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nathanm

"Modernist Cuisine" by Myhrvold, Young & Bilet (Part 2)

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[Moderator note: The original "Modernist Cuisine" by Myhrvold, Young & Bilet topic became too large for our servers to handle efficiently, so we've divided it up; the preceding part of this discussion is here: "Modernist Cuisine" by Myhrvold, Young & Bilet (Part 1)]

I wouldn't pay much attention to the Amazon estimated shipping dates.

It is unclear to me that they have any real basis. All of the books in the first printing will ship from China to in the US, Canada or Europe in the next 3 weeks, and a few thousand are currently somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.

So far about 2/3 of the first printing has been pre-ordered. So everybody currently on order ought to get books from these shipments. A second printing is being ordered.

You'd think that traveling thousands of miles by boat would be the majority of their journey. But that isn't really the case. So far they have had several snafus in getting the books out. Some distributors shipped books to the wrong distribution center. Some decided to ship books by train from Seattle to various places in the middle of the country. Some shipped to one distribution center, then decided that the books were too heavy for the equipment at that center, so they proceeded to ship them by truck to another distribution center. One distributor seems to have lost track of 150 books - hopefully this is just a computer error.

It is frustrating, and I am trying to get it all fixed for future shipments.

As as result, the first batch of books has been in the US since early February but took another 3 weeks or so to reach customers. I'm sorry about that, but there is not much I can do.

In principle the remainder of the books ought to reach customers in March, but I suspect that it will take until some point in April due to various silly delays in the book distribution system.


Edited by Mjx Moderator note added. (log)

Nathan

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Nathan,

I received my copy yesterday, and I've been paging through the volumes since. Even without going deep, I managed to learn quite a few things and burst a few myths, like the key role of surface moisture instead of temperature on smoke absorption with bbq. My wife, who is a pastry chef, wished that you would have covered baking in the same manner. In fact, we talked about several food-related areas that are ripe with mythology and could use some bright lights. This could work out to a whole series :)

This is a remarkable work, and you and your crew should be very proud of what you've done. Thanks!

You'd think that traveling thousands of miles by boat would be the majority of their journey. But that isn't really the case.

I live in Redmond, and somehow Amazon decided to send my books to Indianapolis before shipping them back to me via 2-day FedEx.

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It is unclear to me that they have any real basis. All of the books in the first printing will ship from China to in the US, Canada or Europe in the next 3 weeks, and a few thousand are currently somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.

Any idea where in the Pacific Ocean? I'm not saying that I'm planning a James-Bond-meets-Mission-Impossible type of "retrieval" but.. you know.. I just want to make sure that the boat is safe.. wherever it is.. which is where again?

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Alas, the boat does not update me on where it is....


Nathan

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I think we should let Alton be Alton and go back to commenting on Ms Waters.

A fellow chef begged me to go with him to Chez Panisse after a very very very disappointing first visit and I should have heeded the words of our former president.. “Fool me once, shame on.. shame on you. Fool me.. you can't get fooled again”

The food was barely good and the wine pairing they made for us was so utterly atrocious that not even the wonderful dessert was able to rescue it. Did I mention the first visit was also very disappointing? If you’re going to talk about other people’s culinary teaching/endeavors knowing that some poor misguided souls take what you say to heart, then you best be on your “A” game and Ms. Waters dining establishment is not even playing their “B” game.

I’ve already warned my wife that as soon as the book shows up, I will disappear to the basement and resurface sometime in June or July. Seeing as how it’s my Birthday/Christmas/Father’s Day/Cinco de Mayo/Chinese New Year/Boxing Day Present, she has conceded to restrict my access with the outside world.

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Dear Nathan

Thank you for your thoughts and update. Yours is the type of personal service and concern which is seldom seen today, regardless as to whether your name is on the product or not! Maybe the analogy is that all of us are seeing how the sausage is made in the publishing industry thanks to you. In a way, I wonder how any book makes it from concept to the shelf.

Stuff happens and my attitude is that my copy gets here when it gets here. There is little you can do to speed up the propellers or recommend which is the most efficient distribution center for delivery. Well maybe you could advise the one firm as to how to correct their computer errors!

Again, I personally appreciate all you have done.


"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

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It is unclear to me that they have any real basis. All of the books in the first printing will ship from China to in the US, Canada or Europe in the next 3 weeks, and a few thousand are currently somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.

Any idea where in the Pacific Ocean? I'm not saying that I'm planning a James-Bond-meets-Mission-Impossible type of "retrieval" but.. you know.. I just want to make sure that the boat is safe.. wherever it is.. which is where again?

"Captain!! Captain!! We've received a communiqué from a ship of hmm.. "geeky pirates"??”

Give us the books and no one gets hurt stop if you happen to have a centrifuge on board we will take that too stop or a rotovap stop or really anything else that we can use stop will send burgers over when we have finished them stop have a great day stop

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I just checked amazon and my order went from March 8 to April 15! Killing me

Wah! The same thing just happened to me. I ordered August 15 and the expected delivery was March 9....until the morning of March 8:

"We're writing about the order you placed on August 15 2010 (Order# xxx). Unfortunately, the release date for the item(s) listed below has changed, and we need to provide you with a new delivery estimate based on the new release date:

Nathan Myhrvold, et al "Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking"

Estimated arrival date: April 18 2011

We apologize for the inconvenience caused by this delay."

I just got the same message. The 18th happens to be my birthday but the extra wait is hardly a present :(.

Though, from the sound of Nathan's post it looks like they might come sooner than that.

Also, for more salt in the wound, it looks like we missed the first shipment by just a few days (I ordered the 13th, someone on the 9th got their copy).

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Just wanted to add my thanks to Nathan and his team.

My books arrived in Australia 2 days ago and my geeky hubby and son are still raving about the packaging, it was a thing of engineering beauty.

I was very worried that the books would get damaged on transit as often happens to me with heavy orders from amazon but my 'book babies' arrived in mint condition.

Safe travels for all the books, they are amazing.

Quasar

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I just got my copy yesterday and while I knew that the books were large I couldn't conceptualize how truly massive each volume was until they were in front of me.

I've been reading through the first volume today and the nutrition section in particular with great interest. As I read about all the different studies that have been done and all the contradictory or insignificant results, I began to wonder if there is such a thing as THE optimal diet - perhaps instead there a handful or dozens of optimal diets for people with specific genetic traits. I have no scientific basis for this hypothesis but perhaps genetic variation between people accounts for the disparate effects from different diets.

Modernist cuisine points out several instances where men and women had very different results from the same diet - I just wonder if that could be taken even further to point where some people would thrive on a low fat diet while others thrive on a paleo diet and so forth.

Some idle wondering on my part - I would be interested to know if any research has been done along these lines.

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I just got my copy yesterday and while I knew that the books were large I couldn't conceptualize how truly massive each volume was until they were in front of me.

I've been reading through the first volume today and the nutrition section in particular with great interest. As I read about all the different studies that have been done and all the contradictory or insignificant results, I began to wonder if there is such a thing as THE optimal diet - perhaps instead there a handful or dozens of optimal diets for people with specific genetic traits. I have no scientific basis for this hypothesis but perhaps genetic variation between people accounts for the disparate effects from different diets.

Modernist cuisine points out several instances where men and women had very different results from the same diet - I just wonder if that could be taken even further to point where some people would thrive on a low fat diet while others thrive on a paleo diet and so forth.

Some idle wondering on my part - I would be interested to know if any research has been done along these lines.

Not much research, but from epidemiological observations, it makes a lot of sense. You're not the first to speculate on this - in In Defense of Food, Pollen instructs the reader to "eat what your great-grandmother ate". (Which was unlikely to have been a diet rich in cold-swell starches and methylcellulose). Eskimos eat a diet very rich in fat, as do the French; the Japanese eat little fat. And they all seeem to do just fine.

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You're not the first to speculate on this - in In Defense of Food, Pollen instructs the reader to "eat what your great-grandmother ate".

I think the authors of MC took great relish in mocking that particular statement...


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Several people from this thread contacted me privately to mention that the Amazon page was not allowing reviews to be posted, since it still listed the book as pre-release. That has now changed, so you can post a review if you want to.


Nathan

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I think it is late and I am a little bit cranky, but that strikes me as a lazy review.

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I think it is late and I am a little bit cranky, but that strikes me as a lazy review.

I get "overwhelmed" more than lazy. But maybe that's the same thing when you're tasked with reviewing one of the most eagerly awaited books for one of the most respected newspapers in the country.

It's an odd review; I read it last night, shortly after it came out, and again this morning. On the one hand, he fully admits that there are brilliant recipes and information (the pressure-cooker stock, the custard ratios, the format of the recipes themselves) that he himself will use "forever." On the other hand, he takes potshots - "The only cooking discipline they do not cover is pastry (perhaps because you can’t cook a pie crust sous vide)"

I dunno. I really respect Ruhlman and generally love his writing, but this review struck me as odd and scattered. In one paragraph, he seems to be saying the book is opinionated and cold, a book for scientists, not cooks. In the next, he lauds it for its preciseness, attention to detail, and innovative research.

Of course, all this is being said without me actually seeing the book, I'm just going by what I read about it. Maybe I'll understand Ruhlman's review a little bit more when I get my own copy, but for now, I'm not sure what to take away from it all.

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I suspect Ruhlman's review was heavily influenced by deadlines and word counts (though I would have thought that the latter would lead to a more lengthy blog post), so I would blame the format rather than the author for the result.

I think I agree with abadoozy--he seemed overwhelmed. But I think this is because he misunderstands the goal of the book. It seems that MC is not really about recipes, specific techniques, etc. It's really more about thinking about food and cooking analytically. His penultimate paragraph is telling:

I have no desire to make Pringles in my spare time, but I wouldn’t stop anyone who did. Dr. Myhrvold and company tell you how. When I finish work, I relax by cutting and chopping and cooking a simple dinner for the family. Dr. Myhrvold has been relaxing by repairing to a cooking laboratory.

For those for whom cooking is a way to decompress from a long day of mental exercise, the analytical, MC way of thinking is no good. For those for whom cooking is a career, or a hobby, or a passion, MC challenges them to think about what they're doing and why in order to help them cook excellent, reproduceable food. Ruhlman seemed to be looking for step-by-step instructions that he could follow--indeed, those that he found were his favorite parts. But any time the book challenged him to synthesize information and think about it independently, all he could focus on was simply how much information there was to learn.

I actually think the review probably accomplished its goal. For those whom the depth and rigor of MC is riveting, and those who look forward to using sous vide, ebay rotovaps, and specialty texture modifiers, the review does nothing but pique their interest. For those who want recipes that taste good with a nice anecdote, using ingredients exclusively from the farmers' market (or at least the average grocery store), they will rightly see that the book isn't for them. Given how unique MC is in the cooking realm, I think it makes more sense to focus on this sort of context rather than trying to evaluate it based on the plated recipes and compare that to other cookbooks. Edit to add: Go read his blog post. He's much more explicit about his love of all the parametric recipes and sous vide table, and discusses who would like and dislike the books.

Caveat: I too have not seen MC, but I think that's ok given that the review is probably for people that don't own the book.


Edited by emannths (log)

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Ruhlman is certainly no neophyte when it comes to advanced techniques. His association with the CIA, Chef Keller and even a couple glimpses we see of his experiments with sous vide in his blog should have made him the nearly perfect person to review Modernist Cuisine for a national audience. If you look at the sources section of Under Pressure, there are references to chamber vacuums, circulators and PacoJets, along with ingredient purveyors.

Only Michael Ruhlman can answer why he wrote the review from that perspective, but in his blog he does talk about anxiety. Also, I read that he concedes that he will be purchasing a copy for himself. Time may have been the tyrant in this case. A bit further on in his blog, he says that chefs with a positive cash flow should get their copy and use it as a teaching tool. Perhaps, he is trying to avoid calling this a grail and causing people who cannot afford the purchase price to sell the couch and the dog to get a copy for themselves that will never be utilized sufficiently.

On balance, I believe this was a good review for the national audience. There are lots of people in Cleveland and New York and San Francisco who will find the book and the press about the book interesting, but who will not or maybe even should not bother to purchase it. On the other hand, there will be home chefs in small towns in Indiana to which this will be a great addition.


"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

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Is the comment about all but one meat recipe cooked SV accurate? I don't have my copy handy, but that seems wrong. If it isn't, that's a smart observation.

I guess I don't get the anxiety part. As someone who got a review copy early on, I certainly understand feeling overwhelmed when you crack the package open and start confronting its scope. But I guess when I am confronted with a ton of stuff I don't know, I feel an eager appreciation for all I can learn, not, well, anxiety about the ton of stuff I don't know.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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<sob>

I just got the email pushing it back to April 18th. The goddess ordered it for me as a present too. I may just cry.... :sad:


"Drop it in a bucket. If it stays, grill it. If it climbs out, deep fry it" Cajun recipe.

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I think Ruhlman's review was well written and reflects his own personal biases. That is fine and balanced in my opinion. It is a daunting task -like he mentiones on his blog- to review the monster and do it justice in 2 weeks. He does offer the chance to answer any question on his blog, so we are more than welcome to ask him to clarify any points.

Now did anyone else read this:

many inspired by chefs as varied as Alice Waters,

...and wonder if Ms. Waters has any clue that a recipe (or recipes) in the book are inspired by her??


Edited by FoodMan (log)

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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I'd have trouble reviewing the book, for a few reasons. Aside from it feeling like a conflict of interest (I derive personal and organizational pride from the book's genesis here), I'd be very wary of appearing sycophantic. The trouble with Modernist Cuisine from a review standpoint is that it's so categorically amazing and superior to any other cooking work ever written, it's very difficult to come up with any criticism of the type one needs to make a review seem balanced. The only avenues of criticism I can come up with are the populist angle and the information-overload angle, since the only things wrong with the book are that it doesn't cost $13.95 and it can't be read and comprehended in an afternoon, week or year.


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)

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The point about coming off as a sycophant is a good one. It's hard not to sound like an awestruck teen at first -- until you start actually using it. Then you realize that, like all authors, they made decisions, and some of those decisions you agree with more than others. (I haven't found any that I disagree with.) I wish the cheese weren't as salty; I would dial back the temp on that brisket, that sort of thing.

The problem with reviewing it is that one of the main ways you frame a book is using its scope. The scope of this is so massive that there's simply no foothold for such a critique. It's why the references to rotovaps seems forced: they're in there, but they aren't the whole thing.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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For those for whom cooking is a way to decompress from a long day of mental exercise, the analytical, MC way of thinking is no good.

Perhaps true for you, but for me the only way to suppress the day's buzz is to refocus the mind; make it work hard on something else. My mind isn't worn out at the end of the day, it tends to be in hyperdrive and sure isn't going to stop if I do something 'organic'. Whatever I choose to do on those days must be hard; it can be physical or mental, but must require all my attention. I look forward to MC :)

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