We’ve all heard of urban legends, those plausible sounding but false stories that circulate so widely on email and news groups, such as the old lady who microwaved her cat or the Nieman-Marcus $250 cookie recipe. There are several web sites, such as Snopes, devoted to researching and exposing these fake stories. The same sort of thing happens in the world of food and cooking, and this page is my answer.
So, who am I and why do I write this blog? I am a retired medical school professor with a long-standing interest in food and cooking. I keep my identity private to avoid abuse from people who don’t like having their beliefs challenged. You would be amazed at how steamed up some people get when I challenge their “knowledge!” I have been accused of being a shill for the high fructose corn syrup people and being in the pay of the MSG manufacturers, that’s how desperate some people are to hang on to their beliefs. In actuality, I have no connection whatever with the food industry and this blog does not bring in a cent.
How do I know these are myths? Why should you believe me over someone who says that something I call a myth is in fact true—particularly if that person is your Mom or Grandma? I can’t answer that question for you, but I can say that all of the information on this page has been carefully researched. I do not claim that something is true or false just because I heard it somewhere or because it seems to “make sense.” I require that something be backed by a credible source (the key word here is “credible”) and/or that it be in accord with accepted scientific knowledge (I am a scientist by training). In most cases this is also backed up by my personal experience (although my personal experience is not, by itself, enough). I certainly do not claim to be infallible but I do try hard to present accurate, verifiable information. Believe me, I have had several of my own long-held cooking “facts” demolished by this research!
Why don’t I cite sources with my myths? There are several reasons. First, I wanted the blog to be casual and readable and not come across like an academic paper. Second, I have found that many people will hang onto their old beliefs no matter how much evidence to the contrary is presented—this is true in all of life, not just cooking, as the evolution and global warming “debates” illustrate. Evidence, for them, is a way of supporting what they already believe and not a basis for changing their beliefs. Finally, the Web is full of “citations” that seem to support pretty much any hair-brained idea, and all too many people can’t distinguish a valid source from an invalid ones. So, no citations—but here are some of my major sources:
- Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking and Keys to Good Cooking.
- Alton Brown’s shows and books (yes, he comes across as a dope, but he does take a fact-based approach to cooking).
- Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything.
- Barham’s The Science of Cooking.
- Modernist Cooking, a 5-volume set of cookery books, full of fascinating information, recipes, and photos.
- Wolke’s What Einstein Told His Cook.
- Kitchen Mysteries by This.
- The Cook’s Illustrated magazines and cookbooks.
- The Food and Drug Administration.
- The Department of Agriculture.
I welcome comments regardless of whether or not you agree with me. Profanity, personal attacks, and name-calling are not acceptable. Spam (comments whose main purpose is to get your irrelevant URL on the blog) is also not acceptable and will be reported to WordPress as such. I must approve all comments, and it may take a week or longer to get around to it.