Dr. Nathan Myhrvold, Modernist Cuisine, Intellectual Ventures, CEO
“Some people say sous-vide sucks the soul out of cooking,” says Nathan Myhrvold. “We disagree! It’s about the art and science of creating great food.”
CSI meets Julia Child.
A new cookbook “Modernist Cuisine” by Nathan Myhrvold strives to explain the science of how cooking works at the level of molecular biology and astronomical physics. And does it ever. This very extensive and expensive book retails for $625. If that it too much to swallow, scientist and author Myhrvold says to think of it as it is “less than $15 a lb.” (I’m really surprised this wasn’t included in our conference “swag” bag.) The book is a six-volume, 2,400-page set that is “destined to reinvent cooking,” says our conference literature.
I have to admit, I had a little trouble warming up to Nathan Myhrovld‘s presentation, but I was wowed by the photos. I had a vague feeling of being in sophomore Algebra class and only being somewhat confident that I understood what was being said, tortured by an inner dialog of existential questioning of my intelligence. Anyway, this is a tome for serious food geeks who get a rush out of the science of cooking. The photos are gorgeous, did I mention that already? You can read more about it here. If you love math and science, you’ll get a kick out of this approach.
My neighbor to my left, Lynn Gowdy of Sacatomato, promises me that having a hands-on experience of this approach is truly life-changing. She helped a friend cater an event with this kind of scientific approach and she says the flavors are “mind-blowing.”
“Some people say sous-vide sucks the soul out of cooking,” says Myhrvold. “We disagree! It’s about the art and science of creating food.”
During the demonstration we saw an exploding kernel of corn in slow motion on the the big screen and that was very, very, cool. And so was the series of photos illustrating six fresh chicken eggs being shot through with a bullet. They do other cool stuff like this in their lab kitchen here in Seattle.
Lots of geeky factoids and insights on the cutting edge of cuisine (beyond knife point). For instance, Myrvold says there is a trend toward more people using steam ovens. (Not sure that is a trend that will take off in small, urban kitchens.)
There are other in-depth look into things that will transform your kitchen from a meal-generating factory into a highly sophisticated laboratory. If you are going to cook with meat, it is important to understand the structure of muscles and the difference between dark (endurance, slow twitch) muscles and light (fast twitch) muscles. The third volume of “Modernist Cuisine” gets into that. This volume also includes a section on thickeners and gels. I’m sure I missed other interesting things you’d want to know about, but sipping from a fire hose is never easy.
The rationale beyond this extreme approach to cooking is that its precision allows the cook to protect and draw out subtle flavors.
Foodies, are you up to the geek challenge?
This post was blogged live from the International Food Blogger Conference in Seattle.