Saturday, March 12, 2011

Foodie Lust: Modernist Cuisine

Have you heard about this new cookbook Modernist Cuisine? Earlier this week, I read an article about the 6-volume, nearly 2500 page cookbook/brain child of Nathan Myhrvold, former chief technology officer of Microsoft, that's part science, part photography, part haute cuisine (Wired magazine, March 2011 edition). I was almostly instantly intrigued by the glimpse of eye-popping photography and descriptions of fascinating food chemistry and cutting edge cooking techniques (at least by the home cook's standards - I doubt many of us dabble with sous-vide and xantham gum on a regular basis...). As an avid home baker, I know that chemistry is key to a successful recipe, but I only know a few of the foundational concepts (for example, that baking soda needs an acid to work properly, whereas baking powder has the acid built in). when it comes to cooking, I'm practically clueless. I grill the way I do and reuse cooking oil for frying because someone taught me to do those things, not because I know any "secret science" behind it. But this series promises to tell those secrets and more - why "old" oil produces better fried food, while boiling cooks faster than steaming, why raising a grill doesn't lower the heat, etc.

When I heard an interview about the book with Dr. Myhrvold on NPR this morning, I was further convinced that I must some day leaf through the pages of what has been described by some as the authority on modern cooking techniques. It simply appeals to my analytical scientist side (in college, I majored in Biology and Writing - so I've always enjoyed exploring those right brain/left brain connections). Of course, the $460 price tag may be a bit of a deal-breaker (though at least it qualifies for free shipping!!). At least unless I can find a copy at a library - or maybe heavily discounted on eBay. Until then, I think I'll probably have to be satisfied with smaller tidbits and photos from the Modernist Cuisine blog.

Tell me your thoughts - is cooking more art or more science for you? If money were no object, would you rush out to get this cookbook tome? Love to hear your thoughts!


N.D. said...

$460!! oh my. does it include a free chef too?

Rita said...

What an interesting post. The Foodie in me is on high alert with curiosity about these new cooking methods. But...down deep I cherish the old fashioned methods of bringing comfort food to the table. That being said, I will be following that blog you included. Thank you for adding another little tidbit to my love of food/cooking.

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kathryn said...

Honey, if money were no object, I'd hire the cook.

Seriously. I would hire someone to prepare all the meals.

With this said, I adore watching other people cook. I'll hunker down and watch The Food Network any old day.

Sweet And Crumby said...

I don't think I would spend $450 for any cookbook and I truly love all my cookbooks. It just seems insulting that someone would would want to charge that much. Now spending it on really excellent quality chocolate, that's a no brainer. I have my priorities! ;P