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Modernist Cuisine in 6 Volumes
February 4, 2011 8:59 AM   Subscribe

Modernist Cuisine, a 2400-page, 6-volume lavishly-illustrated and highly-anticipated $625 list price set (available for pre-order) by authors Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet, expounds a deeply scientific and avant-garde take on cooking techniques and been praised as the most important cookbook of the last 10 years. Its burger recipe. Its kitchen.
posted by shivohum (156 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite

 
They forgot to list the most important ingredient in the burger recipe: pretentiousness.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:04 AM on February 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


They forgot to list the most important ingredient in the burger recipe: pretentiousness.

With a dash of asshole!
posted by Fizz at 9:05 AM on February 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


Everything that is wrong with food currently in one 6 volume tome. Thanks for the summary.
posted by Keith Talent at 9:05 AM on February 4, 2011 [16 favorites]


Aside from professionals in this field, who else is purchasing this type of thing?!
posted by Fizz at 9:06 AM on February 4, 2011


The cheeseburger, for instance, requires the meat to be cooked sous vide for several hours. Freezing with liquid nitrogen ensures that the crust will stay crispy while the center stays perfectly medium rare once it is deep fried. The heirloom tomato is vacuum compressed. The cheese must be melted first, then restructured. The bun is made from scratch and toasted in beef suet. The crimini mushroom ketchup includes honey, horseradish, fish sauce, ginger and allspice.

Come on, now. These dudes need to get over themselves.
posted by something something at 9:07 AM on February 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


That's a whole lot of suet.
posted by boo_radley at 9:07 AM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Has the economy picked up enough that everyone's moving away from comfort food? Because I need to make sure I'm staying on top of my food trends.
posted by backseatpilot at 9:08 AM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Those are some lavish illustrations, though. From where do they source those fractal eggs?
posted by Iridic at 9:08 AM on February 4, 2011


I don't get the burger. The emulsion is on top and the ketchup is on the bottom? If the patty is juicy (and I'm guessing it is, being made from deep fried ground short ribs) then that sounds like a recipe for a soggy bottom bun. You need the emulsion on the bottom bun to act as a liquid barrier, in my experience.
posted by jedicus at 9:10 AM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think they missed the point of a hamburger.
posted by Felex at 9:10 AM on February 4, 2011 [20 favorites]


From where do they source those fractal eggs?

From fractal chickens, of course.
posted by jedicus at 9:11 AM on February 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Gastronaut wannabes, Fizz. There are a ton of amateur molecular gastronomists out there slavering at the altar of Blumenthal et al...they think Adria's sold out for some reason, I guess because he makes and sells products to make his stuff easier to do in home kitchens?

I believe in having fun with food, experimenting with it, making it novel. But this subgenre of Modernist cooking is so boring, humorless and relentlessly predictable in approach, just completely devoid of joy.
posted by peachfuzz at 9:12 AM on February 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


This reminds me a lot of New Yankee Workshop... sort of interesting to look at, but totally irrelevant to anyone who doesn't have a kitchen/workshop full of tens of thousands of dollars of specialized equipment. Which is to say, most people.
posted by usonian at 9:14 AM on February 4, 2011 [5 favorites]




I think they missed the point of a hamburger.


I'm not sure they did. I think that this is one of those books that's more important to the culture, history and science of cooking than it is to your average consumer. It's something that enthusiasts can read out of intellectual curiosity, but you're not meant to actually cook from it.

This is a phenomena I'm still learning about, but I'm not necessarily against it, now that I'm getting over the urge to cry "but it's useless!"

It's important to introduce techniques and ideas, and to showcase them, even if they're not all going to take off, or be used by your average cook. For example, I wanted to love Noma for being useful, but it wasn't, and I do still appreciate that it exists for being what it is.

I'm not much of an arm-chair cook myself, but I can appreciate that they exist.
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:14 AM on February 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


Why "Modernist"?
posted by grobstein at 9:15 AM on February 4, 2011


I don't think it's safe to mix the beer I'm going to want to have with that burger with the apparatus required to actually make it.
posted by mhoye at 9:16 AM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


backseatpilot: "Has the economy picked up enough that everyone's moving away from comfort food? Because I need to make sure I'm staying on top of my food trends"

The meatloaf is made from single source, vertically aligned tenderloin is parcooked in sous vide in a suet-and-groats compote before being carefully blended with a custom-ordered genetically modified quinoa that compliments the beef's savoriness with a savoir faire earthiness. After the integration, the loaf is cooked in an ultraviolet confraction oven for 13 hours at 179 degrees, precisely. Halfway through, a foamed coulis of roasted peppers, garlic, and truffles is injected, 8mls at a time, into the beef using a precise three dimensional crystalline fractal pattern devised by learning AIs designed specifically for this problem. For the final stage of preparation, the loaf is placed into a magnetoresonant containment chamber and exposed to pressure 620 times that of Earth at sea level. The meatloaf is sliced with a ceramic-neodymium blade, and served.
posted by boo_radley at 9:17 AM on February 4, 2011 [39 favorites]


Sheesh, where's your sense of fun MeFites? Didn't you ever play with your food? I'm hoping that my university library or the local chain bookstore will have this on the shelf so that I can lustfully and gluttonously pour over it. No, I don't want to pay $900 dollars for a cheeseburger, but eating is about fun and pleasure and play. The pretentious angle is only for stupid rich people whom chefs have to cater to in order to keep doing what they love. One has to be a bit of a whore to remain a viable artist.
posted by madred at 9:17 AM on February 4, 2011 [11 favorites]


That burger recipe was completely, unintentionally hilarious, starting right at the top: "A top bun, made from scratch" - ah, I see where this is going. It's not a cookbook, it's a manual for how a bunch of obsessives could make a $200 burger at their 3-star Michelin restaurant.
posted by Dasein at 9:18 AM on February 4, 2011


Aside from professionals in this field, who else is purchasing this type of thing?!

Assuming the price comes down a bit, I could see myself purchasing it. Not necessarily to make the recipes as written, but to pick and choose ideas from it. Take the burger, for example. Preparing the entire thing is madness for a home cook. But some of the individual parts, like the emulsion, the ketchup, and the infused lettuce are easy enough to do. Heck, the emulsion and ketchup don't even require any fancy equipment.

The lettuce is a neat idea, for example. You can't smoke lettuce in the ordinary fashion because it would wilt. Drizzling liquid smoke on it would result in an uneven flavor with some bites having a lot of smoke and some having little. But infusing the lettuce (presumably) gives even, smoky flavor while retaining the cool, crunchy properties.

And would I freeze my burger patty in liquid nitrogen before deep frying it? No, but I might grind up short rib meat, prepare it sous vide, then briefly grill it or sear the outside with a blowtorch.
posted by jedicus at 9:18 AM on February 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


I don't get the burger. The emulsion is on top and the ketchup is on the bottom? If the patty is juicy (and I'm guessing it is, being made from deep fried ground short ribs) then that sounds like a recipe for a soggy bottom bun. You need the emulsion on the bottom bun to act as a liquid barrier, in my experience.

The Alton Brown Burger is the one I'd prefer. Bun, ground chuck, ground sirloin, salt and mayo. A real modernist should know that if you are combining as many flavors as you are in the ultra-pretentious recipe above, you can't possibly taste them all.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:19 AM on February 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


The category of magazines that show how to cook, redecorate, flower arrange and all that are collectively known as "dream books." The whole idea is you like to think that someday you might do that, but you really never will. This is similar. Myself, I enjoy that kind of reading, like that post about the guy who made a steam engine from scratch. It's aspirational more than inspirational.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:19 AM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


The burger is over the top in ridiculous pretensiousness. I have to admit though that my stomach growled at the picture and description though.
I should probably go to lunch now. Maybe Five Guys for a burger.
posted by pointystick at 9:20 AM on February 4, 2011


you're not meant to actually cook from it

Then it is functionally useless in the kitchen, even if it serves as a decoration or conspicuous display of the owner's wealth.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:21 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Alton Brown Burger is the one I'd prefer

And indeed I was referring to Brown's theory about putting the mayo on the bottom bun to act as a barrier (and to create a delicious sauce as the juices from the patty mix with the mayo).
posted by jedicus at 9:22 AM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]



Then it is functionally useless in the kitchen, even if it serves as a decoration or conspicuous display of the owner's wealth.


Not the kitchen, but the coffee table, or the study. It's a fascinating idea, for reasons other people have already listed. And I love that some people here 'get' this.

But yeah, the price is a bit steep for almost everybody on the planet.
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:22 AM on February 4, 2011


seems more like a post-modern cookbook if you ask me. I'm surprised there isn't a head gasket and a slab of giraffe in that burger.
posted by GuyZero at 9:24 AM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think most of those burger concepts were lifted from Heston Blumenthal.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:27 AM on February 4, 2011


Food porn.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:27 AM on February 4, 2011


To me, gastronomy is the essence of playing with your food: custom gin and carbonated watermelons; masa harina flowers; Thank God for pot-heads; Apple Pie Ice Cream, to name but a few.
posted by bonehead at 9:27 AM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Any more over the top, and it's be in orbit. Good thing they are full of themselves, otherwise they'd never there.
tldr: jhfc...
posted by Old'n'Busted at 9:28 AM on February 4, 2011


With a dash of asshole!

So, just like every other burger in the world. ;)
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:28 AM on February 4, 2011 [10 favorites]


Sometimes, in idle moments I muse....the fact that a book like this exists in a world where way too many don't get enough to eat period....it makes my head hurt, just a bit.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:28 AM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


And indeed I was referring to Brown's theory about putting the mayo on the bottom bun to act as a barrier

I suspected as much.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:29 AM on February 4, 2011


I wonder how many patents Myrvhold has filed on the contents of his cookbook? If I were a professional chef I'd stay far away from this book lest I get sued.
posted by Nelson at 9:29 AM on February 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


jedicus: "And would I freeze my burger patty in liquid nitrogen before deep frying it?"

This was kind of the "well that's a bit much" for me -- I can respect people who are doing genuinely novel and amazing things (I posted with admiration a link to a meal at El Builli, for instance) -- but replacing pan and heat control with liquid nitrogen is just stunt cookin' to no purpose.
posted by boo_radley at 9:31 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


And you thought that 10000-page poem was crazy?
posted by LSK at 9:33 AM on February 4, 2011


Those pictures are dazzlingly gorgeous though.
Id pay up to $150 for this, but its too rich for my blood.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 9:34 AM on February 4, 2011


THAT WILL LOOK RAVISHING UP ON TOP OF MY VIKING REACH-IN.
posted by everichon at 9:34 AM on February 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


That burger looks too much like a burger,it needs to be deconstructed. I would prefer if each item is made into a foam and the burger is "mixed" at the table. In my mind " late night cheeseburger doritos" are the apex of gastronomy, so these guys might as well give up.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:37 AM on February 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's Shake and Bake. And I hepped!
posted by Babblesort at 9:37 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


level of overwrought fussiness

Admittedly, they said it themselves.
posted by gimonca at 9:39 AM on February 4, 2011


ad hominem did you know you that you can crush doritos into crumbs and combine with mountain dew to make a cohesive slurry-paste?

You see? molecular gastronomy has applications for every level of sophistication.
posted by boo_radley at 9:41 AM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


ad hominem did you know you that you can crush doritos into crumbs and combine with mountain dew to make a cohesive slurry-paste?

You see? molecular gastronomy has applications for every level of sophistication.


So what you're saying is that the foundation of molecular gastronomy has its roots in marijuana substance abuse?
posted by Fizz at 9:44 AM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


IMHO, this level of cuisine n' theory would more aptly named "Rococo" than "Modernist."
posted by Lisitasan at 9:45 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder how many patents Myrvhold has filed on the contents of his cookbook?

Not too many, I imagine. For starters, most of the rest of the world takes a dim view of patents on food, so he'd be limited in terms of jurisdiction. Further, since he's one co-author among three and cross-pollination of ideas was likely common, he'd have to get them to sign on to any patent applications as co-inventors, and I think it'd be hard to convince them to go down that road, since once it came out that anything in the book was patented, there'd likely be a tremendous PR backlash.

There's also a lot of prior art going on. Many of these techniques are not new, and applying a known technique to a different (but known) set of ingredients is going to have big obviousness problems, post-KSR.
posted by jedicus at 9:45 AM on February 4, 2011


this subgenre of Modernist cooking is so boring, humorless and relentlessly predictable in approach, just completely devoid of joy.

Ergo Modernist.

Now, Le Corbusier could make a square hamburger "nutrition pod" that'd really make ya think. No condiments, though - those are just so much bourgeois adornment.
posted by gompa at 9:47 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like good food prepared well, but how do you call preparation as baroque as this, "Modernist"? That seems like a fundamental misunderstanding of the word.

To me, a burger is about simplicity. Good ground meat with a good amount of fat, salt, pepper; fire, nice bun, cheddar cheese. Condiments as desired. Form follows function; no waste, no absurd decoration, good materials suited for the purpose, make choices that convey the essentials of the thing you are creating, and little else. That is Modernism.

The thing they make is burger shaped, but it is not a burger. And it is not modernist.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:47 AM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


MMMmmmm that's a delicious looking HAMBURGER
posted by wcfields at 9:48 AM on February 4, 2011


Aside from professionals in this field, who else is purchasing this type of thing?!

Whitey.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 9:49 AM on February 4, 2011 [12 favorites]


Burger glaze...aka, Foodie Codswallop
posted by Thorzdad at 9:49 AM on February 4, 2011


$625? I'll wait for the epub to hit Demonoid, thanks.
posted by mrbill at 9:51 AM on February 4, 2011 [9 favorites]


I'm just praying that there is a recipe for a plate of beans somewhere in there. Because I know they'll overthink it.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 9:52 AM on February 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


I actually make my own mountain dew using made from scratch bitters, triple distilled water and crushed ephedrine. You can use a home seltzer maker. Serve with hand carved glacier ice sphere and a dash of fleur de sel and and grated white truffles.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:53 AM on February 4, 2011 [12 favorites]


Thanks but I've had too much bullshit lately. Even if it is grade A sous vide cooked bullshit.
posted by I love you more when I eat paint chips at 9:53 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, it's that Nathan Myhrvold. He has a good Mad Magazine name.
posted by pracowity at 9:54 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think most of those burger concepts were lifted from Heston Blumenthal.

Possibly, but Nathan Myhrvold is a bona-fide genius*, or at least as close to as would make argument pointless, so I wouldn't underestimate his input.

* = At Princeton he earned a master's degree in mathematical economics and completed a PhD in theoretical and mathematical physics by age 23. Also held a postdoctoral fellowship at Cambridge working under Stephen Hawking, studying cosmology, quantum field theory in curved space time and quantum theories of gravitation. But left early to start a computer business. (cite). He went on to be Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft (see details of his extremely prescient speech in 1997 about the future of software). Foreign Policy has him at no 57 on their list of the top 100 global thinkers. He has geo-engineering ideas that could fix global warming. He's also quite into cooking, being a Master French Chef, and a bit of an expert as Sous-Vide.
posted by memebake at 9:55 AM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I like good food prepared well, but how do you call preparation as baroque as this, "Modernist"?

At a guess, because it considers itself to be a complete break with all that came before it, in terms of its thinking, its theoretical and ideological approaches to cooking. And because it as much about the theory behind the cooking and the industrial techniques of production as about the food. And because it is utterly inaccessible - if not abhorrent - to almost everyone other than a self-involved and incestuous group of aesthetes, even as it "plays" with bourgeois and mass-culture ideas of food such as the hamburger. And because it takes a short philosophical treatise, a design lab, a $625 manual, special tools and several days' labour to fail to improve on something they've been doing day in and day out for decades at PJ Clarke's.

(Give me the $625. I'll book a discount ticket to NYC and eat three meals a day at PJ Clarke's for a whole weekend and then take artful pics of my empty plate.)
posted by gompa at 9:56 AM on February 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


I wish Nathan Myhrvold would apply his obvious genius to something less annoying.
posted by Lisitasan at 9:57 AM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think they missed the point of a hamburger.

I'm not sure they did... It's something that enthusiasts can read out of intellectual curiosity, but you're not meant to actually cook from it.


I can tolerate the ridiculous 30 hour creation time, but a tomato in the middle? That shit will. not. stand.

The only way that red fruit gets let anywhere near one of my burgers is as ketchup.
posted by quin at 10:00 AM on February 4, 2011


And I love that some people here 'get' this.

I love cooking and own my share of cookbooks. So I think I get what the authors are doing, on some not-insignificant level.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:00 AM on February 4, 2011


Because I'm a frustrated jerk at heart I like to imagine being served that burger by the authors on a silver platter in some fancy-pants restaurant. I then ask for it to go, have it boxed up and take it home, where I re-heat it in a microwave and sloppily down it (with a side of McCain fries and a Labatt Blue) while watching a football game I devote most of my attention to. When I finish I decide I'm still hungry and open a bag of Doritos.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:00 AM on February 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


According to memebake's summary of the man's CV, Nathan Myhrvold has done a lot.

But I'm with Lisitasan. What has he done?
posted by notyou at 10:00 AM on February 4, 2011


This only works for me if I contextualize it in the same way that I contextualize stuff by Damien Hirst or, say, Takashi Murakami.
posted by everichon at 10:02 AM on February 4, 2011


I may not 'get it,' but it still has hours worth of staring at pictures. Of course I could just spend that money to go in a fancy restaurant's kitchen and see the same thing.
posted by jermspeaks at 10:05 AM on February 4, 2011


Oh goodie, I can just cut and paste what I've already said elsewhere:

I wish that book would of written by someone who's first priority wasn't trying to impress everyone, because it's a great basic idea. This is beyond frivolous. In todays world it's hard not to see this as offensive, humorless and just stupid.
posted by -t at 10:06 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would like to try that burger! As far as putting it together at home, though, I'm most interested in the mushroom ketchup recipe. That sounds tasty. I would make that.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:06 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


The only way that red fruit gets let anywhere near one of my burgers is as ketchup.

Ketchup does not belong on hamburgers.

Ketchup belongs in the trash.

This is your first, and only, warning.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:06 AM on February 4, 2011 [9 favorites]



Ketchup belongs in the trash.


I abandoned my hatred of ketchup and mayo along with heinz and miracle whip. The homemade variants are delicious. (So are high quality bottles, if you can find them and stomach the bill. I can't.)
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:10 AM on February 4, 2011


I'm reminded of an art teacher I had in high school who constantly got on my case for overworking stuff in clay, which he argued progressively sapped the creative spark of whatever I was making. Sometimes, though, he would grudgingly allow that my methods worked... "you worked the shit out of that thing, it should look like crap. But it's good."

A lot of this kind of thing strikes me as basically working the shit out of your food. And in the hands of some artists, in some presentations, it may work, but I suspect that as often as not if not more so the application of "molecular gastronomy" will result in overworked food that can't hold a candle to simple traditional techniques. Anyone who is into cuisine has had this dish - an overwrought, unnecessary reversioning of a classic with simply too many things thrown at one plate. I'll accept that hamburger as a sort of diagram of techniques. As an actual dish I suspect that 999 times out of a thousand a bite would find me wanting, you know, a hamburger.

Also, LOL, [hamburger]. Get it? Because of the hamburger is sarcasm thing I guess that one kind of already ran it's course but anyway
posted by nanojath at 10:10 AM on February 4, 2011


Ketchup belongs in the trash.

GRAR GRAR TAKE THAT BACK.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 10:10 AM on February 4, 2011


This book is a true labor of love. Myhrvold chose a hobby (cooking) and then really, really got into it.
He estimates that at one point he had 36 people on his payroll, and while he refuses to put a figure on how much he's spent, he acknowledges it's "millions of dollars." While once describing Modernist Cuisine to the staff of a prominent food magazine who didn't quite grasp his pedigree, the editor looked at him quizzically and asked who was subsidizing the project—it must have cost a "million dollars," she said. "I wish it only cost a million," Myhrvold replied with a laugh while the room went quiet. As he recalls, "She looked at me, sort of like, 'who the f—- are you?'"
From here
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 10:10 AM on February 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


All the liquid nitrogen, sous vide, foams and emulsions are an exploration of how different preparations can change the aspects, flavor,mouth feel of food. We all know minced garlic is almost a different food than roasted whole garlic, how about a garlic foam. Can we get the sharp bite of minced garlic in a foam that can be added to creamy soups? At heart it is experimental, what flavor and textures can be created through non traditional treatments. It can certainly seem pretentious or clinical.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:12 AM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Myhrvold may be brilliant and he may be a great cook, but he's also the head of Intellectual Ventures, one of the worst patent trolls. I wasn't kidding above about wondering about the patents filed on the work. To Jedicus' comment, all three of the book authors appear to be Intellectual Ventures employees (Chris Young, Maxime Billet) . And that company is manifestly immune to any PR backlash about their patent trolling.

It's nice that Myhrvold is having fun with fancy cooking techniques. But his company is destroying technology innovation by abusing the US patent system. I fear the same is about to happen in cooking.
posted by Nelson at 10:17 AM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


This seems like the proper place to link Jennfier Day's article about trying to cook a single dish from the Alinea cookbook. Six days, $350 (from orignial Trib article), and a bong run, all with mediorce results.
posted by rtimmel at 10:23 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nathan Myhrvold's idea of innovation in cooking seems to be stealing ideas in bulk from Heston Blumenthal, Wylie Dufresne and Ferran Adrià. Just what I'd expect from that patent-troll scumbag.
posted by w0mbat at 10:26 AM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is not the kind of thing that happens in a healthy egalitarian society. This is some épater le bourgeois end-of-empire shit.
posted by nicwolff at 10:26 AM on February 4, 2011 [13 favorites]


I prefer the title, "Cooking For Idiots".

This is not cooking, it's food S&M. Cooking for people who subconsciously loath both food and themselves.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:31 AM on February 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Huh. I think I might go to mcdonalds and get a quarter pounder.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 10:33 AM on February 4, 2011


This is not the kind of thing that happens in a healthy egalitarian society. This is some épater le bourgeois end-of-empire shit.

for your favorite sun-king or queen.
posted by ennui.bz at 10:33 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sheesh, I'd love to eat that burger, it's unami compounded 10x; and the book looks like a visual and mental feast. I guess the money aspect upsets some people since it's un-egalitarian and not democratic towards the common man ie. "elite" and out of reach. Food as art though, this is cool stuff. I'm cool with expensive elite art.
posted by stbalbach at 10:34 AM on February 4, 2011


This is hilarious. They even put the HAMBURGER right in the FPP!

(Also, a hamburger without ketchup is just salisbury steak. On a bun.)
posted by Eideteker at 10:34 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


The photos are really great. I look forward to pirating the shit out of this.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 10:36 AM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]



Sheesh, I'd love to eat that burger, it's unami compounded 10x; and the book looks like a visual and mental feast. I guess the money aspect upsets some people since it's un-egalitarian and not democratic towards the common man ie. "elite" and out of reach. Food as art though, this is cool stuff. I'm cool with expensive elite art.


I was thinking about that, and it's really only about a hundred bucks for each glossy, hard bound volume. That's not bad.

Anyway, maybe if everyone is concerned about the inequitable means of access to the tomes, they should petition their local library to carry a copy.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:37 AM on February 4, 2011


What if it's just, you know, fucking delicious?

Sometimes combining a shitload of flavors adds up to an impressive whole, even greater than the some of its parts. See: chili, spaghetti sauce, curry, mole, spice rubs....

So what if it's ridiculous. Predator was ridiculous. Gustav Mahler was ridiculous.

Just sayin: if I had the chance to consume that burger, I would not pass it up. Would you really push that plate away?
posted by TheRedArmy at 10:38 AM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Am I the only one who hate the pictures? All that high-speed, catch the splash in motion stuff looks like a dorm-room poster from the early eighties.
posted by octothorpe at 10:39 AM on February 4, 2011


I think most of those burger concepts were lifted from Heston Blumenthal.

Actually, quite a bit seems to have been lifted from Data East's BurgerTime
posted by phirleh at 10:42 AM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Predator was ridiculous. Gustav Mahler was ridiculous.

This is one of the niftiest juxtapositions I've come across in a long time.

Seriously. No HAMBURGER involved. For some reason I imagine it set to the tune of Patti Smith's "Rock N Roll Nigger":

Gustav Mahler was ridiculous
Modernist cuisine too
Predator . . . was ridiculous
Ridikuh-dikuh-dikuh-dikuh-dikuh-dikuh-diculous

We could get Vincent Gallo to direct the video. Because goddamn is that guy ridiculous.
posted by gompa at 10:44 AM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


So what if it's ridiculous. Predator was ridiculous. Gustav Mahler was ridiculous.

Hey, Gustav Mahler may taste like pumpkin pie, but I'd never know 'cause I wouldn't eat the filthy motherfucker. Late Romantic composers sleep and root in dissonance. That's a filthy artist. I ain't eat nothin' that ain't got sense enough to disregard its own diatonic progressions.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:49 AM on February 4, 2011 [14 favorites]


We must encourage him, if only for the vain hope it will grant us: the distant possibility that he will begin to experiment with Foods Humans Were Not Meant To Know, and that therefore he will be torn asunder by hideous demonfoods.

Hopefully taking most of Intellectual Ventures down with him. Maybe at a dinner party, or something of that sort.
posted by aramaic at 10:49 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


all three of the book authors appear to be Intellectual Ventures employees (Chris Young, Maxime Billet)

But Myhrvold "estimates that at one point he had 36 people on his payroll." What are the chances that all of them are going to be willing to get themselves blackballed in the cooking world? And Myhrvold himself seems to enjoy working with chefs and culinary innovators. That all kind of goes down the toilet if he tries to claim exclusive rights to anything in the book.

But further, what's the point, economically speaking? Perhaps a dozen restaurants in the US routinely operate on this level of sophistication (remember the subject matter is ineligible for patent protection in most of the world). Maybe a few hundred occasionally use these techniques. Whereas it costs about $10,000-$30,000 to get a US patent, and you'd need a separate patent for each new method. Plus the cost of figuring out who to license, hashing out licensing terms, and enforcing the agreements. And litigating against infringers. The market is just too small to make it a paying proposition. If you tried to charge enough to make your money back, the chefs would just say screw it and not use the techniques.

By definition the only things that could be patented would be new, so nothing anyone is already doing would be threatened by the contents of the book being patented.

And further there'd be an argument that by publishing a cookbook the inventors are giving an implied license to use the techniques, since a cookbook is an invitation to use its contents and a cookbook plainly aimed at professionals is an invitation to use the techniques professionally.

Really, hate on Intellectual Ventures all you want, but it's beyond paranoid to think this is some kind of patent trap being set for the world of haute cuisine.
posted by jedicus at 10:53 AM on February 4, 2011


Haha this is a site where we routinely call people ignorant for drinking soda and denigrate suburbanites as a matter of routine. Don't go getting all common man on me now.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:54 AM on February 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


Nelson: "I wonder how many patents Myrvhold has filed on the contents of his cookbook? If I were a professional chef I'd stay far away from this book lest I get sued."

That's an interesting point. If you think about it like an evil supergenius, it's all very clever marketing for your patents.

1. Design and patent several novel recipies that are only feasible in high end restaurants that emphasize novelty and premium ingredients.
2. Publish a ridiculously high quality advertisement for the recipe, in the form of a book.
3. Claim a single copy of the book itself worth hundreds of dollars, earning media coverage and mild outrage over your audacious claims.
4. Watch it to hit bittorrents as thousands of foodies jump on the opportunity to get an expensive book for free, only to realize they don't have liquid nitrogen on hand.
5. With your book now in the hands of star chefs and inquisitive foodies, wait for infringements to roll in.

The downfall here is, I have no idea how you'll monetize it. Will infringers just knock on your door?

More realistically, maybe IV is planning on starting a franchise and wants the power of patents as leverage once franchisee threaten to leave.
posted by pwnguin at 10:56 AM on February 4, 2011


Foods Humans Were Not Meant To Know


"Have you tried the infant liver foie gras yet? I've heard he uses real hellfire and that it's served on a pillow of saintsoul-infused air"
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 10:56 AM on February 4, 2011


What if it's just, you know, fucking delicious?

I have a couple of friends who have been invited to tour the kitchen and have dinner there and this is pretty much their verdict.

I think most of those burger concepts were lifted from Heston Blumenthal.

Myrvold has been very open about the fact that his team didn't invent many of the dishes and he credits the many chefs whose work spurred him to do the project, collecting in one place a close to a definitive assessment of cooking techniques at this moment in time.
posted by donovan at 11:03 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hey, Gustav Mahler may taste like pumpkin pie, but I'd never know 'cause I wouldn't eat the filthy motherfucker. Late Romantic composers sleep and root in dissonance. That's a filthy artist. I ain't eat nothin' that ain't got sense enough to disregard its own diatonic progressions.

So good.
posted by Amanojaku at 11:12 AM on February 4, 2011


Am I the only one who hate the pictures? All that high-speed, catch the splash in motion stuff looks like a dorm-room poster from the early eighties.

I'm not sure if I hate the photos, but the splashing is the first thing I noticed. It's still the only thing I've noticed. It's a lot of splashing.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 11:18 AM on February 4, 2011


I call this, "Cooking for Boys."
posted by yarly at 11:22 AM on February 4, 2011


Really, hate on Intellectual Ventures all you want
thanks, I will
but it's beyond paranoid to think this is some kind of patent trap being set for the world of haute cuisine.
Nah. It may be wrong -- meaning that AFAICT there is no such patent trap being prepared -- but given the nature of the enterprise that all of the principals have involved themselves in, it'd be naive to think it was outside the realm of possibility. If patents are unheard of in the cooking world, IV is the type of outfit that could and would pioneer them.
posted by $0up at 11:24 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


This reminds me a lot of New Yankee Workshop... sort of interesting to look at, but totally irrelevant to anyone who doesn't have a kitchen/workshop full of tens of thousands of dollars of specialized equipment. Which is to say, most people.

Nonsense. You can cook sous vide with ziploc bags in a beer cooler, or get a whole lot of extra control for little money with a crock pot. Vacuum machines for food are pretty cheap too. I saw one the other day for about $40, and will probably pick it up soon because those things quickly pay for themselves in terms of reduced food waste. The only tricky thing I see here is the liquid nitrogen, and as someone pointed out there are cheap alternatives to that too. Actually the NO is cheap, cheaper than gasoline. But you need to spend about $200 for an industrial-strength vacuum flask called a dewar to carry the stuff around. Some culinary supply stores will rent it to you though, like a beer keg.

Ingredient-wise, suet is just leftover beef fat. Fancy sauces you can just make up your own and keep in a jar in the refrigerator. Honey, horseradish, ginger, fish sauce, and allspice....not exactly exotic ingredients. Every kitchen should have a big bunch of spices, stock sauces like fish sauce and soy sauce, and flavor-makers like ginger, garlic and chili peppers. Again, you do not need to be rich for this. In fact, it's even more important if you're broke. These are cheap ingredients and enable you to make a wide variety of different meals on a very limited grocery budget. Eating eggs or potatoes every day is a lot more fun if you know a different way to cook them every time. And a lot of slow-cooking techniques like sous vide mean you can throw something into the crock pot in the morning and let it cook slowly all day while you got to work. You don't need to stand over it for hours on end like the idle rich, because it never gets hot enough to set fire to anything. The worst scenario is that you carelessly puncture the bag and end up cooking your food into a soggy mess.

Too many flavors? Riiiight. And Van Gogh used too many colors, and techno music has too many sounds, and economists use too many numbers. I'm going to save up to buy this book as a birthday present for my wife.
posted by anigbrowl at 11:26 AM on February 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


Vacuum-compressed heirloom tomato? I'm outta here.
posted by Splunge at 11:29 AM on February 4, 2011


I'm not going to subsidize an evil person like Nathan Myhrvold no matter how good his food tastes.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 11:45 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why "Modernist"?

Cuisine runs about 150 years behind the rest of culture, I think.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:51 AM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


The book is on amazon as pre-order for about $470. Personally, if I have the extra money, I'll buy it. I can easily imagine that I'd get at least $470 worth of entertainment out of it although I doubt it'll have the entertainment value density of On Food and Cooking, a book I can drop open to just about any page and have an interesting read.

Also, I recently read an interesting blog post (with a few photos) about someone having a 30 course dinner at Intellectual Ventures. Myhrvold is right in there, plating up the food. I sure know I'd like that experience.
posted by bz at 11:53 AM on February 4, 2011


I'm not going to subsidize an evil person like Nathan Myhrvold no matter how good his food tastes.

OK, so first off, Myhrvold hardly invented the patent system although he certainly has taken abusing it to new extremes.

Second, he's hardly going to turn a profit off this book. Honestly, he's probably losing money on each copy. The dude was rich before you learned how to shit in a pot.
posted by GuyZero at 11:54 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


bz: "The book is on amazon as pre-order for about $470."

It looks like there are twizzlers on the book cover.
posted by boo_radley at 11:58 AM on February 4, 2011


I for one would love to have both the book and the burger. I usually eschew all the glorified burgers I see in restaurants, but that looks like an adventure. Can't really justify spending that much money, so they will have to wait for now, though.

I do have an aunt and uncle who are seriously into food (they have a sous-vide setup, for one thing) and would not be at all surprised if they get it.
posted by TedW at 12:01 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Modernist cuisine is so passé, the real future of cuisine is Futurist cuisine.
posted by subtle-t at 12:01 PM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


> The cheeseburger, for instance, requires the meat to be cooked sous vide for several hours. Freezing with liquid nitrogen ensures that
> the crust will stay crispy while the center stays perfectly medium rare once it is deep fried. The heirloom tomato is vacuum compressed.
> The cheese must be melted first, then restructured. The bun is made from scratch and toasted in beef suet.

With what went before, the bun should be made by Union Carbide.
posted by jfuller at 12:03 PM on February 4, 2011


The meatloaf is made from single source, vertically aligned tenderloin...

In all serious, my partner and I picked up the feb/mar copy of Fine Cooking and discovered eight gourmet meatloaf recipes. At first I was skeptical - but we experimented and now I'm ready to convert to an all meatloaf diet. More specifically - we made a venison meatloaf with red wine, maytag, red olives and some of their other special suggestions. Baked it for 30 minutes, removed it from the oven, wrapped it in good bacon and set it under the broiler for another 10 minutes.
I have a strong suspicion that the final product closely resembles the meatloaf that is served in Valhalla.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 12:07 PM on February 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Modernist cuisine is so passé, the real future of cuisine is Futurist cuisine.

I'll have some Soylent Green, with a slice of Soylent Orange and some Soylent coleslaw.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 12:36 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm reminded of the last episode of Top Chef where the challenge was to prepare simple comfort food, and they get lectured about "how mom would make it", fewer ingredients, etc. The folks who lost of course decided to ignore what the judges had just said over and over and make fancy gourmet "comfort food".

The idea here that "what if it tastes delicious" ignores the fact that some of the most delicious food ever served was cooked with the simplest of ingredients and techniques. Delicious is easy. Being a snob...... that you have to work at. Buying a $600 cookbook, unless you are a professional chef who actually needs to live in this tiny tiny niche, makes you a snob. You may or may not be a good cook, but you are certainly a snob.
posted by y6y6y6 at 12:45 PM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Pretty good discussion of this book on eGullet. Author points out that mushroom ketchup dates from the 1850s. They really put some thought into that burger.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:49 PM on February 4, 2011


Buying a $600 cookbook, unless you are a professional chef who actually needs to live in this tiny tiny niche, makes you a snob. You may or may not be a good cook, but you are certainly a snob.

Oddly, I had thought the people wandering into the thread just to turn up their noses at the very existence of the book were the snobs, not the people that were delighted about its existence.

I guess perspective is a bitch.
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:50 PM on February 4, 2011 [12 favorites]


Being a snob...... that you have to work at.

Actually, it's not much more work than a one-click purchase. Well, that and trying to figure out where to place these tomes in clear view for when friends come over.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:59 PM on February 4, 2011


Sounds very inspirational to me. It's always interesting to see how these types of techniques filter down.
posted by gomichild at 1:05 PM on February 4, 2011


Oooh, molecular gastronomy: not practical in everyday cooking, but so amazingly fun to read about! I'll try to find this at my local library. Thanks for the heads up.
posted by archagon at 1:31 PM on February 4, 2011


I have a strong suspicion that the final product closely resembles the meatloaf that is served in Valhalla.

Eat enough bacon-wrapped meatloaf and you'll get to investigate this firsthand soon enough.
posted by nanojath at 1:33 PM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


How many kitchens will fit into the pit of a navel? The Donner descendant in me rebels.
posted by cookie-k at 1:44 PM on February 4, 2011


Last week I paid about 18 bucks for a burger from Ray's Hell Burger. It was an au poivre beef patty with applewood smoked bacon, chimay a la bierre cheese, and roasted bone marrow with persillade, along with other fixins. All of you people kvetching about pretentious burgers can suck an egg, because that burger was one of, if not the signle best goddamn burger I've ever had.
posted by FatherDagon at 1:47 PM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


The idea here that "what if it tastes delicious" ignores the fact that some of the most delicious food ever served was cooked with the simplest of ingredients and techniques. Delicious is easy.

"Apple pie!? Why can't you just be happy eating an apple? I suppose you think everyone can afford ovens and fancy pie dishes!"

Being a snob...... that you have to work at. Buying a $600 cookbook, unless you are a professional chef who actually needs to live in this tiny tiny niche, makes you a snob. You may or may not be a good cook, but you are certainly a snob.

Considering it's spread across 6 volumes, it seems to be priced similarly to many college textbooks, and it's a lot cheaper than culinary school. As I pointed out above, you do not need vast sums of money for equipment either. But there are also many dedicated amateur cooks, and some of them have science or engineering degrees. Are they supposed to leave their knowledge outside the kitchen?
posted by anigbrowl at 2:31 PM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


You guys have got to be kidding me... I would eat the everloving shit out of that burger faster than you can say "screw the bourgeois"
posted by windbox at 2:34 PM on February 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


Aside from professionals in this field, who else is purchasing this type of thing?!

Wannabe's.
posted by polymodus at 2:46 PM on February 4, 2011


In all serious, my partner and I picked up the feb/mar copy of Fine Cooking and discovered eight gourmet meatloaf recipes. At first I was skeptical - but we experimented and now I'm ready to convert to an all meatloaf diet.

You can find hundreds of gourmet meatloaf recipes in thousands of cookbooks. They're filed under "Pates and terrines." Molecular gastronomy is fascinating, but I can't seem to get away from peasant food. I'm still kicking myself for not saving the lungs from my last sheep.

Oh well.
posted by stet at 3:10 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


The meatloaf is made from single source, vertically aligned tenderloin is parcooked in sous vide in a suet-and-groats compote before being carefully blended with a custom-ordered genetically modified quinoa that compliments the beef's savoriness with a savoir faire earthiness.

Sounds okay, but I prefer farce double.
posted by The Bellman at 3:41 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Honestly I don't know if that burger looks all that good. It just looks like too much Too much tomato, too much lettuce and too much of their 'meatonase' on top.
posted by delmoi at 4:01 PM on February 4, 2011


polymodus: "Wannabe's."

Now you're bagging on chain restaurants. Nice.
posted by boo_radley at 4:27 PM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm reminded of the last episode of Top Chef where the challenge was to prepare simple comfort food, and they get lectured about "how mom would make it", fewer ingredients, etc. The folks who lost of course decided to ignore what the judges had just said over and over and make fancy gourmet "comfort food".

No, the people who lost were the ones who made bad food. You don't get kicked off the show for ignoring what the judges say - you get kicked off the show for making something that doesn't taste good (or that violates the rules of the particular competition in such a blatant fashion that the judges can't ignore it).

Let's compare Richard Blais and Marcel what's-his-face. Both are technical weenies. Give them liquid nitrogen and sous-vide and they practically melt with excitement. Both have ignored or creatively reinterpreted the rules of a particular contest so that it better fits their strengths. Blais does it because he knows he can make it produce great food. Marcel does it because he can't help himself and he just loves the technique.

I'm not a cook by any means, but I do find some of the stuff behind molecular gastronomy and modern techniques really interesting. Some of it is just wanking, but the bit about putting the burger in liquid nitrogen so that it crisps on the outside but is medium rare on the inside is great. The approach may be geeky, but there is a very practical end in mind.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 4:45 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


"No, the people who lost were the ones who made bad food."

No. They lost because they tried to make it fancy.

The one guy ignored the explicit "yes, pasta from a box is fine" and decided to make it by hand, which he screwed up. If he had just listened to "mom's is better" rather than what it says in some $600 cookbook, he might have won. The other guy decided tradition Risotto wasn't good enough when people asked for traditional, and he made some rice dish he likely read about in a $600 cookbook.

Sure it was bad food blah blah blah. But the core reason it was bad is because they just assumed - like gospel - that simple like mom made wasn't delicious.

Look, the winning dish was steam muscles with garlic bread. Which was delicious. And the recipe was likely exactly what you'd find in a $1 used bookstore cookbook. My point is that a $600 cookbook has nothing to do with delicious. Nothing. And anyone who thinks it does has lost all perspective on delicious.
posted by y6y6y6 at 5:03 PM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Buying a $600 cookbook, unless you are a professional chef who actually needs to live in this tiny tiny niche, makes you a snob. You may or may not be a good cook, but you are certainly a snob.

"Buying a nice car, unless you are a professional driver, makes you a snob. You may or may not be a good driver, but you are certainly a snob"

What, did an expensive book kill your parents? Just because it doesn't fit your larry-the-cable-guy definition of a cookbook doesn't mean you need to denounce it so stridently. This is some part of all of the following: a cookbook, an art book, a study on food, a food engineering photo essay, and so on.
posted by thedaniel at 5:17 PM on February 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


And anyone who thinks it does has lost all perspective on delicious.

You are arguing with a strawman in true metafilter tradition.
posted by thedaniel at 5:18 PM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


The culture war(s) in this thread say a lot about us.
posted by grobstein at 5:32 PM on February 4, 2011


Why don't we just get take out?
posted by jonmc at 5:37 PM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, this food should be accompanied by wine served in a douchebag.
posted by jonmc at 5:42 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


This book makes my soul hurt.
posted by nola at 6:21 PM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


are ya sure it wasn't something you ate?
posted by grobstein at 6:48 PM on February 4, 2011


grobstein, I've eaten burgers that cost more than $50 and due to my job, I've seen more obscenely expensive books in one day than most people will see in a lifetime, and I feel very comfortable in considering this book a product for the Douche Nation.
posted by jonmc at 7:01 PM on February 4, 2011


Just because it doesn't fit your larry-the-cable-guy definition of a cookbook doesn't mean you need to denounce it so stridently. This is some part of all of the following: a cookbook, an art book, a study on food, a food engineering photo essay, and so on.

It would also appear to be a morass of excesses. Now, obviously I can't read the whole thing and my current view is based on previews and samples. Reading the table of contents, the organization felt familiar and natural like I'd want to create. I love food science. And the imagery was certainly beautiful.

But I think your phrase "larry-the-cable-guy definition of a cookbook" is telling. Would anyone like to estimate the cost of ingredients and preparation time involved in that burger recipe? Could we then contrast it with how long it takes to consume such a meal? Either you've got the hours to work it all from scratch for 20 minutes payoff, or the scratch to handwave it over to someone else...in which case this book becomes little more than tourism or perhaps an upselling mechanism.

To my sensibilities, a cookbook can justifiably cheat in one direction--preparation time, lavish ingredients, or kitchen facility assumptions. This massively expensive collection appears to do all three. Buy the best! Spend hours working from scratch! Try out the absurd kitchen full of thousands of dollars of equipment!

And in doing so, it seems determined to parody elitism. "What could a Doctorate in a warehouse full of industrial and hyper-niche equipment do with the finest hand-chosen ingredients?! Maybe we'll call the end product a burger to drive home just how different our tastes and sensibilities are from the non-discretionary classes!"

I want to like this series, it looks fantastic and fun. But if it's seriously trying to pass things like that burger recipe as a component for a "cookbook"? I'm neither that gullible nor that excessive.
posted by Phyltre at 7:43 PM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm betting they forgot the culinary technique known as "slapping". e.g.

"Take the grilled burger, nicely crispy on the outside and slap it between the toasted buns"

"You can spend several hundred dollars on a sous-vide machine, or alternately slap that fish fillet into a saucepan of water, add spices and poach that sucker."
posted by storybored at 8:39 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm sure jonmc has seen books going for insane prices but a complete set of Rising up and Rising down costs much more that this new. I'm sure there are plenty of mefites who have spent more that this on comics. I know i have spent alot.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:03 PM on February 4, 2011


Sorry 2500 dollar set of Rising up Rising down
posted by Ad hominem at 10:05 PM on February 4, 2011


Metafilter is not good at discussing things its members know nothing about.
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:40 AM on February 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Don't think of it as a cookbook. I don't think it's really meant to be used as one anyway.
posted by archagon at 2:53 AM on February 5, 2011


Can you say "wedding registry"? No one will buy me this, but a girl can dream, can't she?
posted by erinfern at 4:27 AM on February 5, 2011


"Can you say 'wedding registry'? No one will buy me this, but a girl can dream, can't she?"
"I'm going to save up to buy this book as a birthday present for my wife."
Every itch deserves its scratch.
posted by mistersquid at 6:20 AM on February 5, 2011


This book has been a long time coming. Myhrvold gave an hour lecture in 2009 about it. He describes the project as an encyclopedia of cooking, and what he presented there seems about right.
posted by pwnguin at 10:19 AM on February 5, 2011


After sleeping on it, my above comment wasn't fair. If anyone is interested in learning about some of these new methods without dropping $600, check out these two books:

Ideas in Food

This is a great introduction to not just modern cooking, but offers interesting ideas for the home cook.

The Noma Cookbook

And this is a cookbook you may never actually make a recipe from, but the writing and photography shows how soulful "modernist" cuisine can be.
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:00 PM on February 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm sure jonmc has seen books going for insane prices but a complete set of Rising up and Rising down costs much more that this new.

and we've had someone sell us that, too. just so you know.
posted by jonmc at 4:46 PM on February 5, 2011


To my sensibilities, a cookbook can justifiably cheat in one direction--preparation time, lavish ingredients, or kitchen facility assumptions. This massively expensive collection appears to do all three. Buy the best! Spend hours working from scratch! Try out the absurd kitchen full of thousands of dollars of equipment!

But it doesn't. Have you ever used a crock pot? It takes hours and hours to cook something in there...during which time you can do something else. You can buy great ingredients without spending a ton of money - go to farmer's markets, make friends with someone in the restaurant business, or just find out where the food supply places are in your town. They'll sell to you if you bring cash and you're willing to buy a whole fish or roasting lamb on a visit, so either split it with friends or get a chest freezer. Or if you don't want to get up early (like me), you can get what you need at Costco, Trader Joe's, and your local Chinese supermarket - and if you live in any decent-size city, there is a Chinese supermarket somewhere. If you don't, use the internet.

You can go nuts on equipment or you can dig around on eBay, or even buy some of the actually-quite-affordable things they sell in stores. You don't need the insanely expensive lifestyle appliances they sell at Williams-Sonoma or similar places. That's restaurant-grade gear with added cosmetics. Professionals don't pay for the cosmetics because they don't need them, and you probably don't need professional gear because you're not cooking for 200 people a day, every day. So you can use a $25 digital thermocouple instead of a $250 one, a $50 vacuum sealer instead of a $500 one, and so on. The expensive things in my kitchen (besides the stove and refrigerator) are things like butcher knives and big stewpots. Technological aids are cheap.

So the full set of 6 books costs $600. So would the relevant classes at a community college. Assuming, of course, that someone is actually interested in food chemistry, anatomy and so on, and doesn't mind using the metric system to measure things.
posted by anigbrowl at 5:06 PM on February 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


I eat mostly Chinese take-out and burgers but I'm glad somebody is innovating with food. And the techniques will eventually filter down to the less-expensive resturants.
My Dad's a serious foodie and he got a gorgeous old cookbook for Christmas. This is in the same category
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:52 PM on February 5, 2011


All of you complaining about the impracticality of this as a cookbook should note the following, from the "about the book" excerpt available on the website:

Indeed, we had not planned initially on including
recipes at all. Over time, however, we decided that
we needed to provide some recipes as examples,
since theory alone would be too hard to apply.


This really is not a cookbook, if you look at what is included in the volumes this is obvious. Volumes 1-4 have no mention of recipes in the table of contents (though I imagine that some are included for the above reason). Anyway, this book is priced like a glossy art book, which is what it is
posted by atrazine at 12:24 AM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


and we've had someone sell us that, too. just so you know.

I've got the abridged Version, the one that Vollman tells you not to buy.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:58 AM on February 6, 2011


re: is this snobby, elitist:
Myhrvold doesn't seem like a snob, more an uber-geek. Hence he approaches making a burger the same way he might approach making a custom-pc from scratch - going to ridiculous lengths to get the best of everything. He has a sense of humour too, so he's probably aware of the ridiculousness of it.

Also, for 6 volumes (of 400 pages each) of lavishly produced art-book, $100 per volume is expensive but not excessively so.

I like the geekyness of this book. Not that I'll be buying it.
posted by memebake at 5:51 AM on February 6, 2011


Holy crap, apparently I need to sell my complete set of Rising Up & Rising Down that I bought on a lark. Never been opened, anyone wanna bid?

(now watch, it will have been destroyed while in storage)
posted by aramaic at 9:12 AM on February 7, 2011


Do these recipes run on Windows 98?
posted by lukemeister at 8:32 AM on February 8, 2011


I would like to own a copy of this at some point in my life. Perhaps in a few years if I can find an after-market copy for $300 or so.
posted by slogger at 8:52 AM on February 8, 2011


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