Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Review: The Proof and the Pudding: What Mathematicians, Cooks, and You Have in Common by Jim Henle

Tie on your apron and step into Jim Henle’s kitchen as he demonstrates how two equally savory pursuits—cooking and mathematics—have more in common than you realize. A tasty dish for gourmets of popular math, The Proof and the Pudding offers a witty and flavorful blend of mathematical treats and gastronomic delights that reveal how life in the mathematical world is tantalizingly similar to life in the kitchen.
Take a tricky Sudoku puzzle and a cake that fell. Henle shows you that the best way to deal with cooking disasters is also the best way to solve math problems. Or take an L-shaped billiard table and a sudden desire for Italian potstickers. He explains how preferring geometry over algebra (or algebra over geometry) is just like preferring a California roll to chicken tikka masala. Do you want to know why playfulness is rampant in math and cooking? Or how to turn stinky cheese into an awesome ice cream treat? It’s all here: original math and original recipes plus the mathematical equivalents of vegetarianism, Asian fusion, and celebrity chefs.
Pleasurable and lighthearted, The Proof and the Pudding is a feast for the intellect as well as the palate.
Jim Henle is the Myra M. Sampson Professor of Mathematics and Statistics at Smith College. His books include Sweet Reason: A Field Guide to Modern Logic and Calculus: The Language of Change. He lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Although I like math, I tend to shy away from math books like these since they tend to be boring.

In The Proof and the Pudding: What Mathematicians, Cooks, and You Have in Common, the author shows readers the parallelisms of math and cooking. The book includes math puzzles and games, as well as recipes created by the author which readers can try at home.

The book was certainly successful in making me see the similarities between math and cooking. The one that stuck to me, especially, was how attitude and confidence was the most important thing when tackling math problems and cooking. That's certainly a helpful lesson for people, particularly those who aren't all that confident about mathematics.

The whole tone of the book was more inspirational than reference-like. The writing was funny, sometimes sarcastic, and was a little bit like Leonard-meets-Sheldon (from Big Bang Theory). This, plus the addition of recipes, kept the book from being boring.

The book will appeal mostly to math enthusiasts and cooking enthusiasts, obviously. Additional examples of puzzles and such can be found in a special website for the book. The recipes, on the other hand, look delicious and worth trying if you have the inclination to cook.

It wasn't an exact fit for me, so I wasn't fully into it. However, I do appreciate and like how I was able to feel the author's passion for mathematics practically pour out from the page. That kind of enthusiasm helps make the subject more fun and interesting, and helps make me feel more excited about the subjects discussed as well.

Thanks to NetGalley and Princeton University Press for the e-ARC.


  1. The author's passion is contagious.
  2. The recipes look doable and like they'll produce delicious food.
  3. It makes math look fun.


  1. If math isn't your strong point, you may find your attention wandering a few times. 


  1. You like mathematics.
  2. You like cooking.
  3. You like books that make boring subjects more fun. 



Note: This post may contain Amazon affiliate links.

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