Modernist Cuisine: I’m God and You’re Not

by Anne Maxfield on December 12, 2011

Accidental Locavore Modernist Cuisine

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? Accidental Locavore GreenTies

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?

 

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Anne Maxfield December 16, 2011 at 11:25 am

You’re welcome to borrow it anytime!

Sandi Webster December 14, 2011 at 2:42 pm

There’s not even a small chance that I will ever purchase that book unless you decide to give it to me for Christmas, or you lend yours! Even better, you can rent our your book for a weekly rate (it seems it would take that long to get thru it) and then you use the proceeds to buy something equally as nice for your aunt or donate to a food charity!!

Anne Maxfield December 14, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Thanks! To do the herbs, you take a plate, cover it with saran wrap and put the herbs on top of the saran wrap (yes, on top) but you need to refer to book #3 page 312 for the timing. Want to let me know what it is?

joan December 13, 2011 at 7:35 pm

your father and i loved your blog today….when we told you about our 50 pound package, and wondered what on earth we would do with it, you flipped, and said you’d be attending a speech by the author that very night: talk about an over-the-top gift for christmas! esp. after your sous vide experiment that week. the book is tres, tres, very you, and when you decided at the last minute to join us for thanksgiving (lucky us:>) to take a peek, and lugged one of the ten pound volumes home, we were delighted, esp. your aunt. all we need now is more info on the fried herbs!

Anne Maxfield December 13, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Thanks Erika, you made my day!

Erika Kotite December 13, 2011 at 11:09 am

Hey Anne, that has to be the BEST email subject line I’ve seen this week. No, make that this month (and I see lots of them). I’ve read many exhaustive reviews of Modernist Cuisine but confess I haven’t cracked it open yet. The one trend I do like seeing is a growing curiosity about the science of cooking. I hope that it brings more chemists, biologists, engineers and sociologists to the table (so to speak).

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