The Accidental Locavore guesses that if you write a $625 cookbook (Modernist Cuisine), it’s only natural that when you go on the road to promote it, you charge everyone $25 to attend. And I suppose there are people who really do care that there are x-number of words, 2400 pages spanning six volumes, that the ink added something like five pounds per book and other trivia (Trivial Pursuit: Modernist Cuisine Edition, anyone?).
Such was the case the other night with Nathan Myhrvold at Astor Center. Granted, from what I’ve seen of Modernist Cuisine, it’s a beautiful book. Part of me wants to applaud the obsession, but on a night when Occupy Wall Street was occupying most of Manhattan (and were the light posts around Astor Place wrapped in the plastic straps used as hand-cuffs merely decorations or a symbol of the movement?), how does a cooking manifesto fit in with the world at large?
The Locavore went to the event out of curiosity, thinking I’d be able to look long and longingly at Modernist Cuisine, a book I would never own. However, fate intervened that afternoon, when a quick check-in call with my mom caught her schlepping some gigantic box from my aunt.
“I’ve just gotten this enormous set of books from your aunt.”
“What is it?”
“Some big white cookbook thing.”
“Modernist Cuisine? I’m going to hear him speak tonight at Astor Center.”
That, in a nutshell (minus the cajoling) is how I’m getting an over-the-top Christmas present!
Back to the event. I’m not sure what about the evening left me unsettled. Usually, the Locavore likes and relates to obsessive people, especially when it comes to food and/or design. This was different (besides my misogynist radar being on high, check the title of this piece). It’s understandable that after making a fortune, you take the time to indulge your fantasies (like writing a opus). And anyone who has started a business knows that things can, and do, spiral into directions you never anticipated (like a book stretching into six volumes). But why are we being asked to feel sympathy for a very wealthy individual, whose obsession is never going to make any money? Nathan Myhrvold could have created a Modernist Cuisine for the masses, he chose not to. So why can’t he just take pride in the ultimate vanity press and stop kvetching about going on the road to promote it?
Now that I’ve had some quality time with Volume 2: Techniques and Equipment, it is an amazing book. In many ways, it’s over my head, but in many ways, that’s OK. If the Locavore ever has a question about the science behind a cooking technique, Nathan has an answer. I also know there is much in the book — probably most of the book — that I’ll never use. However, there are some really cool tricks in the book, like using the microwave for making beef jerky or frying herbs, that I can’t wait to try!
If you have a copy of it, or have seen it, what do you think?