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Thursday, August 11, 2011


 MODERNIST CUISINE; the Art and Science of Cooking (The Cooking Lab,
2011, 2438 pages in six volumes, ISBN 978-0-98276100-7, retails for
$700 CAD, but is $529 at Amazon.Ca, hardcover) is by Nathan Myhrvold,
Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet. The latter two are associated with The
Fat Duck restaurant (Blumenthal's place, but see log rolling below) and
The Cooking Lab. Myhrvold was with Microsoft but left to become a
stagier and then a chef. There's some heavy log rolling here,
principally from Harold McGee who has been over this same territory
many times himself, Ferran Adria (ditto for the molecular gastronomy),
Tim Zagat, and Heston Blumenthal. Where do begin? Some of the facts:
2438 pages over six volumes, 1.1 million words, 3,216 photographs, 1522
recipes, 72 chefs worldwide who advised, and five years to produce. The
US price is $625 retail, and is sold on Amazon for $461.32, with free
shipping for the 50 pounds or so of weight in the box. The book is a
mixture of physics and biology and cooking processes. Ecco
(HarperCollins) published a similar book in 2005 – El Bulli: 1998-2002
-- but it retailed for $490 for only 496 pages plus a CD-ROM. Combine
that book with any McGee, and you've got virtually the same material,
albeit a bit pricey. The six volumes here introduce "parametric"
recipes which allow for dozens of variations by changing the
ingredients and quantities. The third volume is on meats, seafood and
plant matter. The fourth volume concerns thickeners, gels, emulsions,
and foams. The fifth has plated dish recipes. And the sixth is a
kitchen manual. There are many gadgets which will also need to be
acquired if you are to do a lot of these recipes.
Audience and level of use: those who are truly interested in cooking,
and wish to spend a lot of money on the books.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: There are 300 pages of new
recipes for plated dishes, many of them contributed by the log rollers.
The downside to this book: it all weighs 21 kilos, and the recipes can
be challenging. Also, the special purpose equipment can be expensive
for home use, but (of course) written off and used many times in a
professional setting.
The upside to this book: depth of detail.
Quality/Price Rating: 90.

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