Hartel and Hartel pen an eater’s guide to food science

Ever wonder how marshmallow Peeps are made? Or why the bacteria known as probiotics are good for you? Or perhaps why a few grains of uncooked rice are sometimes added to salt shakers? Answers to these and other intriguing food-related questions can be found in “Food Bites: The Science of the Foods We Eat,” a new book written by father-daughter team Rich Hartel and AnnaKate Hartel.

“In this book, we explain some of the things that food scientists work on at a level that most people can understand,” says Rich Hartel, a University of Wisconsin-Madison food engineer who runs the university’s popular candy-making course each summer. “We’re trying to spread the word about food science in a fun and interesting way.”

To that end, many of the book’s 60 short chapters contain a dash of humor, including one that explains why the smell of Limburger cheese is reminiscent of toe jam. Other chapters cover more serious topics, including more than a handful on various aspects of food safety.

The book, which was published in early September, is largely a compilation of columns written by Hartel for Madison’s Capital Times newspaper during the past few years. For the book, Hartel spruced up his favorites and wrote a few new ones with the help of his daughter, AnnaKate, a senior majoring in English at Northland College in Ashland, Wis.

Hartel, who has co-authored numerous books about food technology, is excited about the fruits of his first literary collaboration with his daughter, as he feels the timing is right for a general-interest book about food science.

“The whole field has seen an explosion,” says Hartel. “For whatever reason, people are more interested in learning more about what they put in their mouths.”