic.

Be safe. Be well. Now you may have the time to read that you normally do not have, so enjoy.