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Jan 31, 2012 05:50 AM

Modernist Cuisine (book) now in area libraries

Just an FYI: Brookline has a set of the Modernist Cuisine books in their reference collection. It's open to any Minuteman library card holder (and maybe those without--not sure). It's also available at MIT (Hayden, effectively open to public) and Harvard (Cabot and Schlesinger, the latter is explicitly open to the public). All are for in-library use only, so bring your notepad!

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  1. I've had trouble even wanting to page through a volume since his not-so-flattering appearance in the This American Life patent troll story!

    3 Replies
    1. re: hckybg

      Yeah, that was pretty startling. It seems like he's spent the past year shilling for his book, but he makes himself awfully scarce when the topic changes.

      1. Does the publication of this book collection signal the jumping of the shark of the foodie movement?

        9 Replies
        1. re: Bob Dobalina

          I dunno--I get the sense that the book (books, really--it's a 6-volume, 2000+ page set) are aimed at the semi-pro level at the least. It's a combination of a coffee table cookbook (beautify photos, recipes/techniques you'd never do at home) and a technical manual (full of parametric table for cooking all using all sorts of ingredients and technique). It seems to have both very pragmatic techniques but also very showy presentations--for the home/amateur cook, the former may be very useful while the latter will simply be skipped over, or perhaps ogled. Don't paint me as an expert though--I've only seen a few excerpts.

          I'm curious about what it says from the kind of McGee/On Food and Cooking standpoint. As a scientist, I'm interested in logical ways to improve what I already do. I don't plan on making centrifuged green pea butter or even sous vide beef. But if there are a few simple, foolproof techniques that I can steal and use repeatedly, even if they involve a shopping run for a few odd thickeners, I'm interested.

          From my standpoint, the locavore stuff can result in much more absurd things. Like restaurants that stick to local produce and tout their wine list filled with bottles from France and Italy and coffee from, well, who knows? At least stuff like Modernist Cuisine is still focused on making the best food, which is a very foodie thing. Once you start mixing in other agendas, that's when the "foodie movement" jumps the shark.

          All IMHO, of course. It's an interesting question.

          Edit to add: Portlandia illustrates what happens when foodies jump the shark:

          1. re: emannths

            That's a truly thoughtful response - thank you - and I pretty much agree with you.
            I have not looked at the book in depth, but a 6 volume cookbook has a Spinal Tap (this goes to 11) quality that makes it seem a bit absurd in total.

            1. re: emannths

              This is a completely drive-by comment, but I once heard on NPR that east of Chicago, roughly, food-mile calculations show that European wines are greener than Californian. Of course this may be incorrect or based on a now unsupported model, but I thought it amusingly counterintuitive.

              1. re: emannths

                this. also "this" at your response to the This American Life on Intellectual Ventures, who suddenly transformed from "cuddly geeks" into "dark lord of the Sith evil."

                I'm a Certified Smart Person in my field, as well as a pro-trained chef, and I own the book. I could sit down for four hours and figure out the math for a 6d reduction in pathogens with quail that's 1.23"x2.12", while taking into account the effects of ultra-tex 3 on my sauce or I could just cook the damn bird and eat it. I now know how to find the "sweet spot" on my broiler but don't want to bother until my friend from MIT drops by and feels like doing math that day.

                I pine for an Alton Brown-ish "translator" of Modernist Cuisine: nerdier than Emeril, but less work than MC.

                MC feels like installing Linux: you can do anything with it! As long as you spend _weeks_ learning how.

                1. re: enhF94

                  The "translator" will undoubtedly be the abridged version, coming out in time for Xmas 2013.

                  Or you could work on a MC for Dummies volume...

                  1. re: Bob Dobalina

                    Hey! I hadn't heard about this, and their FAQ isn't updated. Got a link?