Love and Science

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Be­fore Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat I hadn’t bought a cook­book in years. Why search for a half re­mem­bered recipe for Moroc­can Chicken when you can Google it and get 10 to choose from? But cook­books still flood into the mar­ket, many fea­tur­ing food that is whole or raw or mag­i­cally lifechang­ing in some way.

Into this whole­some scene jumps Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. Four words to strike ter­ror into the heart. Salt (fluid re­ten­tion!) Fat (no one will ever love you!) Acid (in­flam­ma­tion!) Heat (you’ll kill the nu­tri­ents!). And it goes nuts around the world, be­com­ing a New York Times best­seller and at­tract­ing ac­co­lades from peo­ple like Michael Pollen and Yo­tam Ot­tolenghi.

At last month’s Writ­ers and Read­ers event in Welling­ton, queues for this book were the long­est of all. The au­thor, Samin Nos­rat, has cre­ated a must-have prod­uct in a no­body-re­ally-needs-it mar­ket and she hasn’t done it through promis­ing a thin­ner body or longer life. She’s done it through pas­sion and an ap­proach that goes deeper than your av­er­age recipe book. Recipes are only a part of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat – as its ti­tle sug­gests, it of­fers a sci­en­tific un­tan­gling of just what makes food taste good. Pollen writes in the in­tro, “recipes are in­fan­til­is­ing: Just do ex­actly what I say, they say, but don’t ask ques­tions or worry your lit­tle head about why.” Maybe it’s the science and the prom­ise of be­com­ing a bet­ter cook that’s ring­ing the sales. Or maybe it’s the re­dis­cov­ery of an un­com­pli­cated, guilt-free love of food. Nos­rat is on page 12.

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