On Food and Cooking

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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The everyday alchemy of creating food for the body and the mind. This 17th-century woodcut compares the alchemical (“chymick”) work of the bee and the scholar, who transform nature’s raw materials into honey and knowledge. Whenever we cook we become practical chemists, drawing on the accumulated knowledge of generations, and transforming what the Earth offers us into more concentrated forms of pleasure and nourishment. (The first Latin caption reads “Thus we bees make honey, not for ourselves”; the second, “All things in books,” the library being the scholar’s hive. Woodcut from the collection of the International Bee Research Association.)