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Quickie review: Ingredients by George Zaidan

Blurb

Cheese puffs. Coffee. Sunscreen. Vapes. George Zaidan reveals what will kill you, what won’t, and why—explained with high-octane hilarity, hysterical hijinks, and other things that don’t begin with the letter H.

Ingredients offers the perspective of a chemist on the stuff we eat, drink, inhale, and smear on ourselves. Apart from the burning question of whether you should eat that Cheeto, Zaidan explores a range of topics. Here’s a helpful guide:

Stuff in this book:
– How bad is processed food? How sure are we?
– Is sunscreen safe? Should you use it?
– Is coffee good or bad for you?
– What’s your disease horoscope?
– What is that public pool smell made of?
– What happens when you overdose on fentanyl in the sun?
– What do cassava plants and Soviet spies have in common?
– When will you die?

Zaidan, an MIT-trained chemist who cohosted CNBC’s hit Make Me a Millionaire Inventor and wrote and voiced several TED-Ed viral videos, makes chemistry more fun than Hogwarts as he reveals exactly what science can (and can’t) tell us about the packaged ingredients sold to us every day. Sugar, spinach, formaldehyde, cyanide, the ingredients of life and death, and how we know if something is good or bad for us—as well as the genius of aphids and their butts—are all discussed in exquisite detail at breakneck speed.

My review

This book is absolutely fascinating, and written in such an enjoyable way. Think mad professor, eccentric genius, and that’s the author, and I mean that as a massive compliment. He brings such life and fun to a rather serious subject.

We cover a huge variety of ingredients in the three parts of this mine of information. The first part focusses on processed food, plants and microbes. Part Two is intriguingly named ‘how bad is bad’ and weighs up certainty versus uncertainty, and Part Three, Should you eat that Cheese Puff or not, takes a level-headed but joyous look at the alleged evils of many familiar items, edible and otherwise. It finishes with the chapter ‘So what do I do’?’
I’ll tell you what to do – read this book and you’ll come away much better informed and more able to assess for yourself all the food warnings and/or enthusiastic promotions that bombard us practically all the time.
And you’ll know what some of the 950+ chemicals in roasted coffee are.

Writing this review – rather longer after reading the book than intended – has reminded me of exactly how informative and entertaining it was. I’m going to have to read it again now.
I hope we’ll see more from this author.