The reason the cookie crumbles
Luigi De Marco
The word “chemical” is often used with negative connotations. The words “hazardous,” “carcinogenic,” and “polluting” come to mind.
Dr. Joe Schwarcz, a chemist at McGill University, does his best to debunk myths about science and chemistry. His latest installment in a series of books dedicated to demystifying science for laypeople is That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles: 62 All-New Commentaries on the Fascinating Chemistry of Everyday Life . In the preface, Dr. Schwarcz mentions that his inspiration for the book came from his weekly column in the Gazette, his Friday morning radio show on CJAD and from questions he has received while lecturing.
As a chemistry student, I doubted that reading a book about popular chemistry could be interesting, but Dr. Schwarcz does something beautiful as he explains the chemistry behind daily phenomena without getting too technical.
The first half of the 275-page book focuses mainly on food and the chemistry behind nutrition. The book addresses relevant issues such as the use of aspartame as an artificial sweetener, the immense benefits behind eating certain vegetables, such as cabbage, and of course, why cookies crumble. As it turns out, flour contains giant networks of protein called gluten. The more gluten flour has, the tougher it is to break when it ’s cooked. A skilled bread maker will use high gluten flour so that his bread does not fall apart, whereas a skilled cookie maker will always use low gluten flour. All-purpose flour is low in gluten. A lack of gluten is the reason cookies crumble.
If food and nutrition are not your particular interests, the book tackles many relevant topics, such as lead in our pipes, lead paint and why we need to get rid of it, and why there is no need to worry about the radiation that comes from our wristwatches. Dr. Schwarcz also tells the story of how the color mauve was created and of how it became the first dye ever.
The portability of the book makes it ideal for commuters and its bite-sized format lets you pick it up no matter how little time you have. What ’s more, once you’re finished reading, it’s great to have around for reference.
That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles is perfect for anybody who wants to learn more about the things we take for granted each day. The paperback can be bought online at www.amazon.com for $11.21 or at Chapters or Indigo for $13.64.