Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

"Modernist Cuisine" by Myhrvold, Young & Bilet (Part 1)


Renn
 Share

Recommended Posts

It's tough for me to handle the price tag right now but I would love to try a few recipes and techniques. When you get around to the e-version, one that allows you to buy different sections (like lonely planet does) would be awesome. I'd love to try the mac and cheese recipe, for example but I will have to dig around for a different one for the time being. I would gladly pay $5 for it. I understand that this might be difficult because there is a lot of background information needed and I also understand that this isn't just a recipe book.

Having said that, primers of different techniques for smaller amounts might be useful for those without the case to burn on the entire thing. You'd probably have to build an app to handle this type of thing (I can speak from the experience from spending a year on the road with a kindle that the lonely planet e-versions don't work so well because of the formatting problems), which is further investment and giving 30% to apple would also suck, but just speaking from a consumer viewpoint.

Glad to see everyone is loving the book.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm literally pulling my hair out trying to decide if I can drop $500 on the book without risking divorce court.

Ask her if she would give you this book as your birthday, Father's Day and Christmas present this year. Have her wrap up two volumes each holiday (even though you've already looked at them :wink: ). Then she doesn't have to shop for you anymore this year.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was going through my library of cookbooks and seeing how much I have spent on them over time. Consider that if you bought a Keller French Laundry, a couple of Julia Child, some of Batalia's, a Flay, a Momofuku and several from the CIA technique series you have tied up a considerable sum. While they all have elements of teaching, I cannot imagine the sum of knowledge will equal what this book covers. In essence, you spend the money once, not over a year of the latest picture cookbooks. Divide by number of volumes, pages, words or any other metric so you can see how it compares favorably!

"A cloud o' dust! Could be most anything. Even a whirling dervish.

That, gentlemen, is the whirlingest dervish of them all." - The Professionals by Richard Brooks

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was going through my library of cookbooks and seeing how much I have spent on them over time. Consider that if you bought a Keller French Laundry, a couple of Julia Child, some of Batalia's, a Flay, a Momofuku and several from the CIA technique series you have tied up a considerable sum. While they all have elements of teaching, I cannot imagine the sum of knowledge will equal what this book covers. In essence, you spend the money once, not over a year of the latest picture cookbooks. Divide by number of volumes, pages, words or any other metric so you can see how it compares favorably!

Unfortunately that math only works if you never bought the books you mentioned. The real formula is Divide by number of volumes, pages, words or any other metric PLUS whatever you already spent on the multiple volumes of cookbooks. So the question is, does this volume provide enough extra value to justify the added expense to an already expansive library. That's where I'm at, justification.


I have simple tastes. I am always satisfied with the best - Oscar Wilde

The Easy Bohemian

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm confident you'll find very little overlap between Modernist Cuisine and any other cookbooks in your collection. Most cookbooks provide you with some increment of knowledge over what's already out there, if you're lucky. Modernist Cuisine goes in many new directions. So whatever you do spend on it is almost all allocable to the new-information category.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's a good review: the criticism is pretty much spot on:

There are a few relatively simple recipes in the book, such as the aforementioned "Chantilly" techniques. But most demand special equipment and have multiple components, some as many as 12 sub-recipes, that can demand from 20 minutes to 60 hours of preparation. A "Breakfast Egg" that takes 4 hours and 20 minutes to prepare is not really meant for your breakfast.

While of course many are cooking things from the book, I suspect many more will value it more for the first four volumes (and the kitchen manual) than for the fifth volume, which is dedicated to plated dishes the likes of which you expect to see at Alinea or The French Laundry. I suspect not many of those are going to be making an appearance at dinner parties!

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yeah, it seems like fair review to me, too, though I found the two paragraphs about alleged conflict amongst modernists to be confusing, not to mention beside the point -- and space that could have been used better.

But Napoleon rightly said that "history is written by the winners," and Myhrvold clearly sides with the Anglo-Americans, who at this point seem like the winners. At the same time, he graciously allows other voices to be heard.

Who knew there was a war going on? And who declared Americans the victors? The books are full of recipes from pretty much anyone who's made a significant mark on moderninst cuisine, and if there's an Anglo bias, I certainly haven't noticed it.

On the other hand, I think she encapsulates the real value of the book, at least for me:

I like culinary modernism for its ability to shock, please and tickle my senses when I visit a top restaurant. But what I appreciate just as much is the fact that having breakfast like a modernist means I can enjoy a slice of fresh-tasting, three-day-old bread.

I had a similar moment last night when I was making French fries. I've gotten into the habit of relying mostly on timing, with a visual check for golden-brownness. But for several reasons, those aren't really good (or at least not the only) indicators of fry goodness. Having just read the section in MC about the three stages of deep frying, I had been reminded of things I'd forgotten, and had gotten scientific clarification on what I was seeing in the pot. Result: best fries I've made in many months.

As for the notion that the recipes are too complicated, the same thing could be said about many restaurant-based cookbooks. That doesn't mean they aren't worth having and reading.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I spent a lot of time in the past 2 years in biology labs with centrifuges, vacuum centrifuges, lots of water bath incubators (aka sous vide setups), rotor-stator homegenizers, and when hungry waiting for a good lunch or dinner break, I'd often fantasize about using them for cooking. Too bad they were being used for lots of not-food-safe stuff!

Now that my lab days are behind me, I spend even less time in the kitchen, and depend on meals that tolerate cooking ahead, freezing or refrigerating, and reheating in a microwave for eating away from home. I know that some (or many or most?) gels are quite sensitive to things like freeze-thaw cycles, and have eaten more than my share of excellently flavored but sad-textured vegetable soups for lunch at work. Is there much discussion of preserving the best flavors and textures for this sort of every-day cook-ahead eating in Modernist Cuisine?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here is commentary on this book from today's Washington Post. The review is clearly a positive one with some reservations. I hope it can be read without being ripped by the true believers.

Andreas Viestad review

I guess I'm not a TB because I think that the review is the best yet and has useful criticisms as noted above. I would take issue with this:

Simply put, it is the most useful cookbook you'll probably never cook from.

I have the Alinea cookbook so I get the concept here, but I have already cooked many things "from" this. I guess it depends on what "from" means, and, as Chris Hennes pointed out, which volume you're holding.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There has been a lot of press on the book recently, much of which discusses recipes or what the food tastes like.

Wired Magazine has a big article.

The Washington Post also has an article about the book, mentioned above. What the post above does not say is that the article includes a couple recipes, which may be of interest. They also have a Q & A section. There is also an article about one of the dinners we had for food writers and chefs.

Newsweek also has an article.

More articles, including more book reviews are expected in the next few weeks.

Nathan

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yeah, it seems like fair review to me, too, though I found the two paragraphs about alleged conflict amongst modernists to be confusing, not to mention beside the point -- and space that could have been used better.

But Napoleon rightly said that "history is written by the winners," and Myhrvold clearly sides with the Anglo-Americans, who at this point seem like the winners. At the same time, he graciously allows other voices to be heard.

Who knew there was a war going on? And who declared Americans the victors? The books are full of recipes from pretty much anyone who's made a significant mark on moderninst cuisine, and if there's an Anglo bias, I certainly haven't noticed it.

I should briefly explain. There is no war, but there is some controversy about a topic that to most people will be some very obscure points about history of the movement. Frankly, not that many people will care.

The book covers the origin of what we call "modernist cuisine". Like the start of a great river, the origin isn't one single thing, it is a bunch of streams that come together. One stream of history is technological innovation in cooking (sous vide, other things from industrial cooking technology). Another stream is chefs like Ferran Adria, and Heston Blumenthal who started innovating in their restaurant cuisine.

A third stream is the role of science is cooking. Science has been involved with food at least since Louis Pasteur in the 19th century, but the big move in terms of home and restaurant chefs started in 1984 with Harold McGee's book On Food and Cooking.

Herve This, and Nickolas Kurti were another sub-stream of science in the kitchen. In 1992, This, Kurti, Elizabeth Thomas and Harold McGee organized a conference at Erice in Sicily. This conference was called "molecular gastronomy", and was the first use of that name. All together there were six conferences held at Erice between 1992 and 2004.

There are a series of controversies about these topics:

1. Some people think that the 1992 conference is what started the whole movement.

2. Others don't, and think that this conference, while interesting for food science, was largely irrelevant to the development of actual cuisine. They point out that the key chefs in the movement didn't particpate. Ferran Adria started his cuisine innovations in 1983 long befor the conference. He never went to Erice conferences nor did any Spanish chef. Heston Blumenthal only went long after he developed his own cuisine. McGee published his book in 1984.

3. The conference put the name out there, and as a result some people think the movement should be called "molecular gastronomy", but that is a very problematic name. Herve This argues very strongly that the name should NOT be used for cuisine and instead the name should be used only for science. Since Herve also is arguably the leader of the "MG is science" camp, that carries some weight. Chefs on the other hand, seem to universally hate the name "molecular gastronomy". So since both Herve This, and the chefs both hate applying the name to the cusine, I don't think it makes sense to call it that. But it is still controversal, and many people use it.

4. Quite separately, some food scientists argue that the Herve This view of "molecular gastronomy" as a new scientific discipline is a bit overblown, because it is at most a sub-branch of food science, which is a hundred year old scientific discpline.

5. Finally, at the micro level, there are multiple different stories told about who actually organized the conference. These accounts contradict each other on issues like who did what, and who deserves credit. Of course your position on who deserves credit depends in part on the other controversies. If you think the conferences were not important then credit is a bit moot.

This set of controveries is what the reviewer was referring to. I suspect that hardly anybody will understand the reference, but I do because he and I discussed it quite a bit in a phone interview.

I think he calls it "anglo american" because Herve This is French, while Blumenthal is British and McGee is American. He thinks that I side with the latter group, which I guess is his opinon. I try to explain all sides of these issues, and I certainly recognize that there are multiple points of view on this.

Still, calling it "anglo american" it is a bit odd since the early development of the cuisine (as I explain it) owes a lot to Spaniards - especially Ferran Adria, but also Joan Roca, Juan Arzak and others.

I hope that clears up the point in the review.

If you like detailed food history, there is quite a bit of it in chapter 1. If not,then there aer ~2300 other pages of material!

Edited by nathanm (log)

Nathan

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I changed my shipping speed on Amazon.ca and now it says that my estimated shipping date is April 8, 2011. Have anyone else's orders from Amazon.ca shipping date changed to April 8? I'm worried that I got bumped to the back of the line and their customer service is not helping me. !!!

Edited by ValM (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I changed my shipping speed on Amazon.ca and now it says that my estimated shipping date is April 8, 2011. Have anyone else's orders from Amazon.ca shipping date changed to April 8? I'm worried that I got bumped to the back of the line and their customer service is not helping me. !!!

Mine still says March 7th at Amazon.ca and I'm in the US.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I changed my shipping speed on Amazon.ca and now it says that my estimated shipping date is April 8, 2011. Have anyone else's orders from Amazon.ca shipping date changed to April 8? I'm worried that I got bumped to the back of the line and their customer service is not helping me. !!!

What date was your order on Amazon.ca?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
 Share

  • Similar Content

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...