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

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That 30-35% discount is really only found on books where the publisher is printing 2x their projected sales (the convention in modern hardcover publishing). I doubt that Nathan's publisher is printing twice as many of these as they project selling, it's too expensive, and the market too small.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Chris is right about that - we don't want to print any more than we can sell. And we don't have any good way to project what sales will be, so we tend to be cautious. So, we are not going to have tons of books to sell at a deep discount, if we can possibly help it.


Nathan

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We just added a new feature to the web site, which is a long excerpt about the story of how we came to create the book, the photographs and the recipes. It is available here .


Nathan

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We just added a new feature to the web site, which is a long excerpt about the story of how we came to create the book, the photographs and the recipes. It is available here .

Nathan,

Who is the publisher of your book?

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I'm puzzled by the halibut brandade recipe.

a) The yield is given as 800g, but adding the ingredients (except the water) comes to 545g. What is the other 250g?

b) What do you do with the water? 1kg (or even 250g) would make a very liquid puree - Escoffier uses about the equivalent of 50g of milk to loosen the puree

c) 250g seems like a lot of potato - one and half times the amount of fish?

d) THe illustration shows I guess the salt halibut in a different plating (no caption), rather than the recipe

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The yield is 800g because the salted halibut is dry and it absorbs milk that it is soaked in. 160g of salted halibut will weigh much more after soaking.

The 1kg/1 liter of water is meant to be drained, not included. I suppose that could be more clear, and I will check to see if it is that way in the actual recipe (what you are seeing here is the about-the-recipe example).

In some cases a soaking or cooking liquid is not that important - that is the case with the milk used to soak the dried fish in the first steps. Since the amount is not critical we do not give a dimension and say "as needed to cover" or something like that.

In other cases the recipe works best with a certain amount even if the liquid is not included. Here, we want enough water to make it easy to get the starch out, so we call for 1kg for 250g of sliced potatoes.

The ratio of potato to dried fish is 1.6:1 in this recipe (250g potato to 160g fish). Many brandade recipes have different ratios - this example has 2:1 ratio (1 lb potato to 8 oz fish). Some brandade recipes are all fish with no potato at all, while some others are more like fish-flavored mashed potatoes. This ratio is what we liked best for our application.

The actual application of this particular recipe is that it is mixed with choux pastry batter, and injected into zucchini blossoms, which are then deep fried as a fritter. You could serve it as is however without those added steps.


Edited by nathanm (log)

Nathan

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I forgot to add that the photo below the recipe is a step in making the dried halibut, which we also give a recipe for, not a step in making the brandade.


Nathan

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On pg 94:

"So if you’re using 75 grams of egg yolks to make

the recipe, you need 35 grams of vinegar, because

75 grams times 47% equals 35. But say you only

have 65 grams of egg yolks. How much butter

should you use? This is where the scaling percentage

really simplifies things. Just multiply the same

47% for vinegar times the actual weight of egg

yolks available—65 grams—to get the answer:

30.5 grams of vinegar"

I'm pretty sure that should say vinegar, not butter.


PS: I am a guy.

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Nathan, can you comment some on why you wrote a book instead of using some other information format? I for one am very happy, but given your background it's fascinating that you chose a medium that's getting kicked around quite a bit these days. :wink:


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I'm pretty sure that should say vinegar, not butter.

You are right. We pulled this together quickly. Volume 1 will not go through final review for the printer for another 2 to 3 weeks, so we rushed this part of it out the door. Thanks for finding it, we will make the correction!


Nathan

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Well I'm telling every other cook I know so we're gonna try and get some serious demand for this book going. BTW too bad you couldn't tie it to the Bay Area in some way and work with my friend at KQED.


Sleep, bike, cook, feed, repeat...

Chef Facebook HQ Menlo Park, CA

My eGullet Foodblog

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We thought long and hard about the best medium for our content. Because I have been involved in the computer industry, many people assumed that I would choose to do the book as a web site, or an interactive application or an e-book.

The reality is that if you want to communicate large high resolution photos, a printed book is still a good way to do it. This is particularly true when you consider the target audience - we want this book to reach food lovers all over the world. The penetration of e-book readers or tablet computers to that audience is not very high.

Those of us on eGullet are at the cutting edge - we all use computers and the internet or else we couldn't be reading this. But that does not include everybody in the cooking world who might benefit from this book.

Interactive content is also much harder to create than information for a book. So, we had to make a strategic decision as to what platform we would tackle first. We made this decision two years ago, and at that point it was obvious that a printed book was the best thing to do. It wasn't even a close call - the decision was very simple. Printed books have lots of great features, and in 2008 it was totally clear that it was the best inital target.

We considered being partially digital, and having a CD ROM (like the elBulli books do) or a thumbdrive, which contained recipes. However we ultimately decided that a spiral bound kitchen manual on waterproof paper was an even better way to get the recipes in a form that people could use in a messy kitchen.

Another interesting thing as that even as people say that paper books are dead, there has never been a better time to make them in terms of the infrastructure. We lay out files in Seattle, where they are adjusted, color corrected and sent to China digitally for printing. The Internet makes this all vastly easier. The Chinese printers use very advanced technology like stochastic screening to give us printing superior to virtually all other books - even to art books. Using the internet (including eGullet!) we can reach a wide audience to let them know about the book, and via online companies like Amazon and others we can sell the book. Our web site for Modernist Cuisine got hits from people in 91 countries within its first three days.

This makes it difficult for the big publishing companies beacuse they used to take advantage of the fact that they had huge advantages over individual authors. That is much less true today, which is one of the reasons they are having a hard time.

I am hoping that this book will have many editions in the future, and be a standard reference book for many years. If that happens then we will certainly make an electronic form at some point, but I think that is a minimum of a couple years away. It will take a big effort to really take advantage of interactive features. We also need the hardware platforms to evolve and improve.

A lot of people are asking about an e-book version because they want a cheaper book. While I understand that, the thing that is most important to me is the potential to make a better book. E-book platforms are unlikely to be as good as paper in terms of resolution or screen size, at least in the near future, but interactivity can compensate by adding new features, like video, animation and calculation (scaling recipes, converting temperatures). It would take a lot of effort to make a cookbook that uses video and computer animation extensively. There were some CD-ROM based cooking titles that tried this back in the mid 1990s, but the internet basically snuffed those efforts out. I am not aware of a really successful effort in this direction.

On the topic of cheaper, it is far from clear to me that a truly interactive, video heavy version would be cheaper than a paper book. It is true that if you have a simple text-only book like a novel, then making an e-book version is easy, and ought to be cheaper. In that case the main benefit of being electronic is eliminating paper (weight, printing, shipping cost, shipping delay...). I really love my Kindle for that.

I have a bunch of cookbooks for Kindle, and frankly they do not provide a very satisfactory reading experience. A novel or non-fiction trade book on Kindle is a very good reading experience - I think as good as paper for legibility, and better for things like weight and convenience. Math books, on the other hand, are usually a very bad experience on Kindle because the equaitons are not handled well - they are treated as pictures, and Kindle does not do pictures very well. Cookbooks are somewhere in between. The recipes don't format all that well, and pictures don't come out well.

However, if you make a e-book version by shooting video, making computer animations, and adding other interactive features, then it may well be more expensive. Indeed if you look at cooking DVDs, they are typically $20 for an hour or two of content. That is very expensive in terms of the cost per hour, or per recipe, or per topic.

Finally, we won't make a e-book or interactive version if the print version isn't popular. While I have every expectation that the paper form is going to be a great success, only time will tell. If nobody likes it, then we won't have a e-book edition. If people do like it then an e-book will be one thing to consider. However, we also have to think about spending the resources on other topics. Modernist Cuisine is savory only - we don't do pastry, dessert or baking. It may make more sense to do a pastry book than to sink effort into an e-book, especially if the hardware platfroms continue to evolve.


Nathan

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Well I'm telling every other cook I know so we're gonna try and get some serious demand for this book going. BTW too bad you couldn't tie it to the Bay Area in some way and work with my friend at KQED.

THANK YOU! I particularly appreciate the vote of confidence when you haven't seen the book yourself yet. I'm confident that you won't be disappointed.

We'd be happy to talk to your friend at KQED (and I think that may be in process). At the moment I am putting all of my efforts into finishing the book - we will turn to promoting it once that is done.


Nathan

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Thank you Nathan for your well-reasoned response on why "Modernist Cuisine" will be a book rather than any other form of delivery. There is often the assumption that because a technology is old that it is not as good but in the case of cookbooks there is still a huge attachment to the physicality of the book. Particularly in the kitchen where technology is not yet flour and spills proof, unlike your wipe-clean pages.

I also have a question for you. Will you supply review copies? We would love to index the book on Eat Your Books, a huge task, and if we can get an advance review copy we can have it indexed for when the book goes on sale.


Jane Kelly

Co-founder of Eat Your Books

www.eatyourbooks.com

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The books are being printed in China. It takes about a month to six weeks for the books to be shipped by boat. We can air freight them but it is very expensive ($100 per book). As a result, we might be able to get a few review copies available for loan about a month before the book actually ships, but we won't have very many because they are expensive to air freight. Indeed, we may have already promised the few that we will get.

Some books have a relatively large print run of galley copies for reviewers. We decided that was impractical for our book - it was just too expensive, but even more important it would delay the real copies. So our galley proofs are only a single copy, and unbound.

Once the book actually arrives and starts to ship, then we will have some more copies. However our policy for reviews is to do loaners - the reviewers must return the books (or buy their own). This loaner policy is typical of expensive art books.


Nathan

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Thanks Nathan - a loaner would be fine, as and when you have one available, and as we will just be indexing it it will be returned to you in good nick. And we may well feel tempted to invest.


Jane Kelly

Co-founder of Eat Your Books

www.eatyourbooks.com

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Sigh. I sat there an looked at it on Amazon and was plotting how to pitch it to my we-have-too-many-cookbooks wife (though it won't be *that* hard of a sale), and then Amazon goes and jacks the price. The magic $500 number is tough. Grrr.... well, I guess, a little patience and then 'pull the trigger' anyway.

As an aside, actually the two primary things I like about e-books for reference is (a) portability (eg I surf them here and there and bring my collection with me) and (b) Searching. Cheaper is a bonus when it happens, but just that, a bonus. However, I can certainly see why a project started 2 years ago would go paper, or even one started today for that matter.

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Next, a provocative chapter on food and health examines many of the most common beliefs about what we should and should not eat to stay healthy—and finds disappointingly few that have survived careful scrutiny by the scientific community. (From the intro to vol 1).

Could it be that Modernist Cuisine will be another voice in the growing criticism of the lipid hypothesis? Judging by the generous use of suet in the ultimate hamburger recipe upthread, Modernist Cuisine seems happily free of lipophobia, the irrational fear of fat. If so, more cheers for it.

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It is back at 420 on amazon. These fluctuations really happen to me all the time.

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Nathan, does the food safety chapter cover anything related to charcuterie (e.g. the impact of salt, nitrite, nitrate, etc. on food safety)?


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Food safety discusses cooking, but not curing.

Food and health discusses salt intake and health.

The meat chapter has a subchapter on curing which discusses safety aspects of nitrates and nitrites.

So yes, we cover all of that, but not all in one place.


Nathan

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Thank you Nathan for your well-reasoned response on why "Modernist Cuisine" will be a book rather than any other form of delivery. There is often the assumption that because a technology is old that it is not as good but in the case of cookbooks there is still a huge attachment to the physicality of the book.

I agree. I personally hope printed cookbooks never become obsolete... at least not in my lifetime.


It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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... looked at it on Amazon and was plotting how to pitch it to my we-have-too-many-cookbooks wife ...

Paul, you're right that it may not be too hard to sell. I have a wife with a similar view of my cookbook collection; I simply showed her the photo of the 'exploded' hamburger and a couple of the cutaway shots and she's convinced.

Now the problem will be getting the book to New Zealand without freight costing more than the book. Ho hum.


Leslie Craven, aka "lesliec"
Host, eG Forumslcraven@egstaff.org

After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relatives ~ Oscar Wilde

My eG Foodblog

eGullet Ethics Code signatory

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Check out the freight on Amazon. I got in early with a pre-order but including standard international shipping to Australia the cost was only US$431.85.


Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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