The Flavor Equation approaches cooking and recipes from a scientific viewpoint, explaining how flavor is made up of several different qualities that can be combined and balanced. He suggests there are seven elements to consider: emotion, sight, sound, mouthfeel, aroma, taste, and flavor. Some things are apparent, our emotions affect how we perceive flavor and flavor affects our emotions. There is even a chart for that.
The chapter on sight discusses food colors. He explains how the pigments in our foods are changed by cooking and steps to preserve the brightness of colors. There is a chart for that. He also explains how food shapes can be appealing to us. Then there is sound such as the crisp/crunch of celery. Mouthfeel, crispiness, smoothness, softness, creaminess, and more. There is a chart for that. Then there is aroma. Not only does aroma evoke memories, it is an essential part of flavor. There is a chart. There is also a chart for flavor, from salty to bitter and many more.
The second part of the book explains how to map the flavors of a recipe. It includes brightness and how to affect the brightness of a recipe. There are several recipes that utilize brightness. Bitterness is another flavor element and again many recipes are included. He does the same with saltiness, sweetness, savoriness, fieriness, savoriness, and smokiness.
The Flavor Equation is a very informative book, full of charts – so full of charts – and chock full of science. In terms of information, I would guess it is as good as they come. However, as much as I love charts and graphs, at times they felt as though there were charts for the sake of having charts and they did not actually help. In some ways, the charts complicated the information which makes me think Edward Tufte’s many works on graphic information design would be helpful. I want to reward Sharma for the effort, but this book feels designed to make cooking too complicated and offputting. The recipe choices also feel exclusionary, as though this book is for the professional cook, not the home cook.
I received an e-galley of The Flavor Equation from the publisher through Shelf Awareness.