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

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I want to ask everybody who has MC to report any typos that you find to us. So far we have found a couple ourselves, and just today somebody from eGullet reported another one. Obviously in a 2438 page book there will be some, and it would help a lot to get them reported.

Just send me a personal message via eGullet if you find any.


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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:

I just got my shipment notice from Amazon; MC will be in the house Monday!

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I'd like to point out another thing about this book, especially after reading all the comments related to the NYT review.

Years ago reviews were a "necessary evil", they were almost the only way to get to know about something, and the potential buyer had to rely on the comments of the reviewer. But with MC there is almost no need for a review: everyone can simply go on their official website, and there are all the infos to understand if this book is worth to be bought based to the likes, needs and budgets of the potential buyer. The MC staff made a wonderful work about this: they put the complete index, a boatload of images and a lot of excerpts from the book. With the same amount of time you spend reading a review, you surf the MC website and make a first hand idea if the MC book is something you want/need/like or not.

I like to buy cookbooks online, but most of the times it's difficult to understand exactly how a certain book is made, and what its contents are. With MC it's all so easy: on their website you find all the data you need to make your own idea on how it's made and what it's worth for you.

So my point is: why caring about a review or another, while we can get our own idea based on our own way of thinking just looking at the MC website? Everybody is different, and neither the best reviewer in the world can be able to write a review that can explain to each reader if a book/CD/whatever is good for him (the reader): the only safe way is exposure on first person.

So, besides all the like and dislikes about cooking styles and whatever, I think we should thank Mr Myhrvold and his staff for giving us, on their website, all the necessary and sufficient data to understand if their book deserves to be bought basing on our own way of life. In the cookbook market, this a rare chance, most of the times you can understand how a book is made only when you get it on your hands.

So I thank the MC team for their intellectual honesty and for giving me the total freedom to understand which is the value of their book basing only on my criteria. People can like or dislike the book, but for sure everybody have the freedom to make this personal decision just basing on all the amount of free data on the MC website. I wish it was possible for all the cookbooks, but till now this is almost a unique case.



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I cancelled my .com order and changed to .ca - should have kept both I guess.

Amazon.ca has been disappointing... I cancelled my .com order from the summer and switched to .ca in October to save $100. Just received my second shipment delay email so it's now shipping on April 14. The first delay I could see as being a wild guess but a second one seems like it is probably reasonably accurate.


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I just looked at the book page on Amazon.com and found this..

Usually ships within 1 to 2 months.

Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.

While Amazon.ca says this..

This title has not yet been released.

You may pre-order it now and we will deliver it to you when it arrives.

Ships from and sold by Amazon.ca. Gift-wrap available.

Which is an odd segue into my $.015 comment regarding soul.. Amazon.com's soul-less system is telling me that the book "usually" ships within 1 to 2 months; but since it just came out (which apparently someone forgot to tell the soul-less system up in Amazon.ca's neck of the woods), it lacks enough data to determine a "usual" shipping time.

I've been in the restaurant business for a number of years and have yet to come across a non-human apparatus that can mix-and-match flavor combinations, properly season each and every component of a dish (a tomato sauce, made with the products I purchased yesterday, will be different from the one I make with the products I purchased today) or choose the *perfect* tomatoes for said sauce. Whether I use a SV setup, an autoclave or present you with an edible menu, my “soul” is in every component of every dish. To me, it’s a little insulting to infer that a dish doesn’t have the same amount of “soul” because of the equipment I used since it sounds that I cared less for the ingredients that went into it.

Where do we draw the line when it comes to the amount of “soul” that a piece of equipment or a “chemical component” takes away from a dish? Do we say that using a knife, a pan and a stove is the limit? Using sodium chloride is fine but sodium alginate is a no-no? Some of my mentors went as far as saying that you could only cook with certain pans and use certain knives (copper pans and carbon steel knives) and I won’t even repeat what they said about my mother or my commitment to the craft when I talked about my equipment preferences. Will your kitchen smell the same if you cooked your tomato sauce sous vide as opposed to cooking it over the stove in the same Le Creuset you’ve used for the last 15 years? Maybe, maybe not.. Will it taste the same? Maybe, maybe not.. But I want to test all the possible ways and make those determinations and as much as I love the smell of tomato sauce, I cook because of how it taste.

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I don't believe that taking a human being and having them act as a thermostat is in any way a process of soulfulness, or skill or creativity. A lot of traditional cooking does exactly that - turns the cook into a thermostat.

The truly old school way you don't even use a thermometer. It is possible to judge the heat with your hands, or pressing a metal skewer to your lips. With lots of effort you can judge temperatures without a themometer, but why do this? The results will be uneven because even the best human themometer is no match for even a cheap digital themometer. And that is when it works - learning how to judge temperature takes lots of time. To what end? Why invest lots of time (and ruined food) trying to learn how be a bad version of a $10 digital themometer? It's a task you will never master as well as the thermometer.

You forget to point out that in some situations, kitchens are still run by people closely resembling Neanderthals and being able to temp meat by touch is still a “prized” ability.

Line Cook: “I can tell if the meat is ready by touching it!!” *grunt*grunt*

Sous Chef: “I can tell if it’s ready by smelling it!!” *grunt*grunt*grunt*

Executive Sous Chef: “I can tell it’s ready by looking at it!!” *grunt* x 4

Executive Chef: “I can tell it’s ready by using my Jedi powers!!” *grunt* x 5

F&B Director: “I can tell it’s ready because if you serve it to me wrong, I’ll fire you!!!”

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Using a thermometer doesn't negate the ability to tell a steaks doneness by touching and looking at it on the line. Prsonally, if I'm grilling a steak on the line I'm going to go by how it feels and my innate knowledge of time and temp. If I'm roasting a bird in the oven on same line? I'm reaching for a thermometer.

And often in a busy, crowded kitchen there isn't a thermometer handy to temp every piece of meat and fish.

It doesn't mean a thermometer is useless; it means a thermometer isn't a crutch to lean on instead of skill if the situation calls for it.

But this is based on a professional situation. at home, if you're unsure, just use the thermometer. There's no shame.

Edited by AaronM (log)
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If technology is soul less, I guess the most soulful food then is a piece of meat held over a fire with a stick? I love that approach, but I'm just as happy using my SV machine which frees me up to do other things and even allows me a lot of flexibility with when we'll eat, something very useful with kids and different schedules. If my meat swims a bit longer than necessary, it really doesn't matter.

As with in art, use any tool available to you, I'm sure the old masters (in art and cooking) would have done the same, had the tech existed.

A lot of modern stuff seems more related to artful and unusual presentations, which I personally think is great, brings art (like painting and sculpting) into the kitchen and allows for some stunning delicious food display. Is it a bit gimmicky to make a sphere out of something? Sure, but so is the old thing of carving potatoes into little oval things (I forget the tech term) and a lot of other things.

I'm looking forward to my books (Amazon still says they'll ship between yesterday and Monday, though I seriously doubt that). Mostly for learning and the photographic art on display. Will I get a chem lab setup? I don't know. I have the things to make spheres, never got around to play with them, and just got a little bag of meat glue, with no clue what to glue, but have to come up with something soon or it'll go bad. It's fun to play with food. To me it's as much fun to heat up a hot fire and cook something on it, roast some veg next to it and serve it on a wooden cutting board, eat with hands, as it's fun to style something up for the heck of it.

What I actually see the most use for in my case, is that you can make things appear as something they are not (caviar with the spheres etc) and thus create fun taste surprises and toy with expectations. That's why I'd love to eat at Alinea some day, for the optical and taste surprises. For extreme high quality more "traditional" food I'd love to go back to the French Laundry some day. Once I stop getting a giggle attack when I think of the tip alone that I left there, lol

It's funny to see what a "heated" debate this set of books is causing!

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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I have a question for the people that have the books: Do the volumes have dust-jackets, or is everything printed directly onto the hardcover? I hate a really nice book with a god awful cover under the dust jacket.

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Well, I am SAD, Amazon.ca just emailed me and my already delayed copy of MC shipping date is pushed back another 10 days from April 8 to April 18!! I ordered on Dec 9th too.

The only consolation is that is only costing $410.00 Canadian versus the 'current' price online of $530.00 Canadian or $462.00 US (on amazon.com). Not sure what that is all about but I am happy with the price.

Oh well, I can read all the other books that just arrived I guess (including the Achatz bio).

Llyn Strelau

Calgary, Alberta


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I should add that the kitchen manual is spiral bound, with what seems to be a vinyl-coated wire. The outer covers are some sort of flexible clear plastic, and the pages are Tyvek or some other synthetic material. It's as indestructible as a cookbook can be without sacrificing utility.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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That kitchen manual is pretty sweet: I'd love for other cookbooks to start packaging with something similar. It contains very short, condensed forms of each recipe, where a couple recipes fit on every page. For a book this massive it's indispensable, but even for smaller cookbooks, having a small spiralbound (e.g. "lay-flat binding") compact form of the recipes would be great. I think in particular that stir-fries would benefit a lot from this treatment, so you don't have to quite fully memorize the ingredient addition order in advance, just review them quickly and have the recipe handy.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations

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Amazon.com is now showing this under the delivery estimates:

Note: Inventory of this title is limited. We will fulfill orders as quickly as possible, processing orders in the order they were received.

John Deragon

foodblog 1 / 2


I feel sorry for people that don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day -- Dean Martin

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It doesn't mean a thermometer is useless; it means a thermometer isn't a crutch to lean on instead of skill if the situation calls for it.

That "skill" is acquired by extreme levels of repetition. If the number of poorly done steaks I've received is any indication, it is also a rather rare one (see what I did there). Otherwise, using a thermometer is not a "crutch", it is quality control.

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Well, right now my concern is not when I'll get the book from Amazon.ca but if I'll get it at all.

I appreciate the transparency provided by MC's team, though. A side question: for very good reasons, you decided to take the self-publishing way. Did you ever consider taking care of the distribution too, even if a higher cost to the customer was involved?

Edited by pedro (log)

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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