To Health and happiness-with humor and food

Book Review #1 – “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat”

"Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking" by Samin Nosrat has been a book on my radar for a while. I have read articles claiming some very impressive claims. And with a rating of 4.8 out of 5 and the awards it received, I was convinced this would be something enlightening.

This book is the biggest let down since the pre-toasted bread loaf.

Thanks, Bimbo, for building up my dreams and crushing them for something I didn't even know I wanted/needed and taking them away just as quickly. That is how this book felt except I waited for it. You know that feeling when you have to stand in a long line to get on that roller coaster your friends have raved about for the last two months and are super excited? It's like that- then as soon as the ride starts, the person in front of you pukes on you. OK it's not THAT bad. Maybe it is more like after standing in line for 3 hours you realize its an educational ride about the history of the pluto made for 5-year-olds, lasting 2 hours thus making you miss being able to get your favorite food before the last stall closes...because you are on this darn ride.

And I like Pluto.

This book breaks my heart on how much it does not connect with me. Maybe I am that lone cook out there that was excited about learning and "finding a cookbook that I would actually use" but this book is not it. From the beginning, I was off put. I felt like the writer was aggressively pushing her  "you can do it too" attitude towards the reader. All I could think of was that stereotype of the sleazy car salesman that you see portrayed in TV commercials in shows. I want to think that her enthusiasm is genuine but I can't get behind her approach to the topics.

The book seems haphazardly put together. If you want to break a cookbook into 4 sections, like this book did, then keep the sections about that one topic within each section. This wasn't done in this book. I do not even know it is possible to do so with a book like this. So why are there even sections? Why not chapters? The lack of organization makes me feel like I am chasing a toddler around that's holding my phone that's playing my school lectures. I just want to put my phone in time out so I can just figure out what homework is due for tomorrow. Seriously, I don't need my books-or homework-to be running around all over the place unless I am reading myself an intergalactic sci-fi murder mystery.

Obviously, the book has some structure but sadly, there is no real flow. There are stories about life thrown in there just to ....make the book longer? enlighten us about how well traveled the writer is? This might make it sound like I don't like anecdotes or personal-life themed cookbooks, which is untrue. I think if they are well used or well written they can be quite powerful.

My main problem was the content. Now, this might sound a little brutal, and it probably is. I am sorry to Samin Nosrat that I am offended by something that she worked 20 years on. Please give me a minute to try to explain. There are little things that I probably COULD forgive or possibly not even notice in other books if I was really into them but since I was already peeved they just set me off. I think the perfect example is this. She stated that different vegetables (and every other food) should be salted at different times for best flavor. I have nothing wrong with salt. Saying the fat of prosciutto is bland to balance the over salted meat is a personal opinion I do not agree with but fine. That, along with the rest of your statements saying we would think the amount of salt we need would look like too much, seems a bit presumptuous and condescending. C'est la vie. My problem is that mushrooms and other vegetables need to be salted at different times due to PECTIN!

Why did this science come from? Where has my brain exploded? O wait, this book...

First, I just need to point out for the sake of Dr. William's sake (my old biology teacher) that mushrooms are not vegetables. They are fungi. Please treat these fun guys with respect. Second, she was adamant that salt "broke down" pectin and this is why salting your vegetable made them more tender, cooker quicker, and taste better. Well, this SEEMED wrong. Do you ever get that feeling when you read something that just feels like bananas? Pectin is what we use to make jams and jellies. If I salt my jelly its doesn't break down. There is salt in my jam.  The way to make pectin work is HEAT, most other thickening agents. The other thing my jelly has to be acidic. Now, I am no jam master-beatbox, maybe- but what I do know is that you need a low pH of jelly for canning to keep out those nasty buggies but I don't know if that influenced the binding of the pectin. So I did some research...on pectin in vegetables, not in jam.

This is what I found.

Pectin is only found in the cell walls of vegetables, but not fungi. Think of the cell wall as an envelope and inside of it is all water and other stuff of the cell. Most of this cell wall is made of other stuff, the pectin content is actually really low, like .3-3%. Surprisingly the higher numbers were found in beans, think like lima beans. Salt doesn't break down the pectin but it can replace a little component of it with itself to make it less structurally sound. Think if you were trying whipped cream but instead of a full cup of heavy whipping cream you replaced one tablespoon with whole milk. But this will only happen if there is a high very high concentration of salt outside the vegetables.

So, my conclusions are these:

There are farmers out there that are dealing with salt toxicity with crops and from the studies that I read this has nothing to do with the pectin in the plants. Salt draws water out of cheese and meats when sprinkled on top, so why wouldn't it draw it out of vegetables? Why do we have to rely on salt breaking down this magical pectin in vegetables? I know its there but pectin is broken down from heat and chemical ligases (fancy way of saying chemicals break stuff down). So why is this the main point of salt? In the book, this seems to be the whole topic of the section "salt" so let us retitle this book--Pectin, Fat, Overabundance, and Gluttony. And this is coming from a person who lives a keto-esque lifestyle; if that isn't the pot calling the kettle black I don't know what is. Note: That is a personal jab not a jab against keto people.

I will let you know, I have not finished the book. Should I write a review on a book I have not finished? I don't know the answer to that but I have finished through most of the fat section and that has just been agonizing.

I should say one good thing about the author, she has good taste in olive oil. Seka Hills is good oil. If that says anything about her taste in food, I bet she is a great chef.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *